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Hyde Sails 2017 Dinghy Show

Reflections on Hamilton Island Race Week

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 1 Sep 03:32 PDT 1 September 2019
Entries at Hamilton Island Race Week ranged from the production TF10 foiling trimaran designed by Morrelli and Melvin and the VPLP MOD70 Beau Geste, to trailer sailers - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

Hamilton Island Race Week finished on Saturday, with the most dismal weather of the week as blue skies and temperatures in the mid-twenties, gave way to metre plus swells, grey skies, and misty rain showers.

Not that it really affected anything, the 234 entries all enjoyed the series, and the prizegiving was, as usual - light, tight, bright and plenty of laughs.

The journey to Hamilton Island has been made easier and more pleasant with the advent of a race from Brisbane to Hamilton Island. The crew of Beau Geste spoke glowingly of sailing up the Great Barrier Reef, at night in tradewinds, averaging 30kts plus.

The series seems to have found that right mix between serious sailing and serious fun that eludes many aspects of the sport. Many of the professional crews could be seen sitting on their boats after the racing, having a debrief and team talk about how the day went and improvements could be made, before heading to the daily prizegiving and dinner/party. For them, the series is an excellent build-up regatta.

Corinthian crews' debriefs were much more sedate - with debriefs on the day conducted over a beer or wine. They were either celebrating a good result or drowning their sorrows and looking forward to the next race day.

For both groups, the lessons of the day were learned, and the opportunity is there on the morrow to try something different, or lock-in the latest successes. Whatever, it certainly beats being at work for Race Week.

Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

It was only after the regatta that we found out a lot of protests had been filed, and decisions made. But no-one seemed to wallow in it, and never let a protest get in the way of a party. It was a similar situation last year when the two supermaxi crews sat outside the jury room, waiting for a Hearing on the litany of tit-for-tat claims against each other. It never got to that, with both parties deciding they had better things to do - shook hands, made up and joined the end of day party which was getting under way on Front Street

Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 did lack the needle of 2018 when two supermaxis, Wild Oats XI (NSW) and Black Jack (QLD) were at each other's throats in every race, lead changes were frequent, and both had several serious professionals in the crew. This year both yachts were in the builder's shed having facelifts ahead of this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. They'll be back.

 Beau Geste - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
Beau Geste - Day 5 - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

The focal point of the week should have been a multihull match up with the 70ft MOD70, Beau Geste (HKG) lining up against the former NZ owned ORMA60 Team Vodafone Sailing/Frank Racing. However the Kiwi boat has been sold to an Airlie beach owner, and the timing didn't work for the new owner. Beau Geste was largely left to her own devices - which meant her crew tried for the double in each race - line and corrected time honours. A feat they were unable to achieve.

Beau Geste very generously had a standing offer to media to race with them on one of the six-race days. After deferring earlier in the week, I took a spot on Friday - with a breeze flicking between 12-23kts.

The weather pattern at Hamilton Island was for the breeze to be strong in the morning and fade during the afternoon. On Friday it started fresh, eased for the start of the first race, and then came back in at 15-20kts. We shook the reefs out of the main, soon after arriving in the start area. Then we started doing some spectacular hull flying - the reef soon went back in, and stayed for the rest of the day.

Onboard, it wasn't apparent that the main hull was occasionally lifting clear of the water, and it wasn't until we came ashore and saw the helicopter shots that it was obvious what had been happening. No doubt skipper Gavin Brady (NZL) would have had an eyeful from his perch in the helmsman's seat.

Talking with Brady after the race the former America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race helmsman emphasised that their policy was safety first. Racing, while important, did not have a higher priority than safety considerations.

Brady was particularly wary of the bear-away move as the multihull rounded a windward mark and headed downwind, with too much sail - bringing back memories of the pitchpole by Oracle Racing in October 2012 in San Francisco. As Gavin Brady said several times in our chat - nine times out of ten, you will get away with the risk - and on the tenth, you'll get bitten. Here's the full story and images.

Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson passed a significant milestone for HIRW - the 40th-course option. That tells you something about the number of islands and their positioning within the Whitsunday group. There are 74 islands in the Whitsundays of which four are inhabited. The rest remain in the same condition as when Captain Cook discovered the group in 1770. If you aren't doing well in the racing, then have an early beer and admire the scenery.

Thompson's multitude of courses means that regardless of wind direction, he can set a course that contains a solid windward beat, a useful reach - and a run or beat to the finish. The occasional laid mark is used for starting or rounding. But what mixes the racing up is that every rounding mark involves an entry and exit strategy to mitigate the effects of the surrounding topography.

That's a completely different test from just rounding a laid racing mark as perfectly as possible, effecting a snappy set and heading off for the next one. No lead is ever safe at Hamilton Island.

At HIRW, there are three starting areas. Course length options range from six to 50 nm, with around four different course configurations being used each day to suit the capabilities of the different fleets.

In just over a month I've been fortunate to be in two of the great sailing venues of the world - Cowes and Hamilton Island.

Hamilton Island is a sailing venue, designed for sailors by sailors. Coming out of the marina - bordered on one side by an "airstrip" which is capable of taking "small" - 100 passenger plus jets - the boats exit into Dent Passage a narrow "pit lane" stretch of sheltered water between Dent and Hamilton Islands. The same Passage is also used for finishing and starting races - exiting into the ocean and open water racecourses.

Ashore the facilities are superb - reflecting a sailing venue that has been designed by sailors for sailors. A wide Front Street houses all the necessary shops for sailors - and gets blocked off to double as a street party venue each night, complete with stage, and live music. You don't have to go anywhere, reach the top of your marina walkway you've arrived.

 Like a sculpture - the Hamilton Island Yacht Club looks different from every angle - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
Like a sculpture - the Hamilton Island Yacht Club looks different from every angle - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

The yacht club, like the rest of the facilities, is just magnificent. The club is an amazing piece of architecture. Words don't do it justice. Its finishing touch is a bow section from the supermaxi Wild Oats XI protruding from one exterior wall and matched by her stern section on the interior wall.

There are very few cars on Hamilton Island - electric golf carts are the main mode of transport - while they don't have traffic jams, parking is usually at a premium. It is amazing how much you can pile on a golf cart. Norths had one that regularly hauled sails stacked on top, sides, and back - and went too fast to be able to get a photo!

What differentiates Hamilton Island from other race venues around the world is that it has been designed around sailing, unlike others such as Cowes which ooze character because of their long historical background and are currently being used as a sailing venue.

An on-board debrief/celebration/drowning of sorrows - post race for one of the rcaing/cruising divisions - Hamilton Island race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
An on-board debrief/celebration/drowning of sorrows - post race for one of the rcaing/cruising divisions - Hamilton Island race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

The history of Hamilton Island is several hundred years short of Cowes.

The Australian venue turned the corner when the Oatley family had the foresight to buy the partially developed island out of administration, finished the project and then continued investing to create the magic facility that exists today.

The purpose built marina is revealed as the 234 entry race exits for another race day - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
The purpose built marina is revealed as the 234 entry race exits for another race day - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

Like any successful project, it is easy to look around and believe that it all just happened - but that is never the case.

The other half of its magic equation is the operation of Hamilton Island - which is in the safe hands of Glenn Bourke - three times Laser World Champion, America's Cup sailor, Olympian (Finn), venue manager for the 2000 Olympic Sailing regatta and CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race for five years, before returning to Australia. The Oatley family have a habit of surrounding themselves with good loyal people - and have the financial and human resources to make things happen.

The post race debrief /party gets under way on Front Street - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
The post race debrief /party gets under way on Front Street - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

The challenge for Hamilton Island will be to go to the next stage - of hosting Olympic and International dinghy events. If the Two Person Olympic offshore keelboat does go ahead, then there could be no better trial venue than Hamilton Island.

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The huge Conference Centre at Hamilton Island is packed for the Prizegiving function for the Series - Hamilton island Race Week - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
The huge Conference Centre at Hamilton Island is packed for the Prizegiving function for the Series - Hamilton Island Race Week - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

The crew of Hooligan made a big impression in the Presentation Parade before the serious racing got under way for the day - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / <a target=www.saltydingo.com.au" />
The crew of Hooligan made a big impression in the Presentation Parade before the serious racing got under way for the day - Hamilton Island Race Week 2019 - photo © Craig Greenhill / www.saltydingo.com.au

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