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Fast boats ready for take-off at Airlie Beach Race Week

by Di Pearson/ABRW 24 May 2023 04:31 PDT 10-17 August 2023
High Voltage is returning with renewed vigour - Airlie Beach Race Week © Andrea Francolini

Airlie Beach Race Week is sure to set pulses racing and hearts pumping when the multihulls and sports boats take to the water for the 35th running of the annual Whitsunday Sailing Club (WSC) takes off from 10-17 August.

The Mitchell name is synonymous with victory after victory in Multihull Racing events. Brothers Paul and Dale head into major events with a target on their backs, whether racing together or separately.

Paul Mitchell returns to the fold this year with the Extreme 40, Ullman Sails (ex-Back in Black), after cleanly winning the division in 2021 with another Extreme 40, Angus. Mitchell's brother, Blair, joins him along with other regulars. They are the ones to beat.

So far there are three other thrill-seeking Extreme 40s entered: Joel Berg's Parabellum, Michel Van Der Zwaard's Angus and Mike Peberdy's High Voltage. The latter two finished second and third respectively at Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing last year.

Peberdy gives a good assessment of his Extreme opposition: "To beat Paul is hard, he's very good, but it can be done. Michel and I have been racing against each other for a long while, so we'll be competitive. It's one of those classes where the lead often changes.

"Sailing the Extremes are the professionals like Paul and Joel, while Michel and I are business guys who like sailing. We've had the boats for a few years now, so we are ready to go. I'll be sailing with the core of my usual crew and there'll definitely be a bit of banter between all of us," he said.

"Then there's the rest of them...," he says, referring to the other 14 multis already entered in the division and equally capable of winning. "It's good there's so many boats coming. It'll make the competition more exciting."

Previous top placegetters are also returning to the fray, including Peter Hackett's Farrer 9R, Full Bore, Terry Archer's Grainger 75, G'Nome and Clive Kennedy's Farrier 85, Evil Gnome.

Of the venue and courses, Peberdy, who usually races out of Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron said, "This will be my fourth Airlie Beach Race Week. I love the water there, the good mix of breezes and it's just a great spot."

Queensland Trailable Yacht and Sports Boat Championship

the Queensland Trailable Yacht and Sports Boat Championship has piqued the interest of the major players, including one well-known boat designer, Julian Bethwaite.

The Sydney sailor is bringing the new self-designed and built 89er, Don't Panic, to Airlie Beach. And yes, he is the designer of the Olympic class 49er and the Youth class 29er.

"It was a Covid project," Bethwaite says of the boat. My younger son, Alex (27), and I built it. I've had other boats, but thought, 'Let's do it properly'. We built it in a shed at Somersby. It's a real father and son thing and he's sailing at Airlie Beach with me. There's another one being built in Brisbane, but I don't think it will be ready by August."

Don't Panic, had it's first race just before Christmas and helmed by Bethwaite's double Olympian sister, Nicky, the 89er won the Sports Boat division at Sail Port Stephens this past weekend, inclusive of winning all six races on scratch.

"We were happy with the boat and its performance," said Bethwaite, who also won the Bay to Bay in Queensland. "We booked our accommodation when we finished at Airlie Beach Race Week last year (he raced on Graham Turner 's Fareast 28R). We love it there.

"We're looking forward to Airlie Beach. We're looking forward to racing everyone else there."

The everyone else includes another Bethwaite design, John Rae and Gary Smith's 79er, Vivace. It also includes another new boat, Andrew York's 'Like Oxygen', along with familiar faces that have won at Airlie Beach before.

Entries continue to come in for the 'must do' events on the calendar this year and as Bethwaite says, "You've got to be in it to win it."

Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and is a feature on the It's Live! in Queensland events calendar.

For online entry and Notice of Race, please visit the official site: abrw.com.au.

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