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Allure of Airlie Beach: the Whitsundays sparkled as the fleet slipped their way around the stunning bays and islands. Competing in the 24th Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week held mid-August. It was a week full of fun in this perfect sailing location.

This year's Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week was six days of clear skies and soft breeze. The race committee, under the guidance of PRO Ross Chisholm and regatta director Denis Thompson, worked hard to ensure there was plenty of fair racing for the fleet of 110 boats comprising monohulls, multihulls and sports boats.

While the sailors waited around for the breeze to fill in each day, their antics will be remembered for being atypical of the lighthearted Airlie Beach race week: challenges as to how many multihulls could raft up at one time, water pistol battles of mammoth proportions, lessons from the Beneteau Holy Cow on how to make cow-tails, show-offs sailing unmanned, pretty ladies on the foredeck and lots, lots, more.

When the breeze did finally arrive, the laughter and antics disappeared and the competitive sailing spirit quickly returned.

For the first time, the multihulls division integrated their national championship into Race Week. The 29 multihull entrants came in all shapes and sizes. There were the fast machines and the much gentler racer/cruisers. The winner of the national title in OMR Division iwas Chris Williams's Sea Cart 30 Morticia.

Early on in the regatta Williams was hesitant about how he well thought his Sea Cart 30 would perform. On day four he said, "We are yet to do windward/leeward racing. We haven't tackled that one yet. It will be a challenging day for us as it will be very light, fickle, and I don't think the type of boat you sail is going to be too relevant. I think it is going to be who sails the smartest today.

"In these conditions we try to limit the number of tacks that we do because the difference between tacking speed actual ramped up maximum speed is huge. You have to figure what knocks are worth tacking on and which to leave. It's a learning curve for us that's for sure," Williams said. He may still be trying to work out what he was worried about as Williams and his crew of former monohull sailors took handicap honours in every race, whether the race was a passage or windward/leeward course.

In OMR Division 2 the prize went to Andrew Stranslcy's 50-foot Fantasia. In the smaller Division 3, Tony Richardson's Pocahontas was first overall, while in the PHS division, it was Clare and Wayne Kirby's Clear Horizons on the podium.

The 11-boat Sports Boats competition was won by Noel Leigh-Smith's slippery Viper QLD. Noel is also the importer of Vipers to Australia.

In the monohull fleet racing at Airlie, the IRC division saw a tough line honours battle between two high-performance TP52s, Bob Steele's Quest and John Woodruff's Frantic, and Darryl Hodgkinson's Cookson 50 Victoire with his crew of international plastic surgeons. But when it came to handicap honours, the team on CYCA Commodore Howard Piggott's Beneteau 40 Flying Cloud did a good job to sail the boat consistently to place within the top four in all seven races, sailing into first place overall.

"It was rather gratifying under IRC that we had such close margins, just a few points between the boats in the three placings." Piggott said at the end of the regatta.

In the Performance Racing division, the honours went to Philip Grove's Sydney 39 Huntress, but not before local legend Matt Allen and Walter Lewin's Farr 400 Ichi Ban proved that the best can get it wrong, at least once, and New Zealand MC38 entrant Menace unfortunately encountered her own problems.

Approaching the first mark of the day in race four, Ichi Ban along with Menace rounded the mark the wrong way. A helpful call on the radio from the race committee advising all boats that the rounding should be to "starboard as indicated on the start boat" alerted the two leading boats to their predicament. Both had to return to the mark to round it correctly.

Menace got around cleanly the second time. Ichi Ban however then had the misfortune of hitting the mark forcing the team to complete a further full turn around the mark, all in very soft winds.

In the Cruising divisions. Bradley and Craig Ginnivan and their friends came along to Airlie to celebrate the identical twins' 50th birthday. They chartered a boat and renamed it Fifty Shades of 50, dressed it up with plenty of colour arid went sailing. Little did they expect that their joint birthday present would end up being first on handicap in Cruising Division 1!

In Division 2, Bill Hopton's Mister' took out handicap honours. The trailable boats in Division 3 had a super time, but it was Andrew Barney's Barney Army sailed with his wife Carmen and their three young children. Hayden, Jordan and Ayla, that took out the divisional honours.

In the Cruising Non-Spinnaker Division, it was Dan White's Riff Raff on the top spot of the podium.

Every day ashore there was a range of fun filled activities for competitors and supporters to enjoy. The Lay Day was splashed with the colour and vibe of tropical shirts, live music, margaritas and a little madness, with long lunches being held all around Airlie.

In the grounds of the Whitsunday Sailing Club a collection of handcrafted art by local artist Sean Oomens was on display, while on the adjacent beach visiting crews were amazed by sand carved sculptures that had to be seen to be believed.

Back in town the week-long Whitsunday Reef Festival started with a huge fireworks display on Saturday night with music playing throughout the main street during the day and into the night.

Next year is the 25th anniversary of Airlie Beach Race Week with the dates already set for a week of racing and revelry from the 8-15 August 2014. Planning is well underway for more superb Whitsunday racing.

With the redevelopment of the Abell Point Marina precinct, competitors and their supporters should also plan to pack their dancing shoes as there will be plenty of onshore entertainment and celebrations.

The Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week 2013 is hosted by Whitsunday Sailing Club and was sponsored by Abell Point Marina. It was also supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland as part of a growing calendar of sporting, cultural, regional events throughout the state.


Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week 2013 divisional winners.

OMR Division 1

Morticia, Chris Williams

OMR Division 2

Fantasia, Andrew Stransky

OMR Division 3

Pocahontas, Tony Richardson

PHS Mtiltihull

Clear Horizons, Clare and Wayne Kirby

Sports Boats

Viper OLD, Noel Leigh-Smith

Performance Racing

Huntress, Phillip Grove

Cruising Division 1

Fifty Shades of 50, Brad and Craig Ginnivan

Cruising Division 2

Mistery, Bill Hopton

Cruising Division 3

Barney Army, Andrew Barney

IRC Racing

Flying Cloud, Howard Piggott

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Author:Johnstone, Tracey
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Oct 1, 2013
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