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Hamilton island race week turns 30: three decades on, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week has renewed its identity as one of the keystone sailing calendar events in Australia, constantly adapting and reshaping as sailing trends change. Happy 30th Hamo!

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2013 will be remembered as one for the light air specialists with a week of the lightest conditions in racing memory.

All states of Australia and the ACT, and many other countries too, were represented among the 157 entries and near 2,000 sailors who made the pilgrimage to the Whitsundays to be part of 30 years of yachting history.

In 1984 when the regatta was first raced, Hamilton Island was significantly less developed, the boats a lot beamier and men's shorts much briefer. Three decades later the island is a world-class destination but the people at Race Week are essentially the same, and the spirit of competition that arose in the inaugural year lives on.

This year the 30th edition of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, held 18-24. August, was open to a wide spectrum of sailing boats--from sport boats to cruising yachts, cruiser-racers and grand prix level keelboats, plus for the first year a new multihull division and one-design MC38 division, and even the creation of 'First Fleet' division for the four originals from the 1984 race week starter's list.

The fleet of 157 yachts tackled a week of light winds entertained by the addition of several playful baby whales and their watchful parents regularly seen throughout the passage.

The 12 divisions battled it out offshore on the stunning Whitsunday Islands courses while ashore Race Week's renowned social calendar offered exquisite lunches, dinners, fashion parades, and nightly dockside entertainment.

The pointscore for all 12 divisions racing at the 30th anniversary Audi Hamilton Island Race Week wrapped up the regatta with the final day's race around an island course in a patchy easterly breeze, typifying a week of light pressure and testing tides. The race management team led by regatta director Denis Thompson worked as hard as the competitors, altering the courses before and sometimes during races according to the changing breeze and tidal flows. Sailors acknowledged it was hard yakka starting and keeping 157 boats racing in light and testing conditions, which made for a challenging though thoroughly enjoyable week of racing in the Whitsundays.

Congratulations to all the division-winning yachts and their crews, which included:



This year saw the introduction of two new regular divisions, the lightning quick MC38s racing in one-design format and the fledgling Multihull Division, which has huge potential for growth. The 'First Fleet' division was also introduced this year to recognise the 30th anniversary of the regatta.



In the IRC Passage Division Peter Hewson's Storage King Wallop celebrated with his crew at Hamilton Island Yacht Club after the final day's racing saw the Lake Macquarie sailor Finishing at the top of the Passage Division 1 results.

Hewson, a former 505 Australian champion, and his Lake crew, including Keith Jensen the father of Olympic 4.9er gold medalist Ian Jensen, went into the final day's curtain closer just one point adrift of Paul Clitheroe's Beneteau 45 Balance, from Sydney.


The Well-known financial commentator and his crew finished sixth in the light air against Storage King Wallop's second place, the position Hewson needed to ease into the top spot overall. It was close with just 11 seconds the difference between second and third in the final day's deciding island race.

"Our game plan came together," said Hewson as the corks were popping off the champagne.

The 15-year-old Sydney 41 design is having a good year, taking out the Australian PHS Championship title and the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Regatta on PHS back in January.

Paul Clitheroe was delighted with second overall. "Eleven toruaes of Beneteau in no wind ... second is a miracle and we are very happy." said the grinning skipper as crews celebrated before the final night's official trophy presentation.



Andy Kearnan's Summit 35, L'Altra Donna from Sydney's CruisingYacht Club of Australia was sitting out in front in IRC Passage Division 2 by a comfortable eight-point margin from Matt Owen's Local Hero going into the final race. The gap tightened to four points on the final progressive score sheet but Kearnan held firm with first overall and collected some extra baggage of the silver variety to take back to Sydney.

Local Hero was second and Howard Piggott's Beneteau First 40 Flying Cloud third in division.

In Performance Racing Philip Grove's Sydney 39Cr Huntress had set Matt Allen and Walter Lewin's Farr 400 Ichi Ban as its yardstick in Performance Racing Division 1. The pair continued the on-water battle that swung in Huntress' favour at Airlie Beach Race week held just days earlier.

It came down to the final race on the final day's racing to settle the score and again things tipped Grove's way.

His crew boss Chris Townsend explained, "We had led all week except for one day. It's been hard work chipping away and trying to keep ourselves out of trouble. The essential thing was to go out and sail as hard as we could every day and not worry about the handicap, as that would sort itself out.

"We were plugging away in the middle of the pointscore while others were moving back and forth either side of us.

"We got the double (for us) of beating Ichi Ban here and at Airlie Beach." The question was asked, "Must be a nice feeling?" and the response came, "I don't think they [Ichi Ban] like it too much," he joked.

Though Allen, the divisional winner last year, was gracious. "The great thing about the regatta was the tight finish. The Melges 32 Mac 2 did a great job in light airs of the final day and if we'd been a minute faster against them we would have won the whole regatta. It's a great credit to the scoring and handicapping," Allen said.

"Huntress sailed really consistently like us, and the light air regatta suited. Unfortunately the bigger, heavier boats didn't get a run this week."

Allen also paid tribute to the hard-working race management team led by regatta director Denis Thompson. "The race committee did a sensational job. It was the toughest Race Week I've seen and it was hard yakka for those guys."

Performance Racing 2 honours went to local boat Jump, owned by Dennis Winstaialey, a builder on Hamilton Island. A margin of half a point was all that separated jump from Sarah and Piers' new Tasmanian Elliott 7, Rum to Paradise.

Greg Hyde, a former Olympic (1984) and world champion windsurfer who has suffered serious health issues, including a stroke, skippered the SB20 along with Mark Long then Winstanley's partner, Hannah Gardener, who was on the bow for the final race.

Hyde needed to be lifted by the crew from side to side as the boat tacked and gybed, but when it came to picking wind shifts he needed no assistance.

"Greg is my childhood hero and mate of 30 years," said Winstanley. "He was an absolute freak in his day on the windsurfer and was well-known on the offshore scene, including being part of two Sydney Hobart overall winning campaigns.

"We had lots of experience on board for this Race Week. We picked good lanes to sail in and we had a great week with plenty of sunshine."



In Cruising Division 1, although the wind speed wasn't ideal for the bigger boats throughout the week, on the final day the winning Cruising Division yachts had a field day on course 28 and 29.

Cruising 1 featured three classic Australian maxis from a bygone era in Hamner, Condor and Whitebirds. Condor, a two-time line honours winner in the Sydney Hobart race and winner of the famous Fastnet race out of England, returned to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for the sixth consecutive year.

The trio unfortunately didn't feature in top placings, as they needed a lot more breeze to push their vast bulk around the track.

The James Murchison-skippered Tripp 47, Abracadabra, may have claimed first place in the final race of the week for Cruising Division 1, but the more weighted overall series win went to Ross Johnston's Beneteau Sense 55 Circe from Sandringham Yacht Club.

Second overall was the glamorous Oyster 655 Proteus of London that has been competing in the Oyster World Rally circumnavigation, which had a fleet stopover at Hamilton Island earlier in August. Proteus remained behind the departing fleet for a couple more weeks so as to race in the historic 30th Race Week. In placing second. Proteus picked up two individual podium places--a second and a third--in the six-race regatta schedule, which was all the more remarkable for the 50-tonne yacht given the week was raced in such light airs.


Third was Stephen Everett's Salacia In Cruising Division 2 the X35 Next Light came out on top in the division's final race and sealed the series with a deserved win for skipper Chris Ryan.

"We travelled 1,000 miles to get here from Pittwater in Sydney and that took 10 days," Ryan said. "On the way we managed to pick up unmarked fish floats on the keel and the shaft, which was very awkward. We stopped twice in the night to try and untangle the nets."

Ryan persisted with the journey and finally arrived at the island, where he has had a brilliant week, topped off by a win on the last day of the regatta.

"On the final day's racing we did exceedingly well. The light winds suit the boat and we are probably one of the only crews who don't complain about the lack of wind," he said.

"The crew have been superb all week and we couldn't fault them, the results tell the story," added the member of RPAYC in Sydney's Broken Bay.

In Cruising Division 3, first time Race Week skipper Paul Giles steered his Jeanneau 39i Lookout to success in the final race.

"We smoked the whole fleet at the top mark [on the final day] and we are really happy," Giles said. "Today suited us because we were able to use sails effectively, but we did struggle downhill."

However, the overall winner of Cruising Division 3 was Alan Stark's Catalina 350 Starkers by just a two-point cushion from Jason Jordan's Jasambri 2.

Rodney Smart's Hunter 50ac Smart Choice wrapped up the overall divisional results of the cruisers competing in Non-Spinnaker Division 1, ahead of yachts Uluwatu and Namadgi. Though Lindy Robertson's Sydney 38 Guilty Pleasures IV stole the show in Non-Spinnaker Division 1 final race of the week.

Among-the 'First Fleeters' Peter Briggs, the only owner/skipper with the same boat he raced at the inaugural Race Week in 1984, the Frers-designed Hitchhiker of Royal Perth Yacht Club, also tasted success with the overall win in the First Fleet division. Briggs and his immaculately red and white dressed crew won the division of four great ocean-going boats, which were on the original starter's list some three decades earlier.

In Non-Spinnaker Division 2, Stuart Pascoe's Beneteau Oceanis, Christina Jay, won the division overall, with Star Ferry closely behind in second place.

But it was the flood-damaged Star Ferry that came across the line first in the Non-Spinnaker Division 2 final race of the week, a significant moment for skipper John Brand and a result that put the Marchi 39 into second on the final pointscore of the division. This year's Race Week is the first time Star Ferry has been sailed since the 2012 Bundaberg floods ravaged his boat, and Brand couldn't be happier.

"I am ecstatic," he said post-race. "It was a tough race in our big old heavy boat, but we got the course right today. We had to play with the boat to get it going because there was only a little bit of breeze. He also commended his crew for their efforts. "All these people jumped on the boat with next to no sailing experience, but they got the hang of it by the end of the week." Brand laughed.

Upping the ante and the racing excitement throughout Race Week was an all-new division dedicated to the growing fleet of McConaghy MC38 one racing yachts.

Sydney-based MC38 skipper Chris Hancock racing Vino triumphed in the division overall, winning his first regatta as an owner at this year's 30th anniversary race week.

It was tight going into the decider but when the points from 10 windward/leeward and island races raced by the fleet of five MC38's were tallied, Hancock's MC38 Vino had created some breathing space, prevailing over Leslie Green's Ginger by a comfortable five-point margin.

It was touch and go on the final day with a late charge from the Kiwis aboard Howard Spencer's black-hulled Menace, which "jumped out of the bushes and took everyone by surprise in the second half of the regatta," acknowledged Hancock.



Menace finished third on a countback in the latest owner/driver one-design class, which made its Race Week debut during the stunning week of clearest blue skies and lightest breezes that characterized the 30th anniversary event.

"We were leading around Pentecost Island when the Kiwis started bearing down on us with their big black kite and they managed to pass us just: after Isolated Rock," recalled Hancock. "It was pretty intense, but thanks to great crew work by my team we were able to pick up Menace and hold them out all the way to the finish in Dent Passage.

"This is the first regatta I've won as an owner: I'm chuffed. The crew carried me on their shoulders," added Hancock, who has worked in the wine business with Hamilton Island owner, Bob Oatley, for some four decades. Hancock dedicated his divisional win to Bob and Sandy Oatley. "It's one for them," he said, recognising their enduring friendship.

On the MC38 class's first experience at Race Week. Hancock added, "it's been a terrific week, the camaraderie has been fantastic."

Leslie Green had to fly home midweek, leaving Ginger in the capable hands of his top crew. Mainsheet hand Peter Bourke acknowledged the great competition his MC38 classmates Vino, The Cone of Silence, Ghost Rider and Menace provided. "It was a fabulous week and Vino did exceptionally well," with Bourke commenting that "the MC38 class attracts great people".

The MC38 class now returns to its regular one-design series in Sydney as they work towards their national championship this November on Sydney Harbour.

Even the fledgling multihull division attracted attention from the thousands of die-hard keelboat racers, especially one little 30-footer that carved its hulls through the monohull fleets each day.

Leading the multihulls in terms of speed on the course was Wings--Matthew Johns' self-designed, carbon-fibre 8.5-metre one catamaran built by Box Boat at Coolum Beach. Crewing with Johns was Paul Mitchell and Mike Kite, the owner of Wings Dive Adventures, which sponsored Box Office for the regatta.

Race Week was the perfect way to showcase the new performance-racing catamaran, which is just starting out in Australia thanks to Johns and his business partner Dave Bigger. Given the lithe 30-foot cat has been sailing through the fleet to the front of the pack all week it's been hard to miss!


"A multihull division at Race Week is a fantastic idea," said Johns, now a convert after many years on the IRC big boat circuit. "Surely everyone will see how good the racing is and more boats will be here next year. The room for growth is amazing.

"These lightweight cats are all carbon with rotating rigs; they are built to be a manageable racing catamaran. A boat like ours can be sailed with three people and the logistics are straightforward. The boat is just 500 kilograms with a 400-kilogram trailer so it can be easily towed anywhere. The set-up time is around three hours and takes a couple of hours to pack up."

The Box 8.5's sweet spot is 12-14 knots running downwind and it performs best in up to 18 knots of breeze. Johns suggests it is perfect for twilight racing with a couple of experienced sailors, not so much a family boat as there aren't any creature comforts or a downstairs area. It's a flat-out racing boat.

So is he a multihull convert? "Absolutely, there's no going back."

Recent extensions to Hamilton Island's marina freed up the extra berthing space needed to have multihulls added to the racing program for the 30th anniversary event and beyond. This move attracted five cats to the new division this year and it's likely there will be many more in 2014.

Regatta director Denis Thompson says, "This is one of the growth areas we are looking at. Multihulls haven't been at Race Week since the late '80s. Five is a good start and they had a ball, and next year there is potential for separate divisions for cruising and racing multis."


Hamilton Island's Sunsail yacht operations manager Graham Black says they are turning over a batch of monohulls next year, replacing them with a matched fleet of six Robertson & Caine catamarans being sailed over from the yard in South Africa, so there should be available cats to charter for racing too, as with Sunsail's moiaohull fleet.

"Over the last year we have seen a definite trend towards catamarans. If you have weather like this it's perfect, with air conditioning and big fridges, and that's where I see it going next year!" said Black.

Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke is also delighted with how the 30th anniversary event panned out.

"There are a lot of happy punters around," he said.

"The theme of 1984 worked really well, people liked turning back the clock and certainly the $2 and $4 afternoon beer prices were a hit, as was the F-arm BBQ after racing each afternoon.


"The entertainment fit the demographic and the light air facilitated fewer arguments. I know from sailing on Wild Oats XI that there was great empathy between Ernesto Bertarelli and his Wild Oats X crew, and between Wild Thing and us (aboard Wild Oats XI). We all had fun.

The first Virgin direct flight out of Melbourne, which started on 15 August, was also a really important boost for the event in terms getting southern sailors up and back. That was a big coup for the island and made life a lot easier for the yachties," Bourke added.

All attending the 30th Anniversary Presentation dinner following the final day's racing were in good spirits, made more so by the announcement by Audi Australia's Managing Director Andrew Doyle that Race Week's naming rights sponsor Audi would be back for 2014 in their ninth year of supporting this great week of competition, camaraderie and cheer on the water and off.

Full results for all 12 divisions racing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week are available at: or visit the website.

IRC RACING Hooligan (TP52, RPAYC), skippered by Marcus Blackmore.


Storage King Wallop (Sydney 41, LMYC/MYC), skippered by Peter Hewson.


L'Altra Donna (Summit 35, CYCA), skippered by Andy Kearnan.


Huntress (Sydney 39Cr, BSC/RSYS), skippered by Philip Grove.


Jump (SB20, CYCHI), ippered by Greg Hyde


Circe (Beneteau Sense 55, SYC), skippered by Ross Johnston.


Next, Light (X35, RPAYC), skippered by Chris Ryan.


Starkers (Catalina 350, TCYC), skippered by Alan Stark.


Smart Choice (Hunter 50ac, RYCT), skippered by Rodney Smart.


Christina Jay (Beneteau 343 Oceanis, SCYC), skippered by Stuart Pascoe.

MC38 OD DIVISION vino (MC38, MHYG), skippered by Chris Hancock.


Box Office (Box 8.5m, RQYS), skippered by Matt Johns.

FIRST FLEET DIVISION (eligible for yachts that also raced at the inaugural 1984 event), Hitchhiker (Frers, RPYC), skippered by Peter Briggs.

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Author:Ratcliff, Blisa; McKee, Laura; Media, Ahirw
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Article Type:Calendar
Date:Oct 1, 2013
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