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Looks like team spirit: an early surge of entries and the announcement of a new multihull Australian Championship for 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is drawing serious attention.

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If the initial burst of entries for the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2016 is an indicator, this year's regatta will once again be something very special.

Near 40 yachts representing a diverse cross-section of the sport have already nominated for what will be the 33rd staging of the high-profile series. Should this momentum continue, the number of entries will soon surge past 50, a milestone that would indicate a final fleet of around 200 is likely for the series which is scheduled from August 20 to 27.

Race Week at Hamilton Island is recognised as one of Australia's premier offshore regattas; an event that stands among the best in the world when it comes to excellent racing on courses that weave around tropical islands, a unique onshore party environment, and exceptional camaraderie among participants.

The fact that the regatta caters for the full spectrum of sailboats, from superyachts through to small trailable yachts and multihulls of all sizes, is already reflected in this year's entry list: there are four yachts over 20-metres in length, a broad sample of Grand Prix level racers and cruiser-racers, casual cruising yachts and eight multihulls.

Bringing added status to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2016 is the decision by the sport's governing body, Yachting Australia, to once again host the Australian Yachting Championships for Grand Prix, Performance Handicap and Offshore Multihull yachts at the series.

Of those registered to date, it's clearly evident that no-one was more enthusiastic about entering for this year than Drewjones, from Southport Yacht Club on the Gold Coast. He entered the Bavaria 44, Stormy Petrel V, which he owns with his partner, Leslie Richards, within days of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2015 being completed. With there being no entry form available at the time for this year's regatta, he simply entered on last year's form!

"I've done 12 Race Weeks crewing for other people, and I have to say the regatta gets better every year - it's the full bottle, a cut above everything else," Drew Jones said when speaking about the appeal of the regatta.

"So, with Leslie and me having bought Stormy Petrel V, and us enjoying last year's regatta so much when sailing as crew with friends, we decided to race our own boat this year. I went on-line and entered there and then, not realising until later it was last year's entiy form. That obviously didn't matter, because we are entered and recognised as being the first. I hope that's a good omen for the series."

Jones, who started his sailing life racing dinghies on Melbourne's Albert Park Lake, then worked his way up to where he was part of the shore crew for John Bertrand's OneAustralia America's Cup campaign in 1995, moved to the Gold Coast about eight years ago and became part of the local keelboat scene. He said it was possible 12 yachts from Southport Yacht Club would compete at Race Week this year.

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The inclusion of the Australian Yachting Championship for multihulls in 2016, will be the first time that the sport's governing body, Yachting Australia, has been the coordinator for a major championship for large multihulls.

"It is an honour for us; a fitting tribute to what is the 33rd staging of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, that Yachting Australia has nominated the regatta as the venue for the staging of the Australian Multihull Championship," said Hamilton Island's CEO, Olympic and world championship winning sailor, Glenn Bourke.

"The event will sit well alongside the three major keelboat Australian championships that will also be decided at this year's regatta."

Glenn Bourke went on to say he was certain Race Week would once again deliver the highest standard of racing as well as the ultimate onshore party atmosphere for everyone who is on-island for the event, which will be staged from August 20 to 27.

Announcing multihulls would become part of the Australian Yachting Championship, Yachting Australia President, Matt Allen, said: "Multihull racing is a huge growth area for the sport and we're pleased to introduce a Multihull Racing Class as part of our premier offshore championship.

"There's no better place than Hamilton Island to kick this off. Sailing in the Whitsundays always provides variable conditions, challenging courses and the opportunity for great racing, so I'm sure the multihulls will enjoy the experience.

Race Week's highly regarded Race Director, Denis Thompson, advised that there will be a wide range of courses set to decide the multihull championship. He said the majority of races over the six days of competition will be passage courses that weave around the magnificent islands in the tropical Whitsunday group.

www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au
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Title Annotation:RACE & REGATTA PREVIEW
Author:Mundle, Rob
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2016
Words:782
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