You just can't hope to get everything right all of the time, and when it comes to the weather - well you know how that story goes. Paul Wilson reports on Hamilton Island Race Week, undoubtedly Australia's premier yacht racing regatta.

Wild Thing leads Brindabella

There's no denying that the nineteenth Hamilton Island Race Week was beset by weather problems, but despite the cooler and damper than expected conditions, the 2002 event went off without a hitch. The race management and overall event organisation, headed by the very capable Warwick Hoban, once again showed how to put on a week-long yacht regatta confirming Hamilton Island Race Week as Australia's premier yacht racing event.

Race one on Saturday saw a patchy blue sky with winds up to 15 knots. Everyone was happy and hopes were high for a continuing trend.

But Sunday, the day of the long race, dawned grey and overcast, and with a slow moving pressure system sitting virtually over the entire length of the east coast of Australia, it was looking grim for the rest of the week.

Most mornings saw the surrounding islands shrouded by dark, heavy, low-level cloud. On most days the cloud would burn-off by mid-afternoon, but with most races starting at 11.00am, the bulk of the racing was held in overcast conditions.

The wind came and went as well, teasing competitors and frustrating the organisers. But unlike last year, no races were cancelled. It did rain, but thankfully usually at night, although it did linger longer for the Whitehaven race, but not long enough to dampen the spirits of those who eventually made it to Whitehaven Beach for the annual beach party.

But despite the overcast skies, the 179 competitors were once again treated to a regatta of international standard, hosted by the island that sets the standard for large-scale event management. No other venue does it better and no other venue can offer the complete package to the yacht racing fraternity as Hamilton Island can.

As usual Hamilton Island Race Week drew the best of the best from both Australia and around the world, and some of the biggest yachting warlords of them all had turned up to do battle.

There was George Snow's elegant and probably Australia's best known maxi yacht Brindabella which showed that it still has what it takes to be competitive around the cans after more than nine years of heavy campaigning.

Regular race week competitor Grant Warrington also made the journey north from a cold Victorian winter with his maxi yacht Wild Thing, which has had more extensions, modifications and enhancements than Pamela Anderson! Wild Thing showed off a new sponsor and the definite advantages of water ballasting.

The all-new Wild Oats shows Wild Thing and Brindabella how it's done

But the maxi set to conquer them all was having its first outing and nothing and no one was going to stand in its way! The latest incarnation of the yacht that swept all before it in 2000 was back, and this latest, longer, bigger and tougher version of Shockwave defies superlatives in description of its appearance and performance. It is truly the most impressive racing yacht I have ever seen.

The scuttlebutt around Hamilton Harbour was that this year's Shockwave is actually slower than the 2000 model, and this could be quite correct. Shockwave 2000 is currently competing on the maxi circuit in the Med, and winning mind you, but who could forget the controversial withdrawal from the 2000 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race just as it was about to start its maiden crossing of Bass Strait.

In what was looking like a sure Hobart line honours victory, skipper and owner, Neville Crichton, decided that the conditions were too rough, so prudent seamanship demanded that he did not risk either his crew or his boat and he withdrew from the race. Neville bore the brunt of much criticism for his decision, and to this day he still gets angry when discussing the issue.

But Shockwave 2002 is a different story altogether. Ten foot longer and more heavily constructed than its older brother, Neville Crichton has most definitely got the 2002 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in his sights. He wants no doubts left in anyone's mind. He is absolutely serious about winning the race.

By his own admission, he has "built and owned more super yachts than anybody else ever has", and he believes that with this current Shockwave he has produced a yacht capable of competing in and winning any race, in any conditions. Over the length of the week I saw nothing which could alter that perception.

The ultra-competitive Sydney 38's.

However, despite Shockwave's menacing presence in the fleet, there was one yacht which evoked the full range of emotions from fellow competitors; the newly launched and ultra hi-tech 60 foot Wild Oats.

There is no doubt that this yacht represents the future of racing yacht design. Borrowing heavily from America's Cup technology, Wild Oats is designed around a canting keel, a nine-foot pivoting canard fin, and an equally long and radically positioned rudder.

From what I saw the yacht can easily tack and gybe within its own length, and there wasn't a yacht in the fleet that could point as high on the wind and for boat length, travel as fast. Even the all conquering Shockwave had to defer to it on occasion.

So here then lies the dilemma. How is it that a yacht built after the rule book was thrown away, and therefore by definition cannot rate, be capable or even allowed to compete against those that have diligently stuck to correct design parameters in order to rate as efficiently as possible?

I am certainly not in a position to solve that problem but as you can see from the final handicap results, there are now a number of big boat owners quite red faced by it all, and it's not embarrassment making them so.

Stay tuned, I'm sure we haven't heard the end of this little episode!

Grant Warrington's much modified Wild Thing

Earlier this year, Club Marine made a commitment to the Sydney 38 One Design class by sponsoring the New South Wales State titles. Designed and built by Sydney Yachts, the company founded by the late Ian Bashford, they now represent the fastest growing one design fleet in Australia, and are now starting to make in-roads overseas as well.

Our commitment to the 38s during Hamilton Island Race Week was to sponsor this exciting division of one design yachts, as we believe that this is yacht racing in its purest form. A fleet comprising predominantly Aussie owner/skippers, competing in a quality Aussie built one design yacht lends itself for close and at times vigorous sailing. As with all good one design fleets, rarely was there more than a couple of minutes between first and last place, and boats that would win in one race would find themselves at the back of the fleet in the next, such is one design racing.

Wayne Kirkpatrick, CEO of Hamilton Island, on board his Sydney 38 Asylum, was considered a pre-race favourite with his intimate knowledge of local waters. But despite some good showings throughout the week including a first place, he could only manage sixth place overall. Ex-commodore of the CYCA, Hugo Van Kretschmar on board Bashful, took out the overall honours with an amazing four wins, two seconds, one third and a fifth placing. Hugo's results were so good that he still won the division after missing out entirely on the first race!

The underwater arsenal of Wild Oats is clearly visible

But the week's racing could be taken as seriously or as casually as you wanted to. There is a definite emphasis on enjoying yourself. Once again I saw and smelt the barbecues cooking away during some of the more relaxed cruising yacht races, and conversely I heard the verbal jousting taking place as the more serious classes tackled the inevitable close buoy roundings.

And as with previous years, the island put on nightly entertainment, with the Hamilton Island Yacht Club playing host to various live bands. It all culminated on the Friday night with a fantastic live performance by the working class man himself, Jimmy Barnes, and what appeared to be at least three of his children doing the backing vocals.

After Jimmy's performance a quick dash to the nearby nightclub saw Wayne Kirkpatrick (yes, of island CEO fame!), indulging in yet another of his passions as he took up the drum sticks and bashed out time for three numbers with the Bourbon and Beefsteak band. Judging by the audience response, a number of which were island staff, you would've thought Wayne had achieved pop star status.

It was a great night that I think few would forget, but judging by some of the spectators, perhaps they may've had trouble remembering!

The wind blew up on the last day, and the sun broke through the clouds to end the regatta on a warm note. Everyone was happy, competitors and organisers alike, the not so perfect weather a non-issue in respect to the overall enjoyment of the event.

Hamilton Island Race Week has earned the title of Australia's premier yachting regatta because that's exactly what it is. And long may it reign!

Division Winners:

Big Boats
IRC Yachts
Performance Handicap
IMS Yachts
Sydney 38 OD
Premier Cruising Yachts
Cruising Yachts

Wild Oats
Second Time Around
P&O Nedlloyd

Bob Oatley
Bob Steel
John McConaghy
D. Beak & M. Spies
Hugo Van Kretschmar
Andres Soriano
Trevor Bailey

For full results go to