Close racing with the Sydney 38s. Eventual class winner Rush leads.

Paul Wilson was in the Whitsundays to catch all the action of the 20th Hamilton Island Race Week, sponsored by Hahn Premium.

Once again I have had the good fortune to be able to clip on my media pass, dust off the camera, and cover my seventh Race Week.

After Shock.

But as far as media goes, I’m still very much the ‘new kid in the block!’.

The legendary Ian ‘Stripey’ Grant has been to all 20 race weeks. And then there is the voice of yachting in Australia, the quiet and unassuming Bob Ross. He’s been to 19 race weeks and it is always a pleasure and an honour to share a media boat with him.

Then there is Richard Bennett and Ian Mainsbridge, each are photographers who need no introduction as their respective coverage of yachting events have made them both household names in yachting circles. But you would struggle to find two more diametrically opposed characters. Each is an absolute master of his craft, but Ian is bold and ‘in your face’ never short on an opinion or theory, whilst Richard prefers the more subtle approach.

Once again I have enjoyed the pleasure of their company all too briefly, and just pray that a fraction of their skill and ability with a camera can rub-off enough to assist me with my own results.

But as well as these guys, there is a raft of ‘journos from the dailies and other publications, including the electronic media, who set up each year to ensure that the results are spread far and wide to an enthusiastic audience who seem to be unable to get enough of race week, and not just in Australia. Because of the high number of Kiwi entrants, our friends across the Tasman are also well supported with media. In fact the Race Week web site receives up to 10,000 hits a day during the week.

So why am I talking so much about the media? Because I want to try and get across to you just how big this event has truly become. The media contingent alone makes up about 53 people, and they descend on Hamilton Island much as do the media at a Formula One car race. Media helicopters constantly buzz the fleet, while media boats zig and zag their way through the fleets, much to the annoyance of some of the crews. Funnily enough these same crews don’t seem to complain too much when they see a spectacular photo of their boat in print or on the net!

Prawning season comes early.

The fact that such a media circus is in attendance is proof enough that the week is of major significance to Australian yachting.

So what of the racing itself?

Well it was as usual hotly contested in every division. Around 170 yachts competed during the week, with more than half making the long journey from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. But entrants also came from Western Australia and New Zealand.

A disappointing aspect for me was the ‘no show’ of the maxi yachts. George Snow, Bob Oatley and Grant Wharington had all hoped to have maxi yachts ready for Race Week, but unfortunately it was not to be.

Broomstick leads Indec Merit – just.

George Snow is still awaiting the outcome of enquiries with the AYF relevant to the legality of his, yet to be built, canting keel maxi. Bob Oatley’s beautiful Wild Oats was still in England at the time and the build schedule for Grant Wharington’s maxi just couldn’t meet the deadlines.

All these men consider Race Week to be the perfect venue for testing boats and perfecting crew work in the lead-up to the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The fact that they all wanted to be at Race Week once again confirms the regatta’s importance.

The lack of the seriously big boats, despite being a bit of a disappointment for me, did concentrate media attention (particularly my own) on the rest of the IRC fleet, which can sometimes miss out on the publicity that they deserve, and let’s face it, rarely does the handicap winner come from the ranks of the maxi yachts.

So in near perfect sailing conditions for the entire week, we were able to witness the cut and thrust of international standard yacht racing at its best.

Only on one day did the winds drop to such a level that a race had to be delayed and then cancelled due to time limits. For the remainder, it was ‘all systems go!’

Broomstick rounds ahead of Infinity III.
Ichi Ban made its presence felt.

I even saw a smile on the face of race organiser and director Warwick Hoban. Things must’ve been going well!

As you can see from the pictures, there was no shortage of colour, action and excitement. The Sydney 38s turned it on once again, leaving me wondering just how far this most exciting class of yacht can go. The eventual winner was Cameron Miles on board Rush separated by only one point from Australian yachting legend Lou Abrahams onboard Another Challenge.

I never tire of watching this fleet race. It is one design racing at its best.

This year Club Marine sponsored the Cruising division, which has now grown to be the largest division raced during the week. In fact, combined with the Premier and IRC cruising divisions, cruising style yachts made up more than half of the entire fleet. Usually distinguished by their white sails and BBQs mounted on the stern, this is the division that tends to see more of the Whitsundays than the other fleets, as the organisers tend to send this fleet off around the islands as opposed to racing around the cans.

A close encounter for Heaven Can Wait.

So who won the week outright? Well it was Bob Oatley on board his beautiful pocket maxi Another Duchess usually having to contend with coming in behind the bigger boats, this year Another Duchess was the big boat, and went on to beat much highly fancied handicap favourites such as Joe, Heaven Can Wait, and the boat full of Kiwi Rock Stars, Georgia.


A forlorn wait for wind – Jade (left)

But the week is also so much more than just yacht racing. The daily entertainment list would have you exhausted without having been out on the water all day. The oh, so appropriate major sponsor Hahn Premium, reported that more than 25,000 Hahn Premium stubbies were enjoyed during the week, which is an Australian record for the amount of Hahn consumed at one event.

New Zealand’s Georgia.

Also, the island’s food and beverage manager, the larger than life Geoffrey Nocher, advised me that along with the record levels of beer consumed, the yachties were also able to put away more than two tonnes of prawns, three tonnes of steak, one tonne of fish, along with 15,120 eggs and half a tonne of bacon.

Phew! How’s that for a shopping bill?

Needless to say it all ads up to a fantastic week of racing and fun. The ultimate cure for a long southern hemisphere winter.

Sunrise over the Whitsundays.

Final placings for all classes are as follows:

Place Boat Name Skipper Points
IRC Class    
1 Another Duchess Bob Oatley 690
2 Joe Steven David 674
3 Georgia James Farmer 673
Sydney 38 One-Design    
1 Rush Cameron Miles 785
2 Another Challenge Lou Abrahams 784
3 AMI Jade Peter McNamara 777
Performance Handicap    
1 Sandstone Mike Davies 686
2 Risky Business Darryl Hartshorne 686
3 Kerinda Len Payne 683
IRC Cruising Class    
1 Euphoria Anthony Coleman 496
2 Cavalier Express J MacAdie/J Mitchell 493
3 Wirrajurnd Peter Whitford 480
Premier Cruising Class    
1 Savoir-Faire M Roe & S Dart 494
2 Bullrush Bob Southerton 492
3 Honeysuckle Ray Harris 482
Cruising Class    
1 The Probe Tim Lewis 382
2 Manly Too Andrew Robinson 381
3 Grizzly Adams Roger Hart 379