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