The 2006 Hahn Premium Race Week at Hamilton Island was mostly a light air affair, mirroring the conditions experienced in 2004 and calling for concentration and good tactics from crews.
Those of the 159 entries who thrive in the windier conditions and the longer island courses grinned and bore it. Everyone, though, took pleasure in the sailing, sunny weather, occasional whale sightings and social events the beautiful Hamilton Island and surrounds offered. Like most major yachting events so far in 2006, numbers were down on 2005’s record fleet, but the quality was certainly there.
Following talks with boat owners after last year’s event, regatta director, Warwick Hoban split the IRC fleet into two: Big Boat and IRC Racing, making for a congestion-free start line and less room for error.
BIG BOAT CLASS
“I was surprised by our win – I didn’t think we would,” said Wild Joe’s winning owner, Steven David. “It came down to crew work – we were one of the best prepared boats there.” The 38-year-old’s crew comprised regulars, including champion sailor Cameron Miles, Chris Links, Paul Montague and Josh Whittaker. Tom Braidwood, Julian Plante and Michael Fountain complimented an already strong foundation.
“We stayed out of trouble; our crew work was slick. Our whole thing was to sail cleanly, but we did have a couple of good dial-ups with Wild Oats X,” was David’s synopsis of their performance.
He overcame challenges from Stephen Ainsworth’s second-placed 60ft Loki and 2005 defending champion Wild Oats X (66ft), owned by Hamilton Island owner Bob Oatley. Reichel/Pugh designed the top three Sydney entries.
Grant Wharington’s 98ft Skandia Wild Thing grabbed all but three line honours victories. A block blow-up, shredded spinnaker and canard mark ‘fishing’ incident made life difficult, but the Victorian and his crew took it all in their stride.
Wild Joe’s was no easy win. Loki, recently given a revamp under the guidance of yachting luminary Gordon Maguire, gave David and his Big Boat compatriots a hard week of competition. Over the years, Maguire has played key roles in major yachting programs such as the Whitbread/Volvo Ocean races.
“We’ve put a lot of work into making things better on Loki. We’ve been trying to strengthen our weaknesses – and our upwind performance in heaver winds has been lacking until now. We’ve played with the rig and sails and tightened up our crew work and this was our debut with a new rudder,” tactician Maguire explained. Loki, with Tony Kirby at the helm, finished two points in arrears of Wild Joe, with the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats X 10 points behind the winners.
IRC RACING DIVISION
The IRC Racing class developed into a two-horse race between South Australian, Geoff Boettcher’s Hardys Secret Mens Business (HSMB) and Sydney’s Ray Roberts, with his DK46 Quantum Racing. Roberts eventually earned victory in the final race.
HSMB, a Reichel/Pugh 46 made up of South Australian regulars such as America’s Cup sailor Steve Kemp, and also including Sydney names Sean Kirkjian and Brad Stephens, looked the likely winner early on, with two wins and a second in the first three races. But from that point on, Roberts’ notched up three wins and Boettcher did all he could to hang on, his end result a two-point deficit. Maxed out with talent, Graeme Troon’s Victorian Reichel/Pugh XLR8 finished third, 10 points behind the winner.
For Boettcher, it was a bitter-sweet second. “For an Adelaide boat, this is a great result. We’re happy we performed well under weather we didn’t like. We don’t have this sort of competition in Adelaide and did the best we could,” he said, explaining there was only one other competitive IRC boat in South Australia. Praising the Quantum crew, Boettcher said: “They sat on us up the entire beat – I would have done the same in their shoes – they did a fantastic job.”
Winning the series, Roberts and his core crew; Steve McConaghy, Jamie Wilmot, Stu Broom, Brian Northcote and Scott Hinton, created a new record 2006 triple-crown, following wins at the Sydney-Mooloolaba race and Airlie Beach Race Week, adding to others during the year. Tactician McConaghy also won his third successive 11 Metre One Design Worlds this year.
“All of our wins have been close, which is reflected when you look at the scoreboards,” Roberts commented. “For us, the whole strategy was to keep HSMB behind us, to be aggressive in our starts and stay in front,” he said. The deciding final race was close; Roberts pipping Boettcher by one place to take the title by two points.
“We lost our bowman, Gerard Smith over the side in the last race – we’ve renamed him Teabag, because he got a big dunking. I thought that might cost us the series,” he said.
“Because of the conditions, racing was not very tactical,” said Roberts, “but we had great competition with Dekadence (Phil Coombs’ sistership to Quantum Racing), Wedgetail (helmed by Vanessa Dudley, the only female skipper in the IRC fleet), the Reichel/Pugh 46s and the Cookson 50s.”
Much to the appreciation of onlookers, three Cookson 50s, Wedgetail (a Welbourn 42) and a pair each of Reichel/Pugh 46s and DK46s made for some great match racing.
The 23 nautical mile UBS South Molle/Daydream Island Race opened Race Week. Light breezes became a building sou-easter and the fleet revelled in 17-18 knot winds. All agreed it was a magic day’s sail.
The 60nm Club Marine Edward Island Race the following day was sailed in near replica winds. But after that, conditions were ‘iffie’, forcing officials to postpone racing and, on the final two days, change the race courses to what were dubbed “Special Races”.
A reverse South Molle Island Race replaced the Baynham Island course and a race starting in Dent Passage and taking in Henning Island and North, West and South Molle Islands with the finish at Dent, replaced Saturday’s Lindeman Island Race.
In between, the Whitehaven Race, although light, was perfectly pleasant; the fun afternoon on Whitehaven Beach producing a lot of sore heads from the famous beach party.
PREMIER CRUISING DIVISION
The Cruising divisions sailed various island courses and another two-boat fight ensued in the Premier Cruising Division as two Sydney 47CRs, Wots Next and Balance, vied for the title. Graeme Wood’s Wots Next claimed the spoils. Wood purchased his yacht late last year and was fortunate to find the Sydney crew from champion racer Quest (having been sold to Queenslander Warwick Miller, who competed in the IRC Racing) without a boat.
“They didn’t have a boat; I didn’t have a crew. We met and fell immediately in love,” laughed Wood, the wotif.com founder from Sydney.
“It was terrific sailing at Hamilton Island against similar boats – I’m pretty keen on that – it keeps you on your mettle. We had fantastic competition with Balance,” Wood enthused.
Self-titled “The Geriatrics”, Quest’s former crew includes Ron “Jake” Jacobs, Jack “Jacko” Goluzd, David “Dellis” Ellis, Bill Riley and Mike “Greeny” Green.
“This is my first time at Hamilton Island,” said Ellis. “I’m really enjoying it – it’s a nice change driving around the islands instead of doing straight up and downs all the time,” he said of the courses.
“We want to try and keep this crew together and stay on this boat,” conceded Ellis, who has contested 21 of his Sydney Hobart races with Goluzd.
Second overall finisher, Paul “Money Man” Clitheroe, launched Balance just prior to Race Week. With crew help from Sydney Yachts’ Martin Thompson and his regulars, Clitheroe sailed an excellent regatta.
After a few decades break, Clitheroe got back into sailing six years ago. At Race Week, he did all the steering.
“How am I going to get better if I don’t helm my own boat?” opined the cheerful Sydney yachtsman.
A financial whiz who “sails for fun”, he fully appreciated the help extended by the Wots Next guys. “Greeny and Jake were especially helpful and very generous. Their tips made a lot of difference to my boat.”
Wots Next crew member, Geoff Rouvray responded: “If we can make both go quicker, it’s in both boats’ interest.”
Laurence Freedman’s Expresso Forte, Ross Wilson’s Eagle Rock and Colin and Gladys Woods’ Pretty Fly made up the next three places. The three teams, which finished eighth, sixth and fourth respectively in 2005, are big supporters of Race Week and always put in a good showing.
Lachlan Murdoch stole the show in the Premier Class. At the helm of his Swan 82 Ipixuna, Murdoch appeared relaxed and looked to be enjoying his sailing. Wife Sarah and their two young children watched the racing from a motor cruiser.
The Sydney 38 One Design brigade sailed mostly the same courses as the IRC yachts, but forsook some of the island races for more of their windward/leeward courses.
Again, the battle clearly came down to two boats; the winner, Steve Kulmar (Shining Sea) and defending champions and second placegetters Guido and Michelle Belgiorno Nettis (Transfusion), with Swish (Steven Proud) third, 21 points behind Kulmar.
All came apart for Transfusion in races six and seven when two fifth places could not match Shining Sea’s second and first. To add insult to injury, Transfusion retired after running aground in the final race.