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Airlie Beach Race Week: all systems are go for international event

Airlie Beach Race Week 2013,  Storage King Wallop offload the delivery comforts in readiness for racing

Airlie Beach Race Week 2013, Storage King Wallop offload the delivery comforts in readiness for racing

It’s all systems go for the start of the 24th Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week which starts tomorrow morning and goes through to Friday 16th August.

The fleet of 110 racing multihulls and monohulls, sports boat and cruisers are raring to get out on Pioneer Bay to shake out the nerves and size up their competition.

Many of the crews have used today to strip out unnecessary gear off the boats, check sails, test electronics and deck gear, and loosen up the crew with a quick training sail on the bay.

As the pontoons around Abell Point Marina fill up with excess gear, PRO Ross Chisholm noted the Cruising Division, on notice for the first time that “any boats found to be stripped or lightened shall be subject to a penalty”, has admitted the race committee will only be keeping a watching eye on this activity. “It becomes abundantly clear if boats are abusing the system,” Chisholm warned.

Buried in the process of registration, Regatta Director Denis Thompson reported he was comfortable that all was going to plan, both with paperwork and with the weather.

The forecast for the first day of the regatta, which will see all divisions head out of Pioneer Bay on to the Cones Armit Race, still looks to be a very soft five to eight knot south-easterly and lightening throughout the afternoon. This weather will test even the very best in each of the divisions.

IRC Racing

The racing and cruising entrants have been combined to make the IRC Racing fleet of 12 entrants. The big guns in the fleet are expected to be the TP52s – Bob Steel’s Quest and John Woodruff’s Frantic.

On their tail, but with work to do to learn the boat, will be the international team on Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire. The team spent several hours on the water earlier today working out how this scratch crew will drive the powerful boat. Hodgkinson appeared relaxed about the team’s test run while one of his visiting surgeon’s joyfully described his first impression of the boat as a “rocket ship”.

At the end of size scale Gary McCarthy and his Beneteau 34.7 Brilliant Pearl team are talking down their chances of matching it with the big boats. “I reckon water line length will get us,” McCarthy said.

Performance Racing

Home town boat, Damian Suckling’s Another Fiasco, has the chance to step up this year ahead of the nine-boat fleet to the top of podium. His inside knowledge of racing the passages and shores of the local islands will be invaluable as his team battles wind and the handicapper.

The seven team members on the little Thompson 870 ,Where’s Wal, are described by their skipper, Roger Jepson, as “highly tuned athletes”. Hailing from Royal Brighton and Sandringham yacht clubs, this is their third year at Airlie in the considerably warmer conditions that their mates in Melbourne are currently experiencing. Up against the Farr 400 Ichi Ban and the MC38 Menace hasn’t fazed the team. They have their hopes pinned on a generous handicap and some good racing.


The Cruising Division is the biggest group in this year’s event with 44 entrants. There is a whole range of characters, boats and expectations of what this year’s race week will deliver.

In Division 1, John and Kim Clinton are back with their loud green Holy Cow! machine, the Beneteau 50. They won Cruising Division 2 last year, but may struggle to match that result this year. The light airs will be a problem for the boat which carries considerable weight including an industrial-sized cocktail machine to be used in the quieter moments of racing for the making of “cow-tails”.

In Division 2, Nic Cox and Col Thomas’s team are back, this time with a brand new Hanse 345. This is a team that has performed very well in the Cruising Division in the various boats they have raced. Thomas said he fully intends to race this boat as hard as all others, but with a sale contract just signed, he may be taking it more quietly on the start line.

Joining them in Division 2 is Stephen Budd’s Ron Holland 42 footer, Monique. Budd has revamped the late ‘70s built boat to bring it back to race mode. It has languished for quite some after it was campaigned by the French in the Admiral’s Cup.

The Archambault 40 Nautical Circle and its Melbourne team led by Chris Carlile are pleased to be out of 10 degrees and rain, and into paradise. In Melbourne Carlile racing an 11-metre One Design. The bunch of “old croaks” are back for their fifth year and looking forward to the light winds. “We are in Cruising Division because we don’t want to go around buoys, we want to go around islands,” Carlile said.

In Division 3 and With Holy Cow! out of the way, John Fowell’s Ells Bells may have the chance to better their second place of last year. Normally a fierce competitor in the small boat division, Brisbane’s Andrew Barney will likely be taking the competition a little more gently encouraging his crew of family members, both adults and children, to enjoy the passage courses.

Non Spinnaker

While the Monohull Non Spinnaker division is down a bit on numbers with only six entries, there is plenty of spirit in the fleet. Leading the group, but perhaps at the wrong end according to the skipper, will be Peter Harrison’s Rumgutz.

The field is wide open with entrants across the spectrum of age and style.

Sports Boats

The 11-boat Sports Boat fleet are talking up competition for the predicted light airs. Without last year’s winner Raptor in the mix, the consensus is Jason Ruckert’s Mister Magoo will be on top as they are considered the light air specialists of the fleet.

Brett Whitbread’s Crank was expected to be in the running. He knows the Airlie Beach race courses and with the boat being recently revamped, he should be capable of improving on last year’s place if the breeze kicks in.

“Hopefully the locals are right. They are saying the breeze is going to say in a bit more than what the forecast is saying. Tomorrow will be fine, but Sunday and Monday will be a bit of drifter. My boat doesn’t like the lighter airs. The heavier boats will come into play if the breezes are light and then if the breeze comes up, the lighter boats will come into play,” Whitbread said.


The 29-boat national championship fleet is impressive. There’s the seriously fast machines and then there are the cruisers.

Local OMR measurer, Shane Beyer, has been kept busy for the last 48 hours with “at least half the fleet being measured. We have had a few pushing the boundaries. Everyone is now measured in.”

National OMR Measurer Mike Hodges is tipping for Division 1, if it’s soft, George Owen’s APC Mad Max, Alasdair Noble’s Malice and Julian Griffiths, Hot Vindaloo. Then again he thinks Laban Rixon’s Wild Spirit has a good chance.

“Morticia is an unknown factor, but I think it will remain unknown. Those Sea Cart 30s come with a big reputation, but so far I haven’t seen the results, either here or in Asia, of those boats consistently winning. It’s an unbelievable rig. It’s totally carbon fibre.”

In Division 2 Hodges tips Bill Ferguson’s Midnight Rain or Garry Scott’s Coco Loco. “Garry Scott has pretty well won everything over the years. He is very consistent and he knows how to sail that boat,” Hodge said.

The full entry list is on – www.airlieraceweek.com

By Tracey Johnstone

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