Main photo: Michel Van Der Zwaard’s Angus crew.

Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) reached its penultimate day and a lovely 15-20 knot breeze shook up competitors who had been basking in light conditions all week at the Whitsunday Sailing Club’s marquee event.

Just ask Rohan Veal. The Victorian sailor is skippering Michel Van Der Zwaard’s M32, appropriately named M32 World in Multihull Racing Division 1. Despite pulling out today, he still leads the division on countback to Van Der Zwaard, who is at the helm of his Extreme 40, Angus. Mike Peberdy’s Extreme 40, High Voltage, is third.

“We foolishly didn’t put a reef in,” Veal explained. “We had to motor round to a marina to get the main up. It’s extremely hard to put the main up and to put a reef in. Finally, we got into the lee of Pioneer Rock, but it meant we started 10 minutes late. It’s not my boat, I was concerned, I didn’t want to damage the boat, so we didn’t start.

The crew hadn’t sailed the boat more than five times before this regatta and that includes me.”

On told he was still leading the division, Veal was surprised: “We were happy to get out here, have a bit of fun, we weren’t expecting to win races. I think the Extremes would have beaten us today in these conditions, but we’ll never know…”

The boat is a lightweight, all-carbon, high-performance, one-design multihull. 

“It’s an awesome boat. It’s wild because it’s so light. Its righting moment with anchor and engine is just 700 kilos. The boat wants to lift out of the water all the time, even with a reef. It’s a very tricky boat to sail. It’s extremely sensitive to every adjustment, especially upwind.

Division 2 is led by Andrew and Carolyn Stransky and their Olympian daughter, Mara. Fantasia has won at ABRW twice before, so their lead is no surprise. Kay Cee (William Richards) is in second place, on countback to Fantasia. Peter Hackett’s Full Bore holds down third place.

The Multihull Passage division is also in a tied position for first place between two NSW boats. Stephen Leonard’s charter boat, Sea Dragon (NSW), is in the top spot leading into the final day. William Phillips-Web’s Out of the Bag is hot on his heels and taking no prisoners. Marc Gerard’s Storm Bay is maintaining third place.

Performance Racing

Reignition, the MBD 41 owned by Charles Wallis from the host club leads Performance Racing by three points to Cam Rae’s Barracuda from Geelong in Victoria, which won today’s race. Glenn Burrell’s striking black ‘Black Diamond’ is a further two points away in third place. Tomorrow will be the decider.

“We are just delighted that the boat go’s fast downwind and cuts the corners on the boats with asymmetrical kites,” Wallis said, laughing.

“This is our home ground, so we know the waters fairly well, although we don’t know what’s going on with the currents often. She’s a good old girl, Reignition, we have taken part in practically every Airlie Beach since it started. I sold the boat and bought it back in Brisbane.”

Trailable Yachts

Skeeter, a Bethwaite 8 design from NSW, has featured in the top three for a few days now in a tough division where all are hot boats. She leads the division from John Rae and Gary Smith’s Vivace and Walter Hogg’s Sardine. There is little between the three, so tomorrow’s race will be the decider.

“It’s very tight, very close racing,” Skeeter’s owner, Sandor Tornai says. “We come up every year – couldn’t come the last two because of Covid. The venue is great, I’ll keep coming up here. We love sailing at Airlie Beach and enjoy the value for money. It’s laid back and we enjoy the banter with the Queensland guys.” 

Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and is a feature on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.

Full results and all information on Airlie Beach Race Week, please visit:

By Di Pearson
ABRW media