Perfect trade wind sailing blessed the 200-plus strong fleet on the opening day of Hamilton Island Race Week in the glorious Queensland Whitsunday islands.

Close to two thousand sailors from around the country plus internationals put on a brilliant display in the southeast winds and sunshine, live action for those spectating from the Bommie Deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club and lunching at the Wild Oats Wines Ladies Lunch at the Beach Pavilion.

Sixteen divisions split over two starts, Eastern and Dent Passage, wrapped up the Molle Islands race. Line honours went to Dale Mitchell’s monster ORMA 60 Rex in the Multihull Racing Division and in the coveted Division 0, John Winning Junior’s supermaxi Andoo Comanche set the fastest time for the 36 nautical mile course.

Full results for all divisions here.

Derek Sheppard’s Elliott 780 Black Sheep blitzed their 16nm course, accolades for their efforts coming from the finish team via a blast of the finish horn from the Bommie Deck. While the Wollongong team’s goal this week is to have fun, Black Sheep found itself well in front of their trailable mates at the finish in Dent Passage and ended up second on handicap. The downside is the likely handicap penalty for the remaining races – and the one crew sleeping on the boat will be on wet cushions tonight after a rough beat back from the Molles.

Sheppard downsized from a larger yacht, with all the associated costs and logistics, to a trailable, saying “we’ve done the trip up here a few times via sea and it’s much easier to hop in the car and do 110kph to windward. The Race Week atmosphere is great. It’s a big fleet- over 200 boats – which is a great turnout as it’s a fair distance for most people to travel. The wind is meant to hang in all week so there should be some great rides!”

First in the Trailable Yacht division on corrected time was Halcyon, Michael Goss’ Snook design from New South Wales.

Other Hamilton Island Class winners for race one include Wayne Millar’s Murray 41 Zoe, Peter Byford and Rob Aldis’ Azuree 46 Kayimai and Rick Rogers and David Stoopman’s Jeanneau 469 from Southport. In Hamilton Island Multihull white division, Peter Hawker’s F32srcx Carbon Credit opened their Race Week with a handicap win and in black division, Chris Tulloch’s GBE28 Island Girl took the win.

Last night Hamilton Island officially opened the annual world-class series with a sunset function and fireworks and this evening crews can select from a variety of Eat Street Stalls then head to the main stage on Front Street for live music until midnight.

Regatta director Denis Thompson was pleased with the opening outing saying, “it was a great way to kick off the 36th edition, typical Whitsunday weather 15-18 knots and some very close racing”. Given the forecast, Thompson has switched the schedule and will run the Nautilus Marine Insurance Classic long race on Monday August 22 rather than the Tuesday before the mid-regatta lay day.

For more info on Hamilton Island Race Week go to the website: www.hamiltonislandraceweek.comau

Photos by Salty Dingo