Hamilton Island Race Week By Patrick 'Tenpin' Bollen

The biggest offshore sailing series in Australia is scheduled to begin on the pristine waters of the Whitsundays on 19 August.
Twelve months has gone in the blink of an eye. Yes, it’s Race Week time again. It seems like yesterday that we all gathered in tropic North Queensland to join in the events, shenanigans and yacht racing at the annual Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
By mid-July 130 entries had been received by race week organisers. Entries close on 5 August.
“I am encouraged by the number of entries at this time considering contributing factors such as the ongoing effects of the GFC and the slow recovery we’re all enduring,” said island CEO Glenn Bourke.
Wild Oats & Blackjack.“The Island is still doing well considering the state of the dollar. Yes, more Aussies are taking advantage of the dollar and travelling overseas but compared to our competitors I think we are in good shape. We’re travelling along nicely and I am confident Race Week will once again prove to be an outstanding event,” Bourke added.
“We’ve added the Melges 32 one design class to the event and in 2012 Hamilton Island will host the Melges 32 Worlds and the Sports Boat Division is very popular.”
The big end of town has attracted a quality fleet including three TP 52s.
Calm owned by Williams Van Der Slot from Sandringham Yacht Club will take on Robert Hanna’s Shogun (RYCV) and the new thriller from Royal Prince Alfred YC, Hooligan (Marcus Blackmore).
Blackmore’s new boat launched just over eight months ago is a blistering yacht and with an extremely focused crew will be hard to beat. Even Stephen Ainsworth’s tried and proven Reichel Pugh 63 Loki will have her work cut out against Blackmore’s stunning new yacht.
“Barring incidents we should be in good shape. Though you know, yachting’s a funny game. We’ve raced this boat hard since launching, won Geelong Week then just when we least expected it, we blew the backstay in a mid-week race on Pittwater last week. Better then than during the Southport or even Hamilton,” said Blackmore.
Sandy, Bob and Ian Oatley on Hamilton Island.“Our rating’s gone up but then so has Stephen’s (Ainsworth) Loki, and Hooligan will enjoy some very good racing but we can’t afford to take our eyes off the others. It’ll be a great series.
“I am very happy with my crew. Terry Wetton runs the crew, Tim ‘Crackers’ Wiseman runs the boat and I’ve got Tom Slingsby as tactician. I reckon we’re in good shape.”
Ian Oatley will compete with his radical new TP 42 named Q, and Georgia will be crossing the ditch one more time in a bid to keep the Aussie boats Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail and Terra Firma honest.
Hamilton Island Yacht Club.Peter Millard and John Honan round out the IRC Class A Division with their big boat Lahana.
Island owner, Robert ‘Bob’ Oatley, the man responsible for not only bringing the award winning world class Hamilton Island to the fore as Australia’s best holiday destination but also his great selection of wines branded as Wild Oats is proud of what the Oatley family and their staff have achieved since purchasing the island in 2003.
“We are always looking to, at all times, improve the island as a tourist destination and doing our best to make Race Week an affordable and economical event for everyone,” Oatley said.
“Times have been tough but we have done well to stay ahead of the game. There is no one business in the world particularly tourism that hasn’t been affected. The Australian dollar is strong and people are looking to holiday abroad but I believe Hamilton Island still has much to offer those who elect to holiday at home.”
Oprah throws a shrimp on the barbie at Whitehaven.As for Bob’s super maxi Wild Oats XI, the five times Hobart line honours winner will be back at Race Week sailing in the Super Yacht Division against Anthony Bell’s Loyal and the incredibly beautiful Janice of Wyoming, a 130-foot Ed Dubois design luxury yacht built by Alloy Yachts in New Zealand and launched in 2005.
And Hobart Bob, can Wild Oats XI make it six?
“Well, we are hoping. I have a great crew who have been together a long time with Mark Richards as skipper. We are always looking to improve her performance and recently we added dagger boards. The competition will be strong. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Oatley said.
Janice of Wyoming.Wait and see indeed but in the meantime let’s go and have some fun in the sun at Race Week.
Competition is always stiff in the IRC Class B and C Divisions and this year will be no different.
This class has attracted some very competitive boats and equally competitive skippers like Paul Clitheroe with his Beneteau 47 Balance, Andy Kearnan from the CYCA with L’Altra Donna a Summit 35, two Middle Harbour boats Neat Eng. Wailea (Neil Padden) and Andrew Hurts’ CR36, Onya, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45, Victoire and Sandringham Yacht Club’s Wicked a Beneteau First 40 owned by Mike Welch.
Former 18-Footer World Champ, the quietly spoken but hard partying and highly competitive Peter Sorensen will be racing in this mix with his very successful Sydney CR36, The Philosophers Club, named after the bunch of blokes who gather weekly at Norths Rugby Club to shoot the s--t, and the breeze.
Hamilton Island Race Week – Cruising Division bunches at the start.I’ve always wondered where that name came from.
Sorro, as he is better known by his friends and crewmates, won the Audi series in 2009 is out to repeat his past glory.
The lawyer from Castlecrag in Sydney has been, it seems, sailing forever. Going into Race Week Sorro is currently leading the IRC Australian Championships. He needs to do well in the Southport and again at Hamilton.
“I love this series,” he said. “It’s the best regatta in the country. It’s what sailors like. Good fleets. Hard and serious racing in beautiful conditions and better still, hard partying.”
Glenn Bourke.Once again it is the Cruising Division which attracts the biggest entry. This division is made by the many men and women who simply love to be a part of the atmosphere of the regatta. Boats come from everywhere from around the country and from overseas. It is the fun division. However, the racing is no less serious. It can be highly competitive as witnessed on the start line as each boat jockeys for the best possible position.
As is the case each year almost a hundred boats enter the Cruising Division and the fleet always comprises many great boats, designers and of course personalities.
A regular competitor and visitor to the island is John and Kim Clinton who have entered their Beneteau 50 Holy Cow, and of course Peter Maitz with his 50 Beneteau Leonardo.
Well-known Victorian sailor Terry O’Hare has entered his Norseman 44 Windspirit and several Hobartians have escaped the chills of the deep south to savour the delights of tropical sailing including Greg Williams with Lookout, a 39 Jeanneau, and Andrew Sutherland with Jasambri.
The famous Muir brothers of Muir Winches have chartered a 49-footer and will be keen to do well in Cruising Division..
A feature in Cruising this year will be the once famous maxi yacht Condor, the 1983 Hobart line honours winner. Now owned by David Molloy, Condor works as a charter yacht in the Whitsunday Islands and is today as beautiful on water as she was in her heyday.
Another stunning yacht racing in the Cruising division will be Geoff Little’s Oyster 68, In The Mood.
X Yachts Australian agent Andrew Parkes is returning to Race Week to sail with Andrew Boller and his mates on the X 41 Matrix.
“We made a couple of costly mistakes last year and in one race got caught on the wrong side. We learned some important lessons and after finishing sixth overall in 2010 we are back this year to better last years result,” Parkes said.
“The X Yacht is a beautiful and competitive sailing boat. There will be a few racing at Hamilton. I’d like to see more but, hey, the market’s been tight this year. I’m looking forward to improvement as I think everyone in the industry is. It’ll be a great series but I think it’s an expensive event,” Parkes added.
Island CEO Glenn Bourke, former Olympian and three times world sailing champion will be out on the water this year racing his Sports Boat 3, Club Marine HI. He will have some stiff competition among a strong fleet with a contingent from Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania including David Graney, Nick Rogers and Brett Cooper joining the fray as well as former rugby league great Mick McClean from Bowen putting up a challenge against Bourke whose reputation is as one of the best in the world.
“Glenn is amazing. He can win from just about anywhere on the course. He sees things we just don’t,” said McClean’s brother Lachie.
Whatever the size of fleet this year, Hamilton Island will again put on a great show. From the beaches and pools to the bars and restaurants, the fashion shows, the culinary delights and entertainment, the stunning new yacht club and the outstanding world class golf course, the on water events and the spectacular yacht racing, the 2011 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is bound to be cracking event. An event that is a must do for every one be they a sailor or just someone who wants to be an integral part of all the fabulous fun.