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Hamilton Island Race Week Off To An Enchanting Start!


  • Hamilton Island Race Week Off To An Enchanting Start!

    Hamilton Island Race Week 2023 got underway in stunning conditions, with sunshine and a south-easterly breeze of 18-22 knots for the fleet of close to 180.

    The thirteen divisions were split over two start areas, Eastern and Dent Passage. In the prestigious Rating Division 1, John Winning Jr’s 100-foot Andoo Comanche took bragging rights on day-one. It was a tight race, with the Oatley family’s same-sized maxi Hamilton Island Wild Oats XI less than four minutes behind. Duncan Hine’s RP66 Alive leads on handicap, with an impressive opening race.

    all images copyright Salty

    One of the smaller boats in the fleet, in the trailable yachts division, Barely Legal was the fastest boat in all divisions and the first boat home with a time of 1hr 18 minutes.

    “Today was just a good solid win, and a really bumpy seaway for this size boat, but reaching and up-wind it was just a pleasure. A tough pleasure, but a pleasure!” said Andrew Buckland on Barely Legal.

    In the Multihull Black Division, the high-performance multihulls, it was Dale Mitchell’s Rex that charged home in a time of 1:39:41, followed by the Extreme 40 Angus, skippered by Michael Van Der Zwaard. Given the trade wind forecast, the Rex - Angus battle promises to bring plenty of tight, high-speed action throughout the week.

    Today’s racing followed the stunning opening night’s celebration, which included a heartfelt welcome from Sandy Oatley, opening the event to a backdrop of fireworks, live music and plenty of catching up between sailors.

    The starts were a testament to the Race Committee’s expertise, with all races getting away cleanly and on time. Regatta Director Denis Thompson was delighted with the day.

    “Today was a perfect sailing day. The breeze averaged 18-20 knots and we had sunny skies, so a good start to the series, and we expect the rest of the week to be similar. It’s a great event and will be a spectacular regatta with lots of boats rushing around the Whitsundays flying spinnakers, in turquoise waters, with trade winds and whales with their young nearby - everything is perfect,” Thompson said.

    The 2023 fleet features a cross section of boats from every Australian state, and five international yachts from New Zealand and New Caledonia. Close to 180 yachts and over 2,000 sailors from around the country and the world, who put on a sensational opening display for those spectating from the Bommie Deck at Hamilton Island Yacht Club.


    Sailors were rewarded for keeping their eyes out of the boat on the second day of Hamilton Island Race Week.

    Yesterday’s opening day reminded all sailors of the challenges of the tides here - meaning if they are not working for you, they are strongly against you. As little as fifty metres can make the difference between a distinct advantage or disadvantage compared to those around you.

    After their opening day’s victory, Adrienne Cahalan, navigator onboard the RP 66 ALIVE explained:

    “We have a really nice blend of talent and youth here, we have Chris Nicholson and Stu Bannatyne, Jason Boyd, plus young guys onboard and they bring energy and enthusiasm. One thing I am noticing is all the young girls and boys coming through - they are all very much up to speed, coming through the dinghy programs and so they hit the ground running.

    “With yesterday’s race we had a great example of some tidal gates - the start still had some outgoing tide, plus a tide change at Dent Island also helped us.

    “Sometimes tides go early or late! So you have to keep your eye out of the boat and get any indication in terms of buoys and marks to help gauge the tide and current - it is quite the phenomenon up here in the Whitsundays, where so much of the racing outcome is based on the tides.”

    All this meant day two of Hamilton Island Race Week focused the minds of tacticians and navigators alike, to get the best outcome from the SE 12-15 knot conditions. All fleets had a downwind start in Dent passage, for a mixture of courses ranging from 14 nautical miles for non-spinnaker to 30 nautical miles for the larger rating divisions.

    In Rating Division One the line honours battle was narrowly taken out by Andoo Comanche, just edging out Hamilton Island Wild Oats by 23 seconds following a 30 nautical mile course. Hamilton Island Wild Oats led right around Dent Island after winning the match racing start, and then continued to chase Andoo Comanche down after Lindeman Island.

    “A great start for us, we got off the line well and evenly accelerated away from them, managing to get out of Dent Passage in one gybe that helped a lot and gave us a good set up onto our J2”, said Chris Links, from Hamilton Island Wild Oats.

    “They had issues with their furling gear and that slowed them up. After a drag race to the exclusion zone they sat on our stern and ducked us there.

    “We stayed close though, and gave ourselves a good shot - but they held on well coming down Dent Passage for a win - but boy it was close, giving us the win on handicap by I think 11 minutes.”

    Crews are now looking to tomorrow’s Nautilus Classic Race with forecast conditions predicted to be more challenging, meaning navigators and strategists will be looking for even the smallest gains to give their boat the edge over the fleet. With all divisions starting from Dent Passage, the Classic Race is one of the most impressive annual spectacles of Hamilton Island Race Week.

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