‘You betcha! There’s no way we are not going to be there,’ was the confident declaration from Audi Hamilton Island Race Week defending champion, Marcus Blackmore, when asked if he would be returning to defend his title in August this year.
Blackmore has a strong incentive to be there as no other yacht in the 29-year history of the regatta has won the Grand Prix division two years running – and he wants to be the first with his powerful TP52 class racer, Hooligan. However, Hooligan faces at least two significant hurdles before achieving the goal – rival TP52s Shogun V (Rob Hanna, Vic.) and Georgia (Jim Farmer and Chris Meads, NZ). And it is expected that there will be at least one more challenger as it is almost certain that another of the world’s top TP52s, Bribon, will be competing.
The clash of the TP52s will be one of the many on-water highlights at this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – Australia’s premier keelboat regatta. There is no doubt this particular encounter will be a give-no-quarter on-water stoush when it is realised what has transpired in recent months. Earlier this year the revamped Georgia beat Shogun V at Geelong’s Festival of Sails, and subsequent to that Hanna took his yacht to Sydney and beat Hooligan in the Sydney Harbour Regatta. Prior to those results Blackmore swept all before him.
The loss to Shogun V, and having the chance of making Audi Hamilton Island Race Week history, has heightened Blackmore’s resolve to win this year’s regatta, which will be staged from August 17 to 25.
‘We got the formula right for Race Week last year, so we know what is needed for a repeat performance this year,’ Blackmore said. ‘I’m really looking forward to this challenge. I plan to have the best possible crew with me, and the Hooligan will be prepared to perfection.’
Even so, there is every chance the TP52s might not get things all their own way at Race Week as they will face stiff competition from a number of other high calibre offshore racers, including Stephen Ainsworth’s 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart race winner, Loki. It is distinctly possible that, should Hooligan, Shogun V and Georgia lock into their own private duel, then the 63ft Loki will be able to sail her own race without any serious challenges and come home a winner. That was the case at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2010 when Loki was able to sail at maximum speed in clear air throughout the series and became the champion. However, last year Ainsworth’s hopes for back-to-back wins in the Grand Prix division were literally blown to shreds when Loki’s mainsail blew apart at the start of a crucial race.
The entry list for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week continues to grow impressively: more than 50 yachts are expected to be on the register before the end of April, half of them being contenders for trophies in the always popular Cruising Divisions. The current rate of entries has regatta organisers expecting a fleet of around 200 when racing starts following the big waterfront Welcome Party on the evening of August 17.
The sailing and party agendas being developed for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 promise to take what is Australia’s most awarded regatta to an even higher level.
Of special note is the news that competitors, their families and friends who book Race Week accommodation before April 30 will receive the ‘Early Bird’ bonus – a 10 per cent discount at the impressively upgraded Palm Bungalows and the Reef View Hotel.
For details of this offer, and all other information relating to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012, go to the regatta website – www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au. The Notice of Race and Entry Form are also on the site.
The regatta caters for the full spectrum of keelboats – from non-spinnaker cruising yachts and sport boats through to Grand Prix level racers and high performance multihulls.
Luxury carmaker, Audi, returns as the main partner of Hamilton Island Race Week in 2012. The German premium brand offers a range of high-end events on the island for yacht owners and guests to enjoy during the week.