A top shelf selection of Australia’s finest grand prix keelboats met on the start line today to commence their run for Audi IRC Australian Championship supremacy.
After yesterday’s unexpected day ashore for the IRC classes due to light winds, a building southeast breeze that peaked at 15 knots was a welcome change.
Bob Oatley’s super maxi, Wild Oats XI, had the luxury of constant clear air, easy to arrange when there’s 98 feet of unrivalled power slicing through the Whitsunday waters and the nearest yacht is 66 feet with Buckleys of catching up.
Behind Wild Oats XI, which should finish with the perfect line honours scorecard, a monumental battle is going to play out in the ensuing days among the 50 to 66 footers for the all important handicap honours.
The yacht line up is incredible and the peppering of international talent equally so.
Rob Hanna’s TP52 Shogun V, with Steve McConaghy calling tactics, has opened strongly with a first, second and fourth from three windward/leeward races on the eastern course area, to the south east of Hamilton Island, to be leading on handicap.
Months ago Shogun V struck trouble on the Brisbane to Gladstone race return when the boat was holed and began taking water. It spent eight weeks in Southport undergoing repairs, also having the bow strengthened during the pit stop, and is now contesting Race Week with skipper Hanna fresh from the London Olympics where his wife competed with the Australian equestrian team.
Geoff Ross’ lack of opportunity to go up against the other TP52s prior to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week wasn’t an issue with a handicap win for Yendys in the second race of the day and a second on the clubhouse leaderboard after three races.
‘We’ve done our homework, but we haven’t been matched up against anyone,’ said Ross going into the regatta. Ross and his crew, which includes helmsman Gavin Brady and bowman extraordinaire Morgan White, only took delivery of the boat just prior to last week’s Telecoinabox Airlie Beach Race Week.
Ross’ strength is he knows how to build a good team. He’s done it in business with his successful wealth management company and in sailing, including outright wins in Rolex Sydney Hobart and at Race Week with previous boat boats by the same name.
At Race Week the crew are ‘glued together by common elements’ says Ross, referring to the many combinations on board who have sailed together and against each other on other boats. That teamwork has got them at the right end of the scoresheet straight up.
In the Audi IRC Australian Championship class 2, the defending champion, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45 Victoire, narrowly leads Robbo Robertson’s Beneteau 40 Lunchtime Legend after three races.
In class C, Roland Dane’s Corby 36, Jessandra II, leads Andrew Hurt’s Onya and Here’s Trouble (Paul Mitchell) in third.
All divisions will split off again tomorrow, cruising, super multihulls and IRC classes will complete an island course to be decided by the race committee in the morning while Performance Racing 1 and 2 will have their turn at windward/leewards along with the Melges and SB20s.
It looks like Shaun Lane’s Race Week is over, his Hanse 400 Ampersand dismasted at the start of Cruising division 2’s race when the forestay snapped.
All information relating to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2012 is on the regatta website – www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au.
Luxury carmaker, Audi, returns as the title sponsor of Hamilton Island Race Week in 2012. The German premium brand will host a range of special events on the island for yacht owners and guests to enjoy during the week.