Thursday, September 15, 2011

J/133 Wins AUDI Hamilton Island Race Week

J/133 racer cruiser sailboat- sailing Hamilton Race Week Australia (Hamilton Island, Australia)-  For starters, this race week is easily becoming one of the "must do" events on the international yachting calendar.  How can you not like the fact that at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef there's the beautiful Whitsunday Islands with fabulous resorts that enable you to go point-to-point sailing in a nirvana-like tropical sea.  In between the sailing, there were gorgeous, if not extravagant, fashion shows and endless entertainment for the madding crowd-- from monster racers and mega-yachts to J/24s, everyone was having a great time.  In fact, even such Hollywood luminaries from Australia, super-stars like Naomi Watts (seen below), made the trek to the island to hang with some great J sailors and friends (she might be OK as a bow-girl, eh?)!

Perfect conditions blessed the opening day with sunny skies and a reasonably consistent 15 knot sou’easter easing the 195 strong fleet into the event’s varied program of on and off water events. The sailing calendar included island courses, windward/leeward racing and, beginning on Monday, a glittering social program ashore designed to satisfy all tastes and budgets.  Perhaps enjoying it the most of all was Tony Coleman's J/133 EUPHORIA from Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron winning Performance Racing Division 2 for the week.  Said Tony,  “We had a great week and beat a lot of well-sailed boats. The boat speed around 15 knots of wind even surprised me, non of the others could stay with us boat for boat upwind in those conditions.”  Of note, it was the second divisional win at Race Week for Coleman, the last was in 2003 sailing his J/120 also called EUPHORIA.  “Performance 2 results in particular show how close the racing was and how spot on the handicapping,” said a pleased principal race officer Denis Thompson.

Naomi Watts at sailing regatta- Hamilton Race Week in AustraliaThe first race, the Lindeman Island Race, was the perfect entree for the week, a leisurely 23.3 nautical mile race provided a gentle ease into the week long racing program.  At the end of the day, many divisional winners were pleased, but not crowing about, their performance on the track as consistency over the seven days of competition is typically they key to end-of-week spoils and the chance to be called to the stage at the official trophy presentation next Saturday evening.  Tony on EUPHORIA defied the best advice for how to succeed in PRD2 Class.  “They always say the wrong thing to do is win the first race,” Coleman said of his unexpected victory.  “We had a lovely day, everything seemed to go our way. We weren’t expecting a win but we’ll happily take it” Coleman added.

For the next few days, the wind blew dogs off chains.  So bad did it blow, that carnage on the race course became the provence of riggers ashore, mending both boats and egos.  For day two, with gusts forecast to peak in the mid to high 30s and a short chop in Whitsunday Passage, the race committee deliberated on whether to alter the racing schedule. They decided to go ahead as planned with Performance 1 and 2 divisions and sent them on the island course rather than windward/leewards and kept other fleets ashore.  Top wind speeds nudged 30 knots out of the sou’east but it was enough to give the grinders a hell of a workout and the bowmen and women a drenching. For the skippers it was an exhilarating as well as a mentally and physically tough day keeping their charges powered up and under control in the white water and smokin’ hot spinnaker reaches and runs.

By day four, an ominous trough in the southern Coral Sea continued to bend boisterous wind and rough seas into the Whitsunday Islands as it continued to track a course towards the Queensland coast overnight. Peak gusts of 40 knots at the Hamilton Island Airport gave an early indication for the 195 sailing teams that they would again face a supreme test of racing in boisterous wind and sea conditions.  Unfortunately, this followed a physically tough day of racing from the day before when the South East trade wind peaked at 31 knots and continued to torture the sea surface with a constant velocity of 25 knots. The crews apart from those known as 'heavy wind specialists' were hoping to race in a more placid breeze.  That was not the case, day four was yet another endurance test of racing in a 25-30 knot trade wind and rough seas.

For the fifth day and penultimate day, the weather had a wild "volte face".  Instead, the conditions were cool with a 14 knot average south easterly breeze and a top gust of 21 knots and early light showers.  In fact, it was a great day for whales!?  With the ocean water whipped up by high winds earlier in the week, whale sightings have been rare however this day a mother and calf humpback made an appearance in Whitsunday Passage, breeching as Bob Oatley’s super-maxi Wild Oats XI approached!!  Anyone tested a canting-keel and dagger-boards on a whale back lately?? Other than the excitement of the whales, PRD2 division had a donnybrook of a fight to determine who won, where just two points separated the first six boats on the results sheet!  “When it’s that close, you have to sail your own race and not worry about the tactical situations of the others,” said leading skipper Tony Coleman, one of three sitting at front of the pack on 38 points with his Sydney-based J/133 EUPHORIA.  At the end of the day, that held true.  Coleman’s secret weapon he believed was one of the Island’s medical staff members who had never sailed before but has been on board for a day one win and also the last day's win in one of the windward/leeward races. “She thinks sailing’s so easy,” laughed Coleman. "Of course, she’s been invited back for tomorrow’s ultimate race." We all now know how that one ended up!  Pickle dishes and champagne for all!  For more AUDI Hamilton Island Race Week sailing information