Officially promoted as "The Abell Point Marina Airlie Beach Race Week", the event started off in magical conditions for all the 110 boats across the 11 divisions. The breeze was a kind south-east eight to 10 knots inshore and up to 15 knots offshore as PRO Ross Chisholm sent the fleet off on Course 7 around the Double Cones for all. There were plenty of battles, among the small and big boats, with some of the high achievers falling by the wayside in the soft wind and tricky tides. In the Sports Boat the skippers kept themselves under control for the first race, starting cleanly. And, that's pretty much how it went for the rest of the week of sailing, save for one near windless but gorgeous day on the water. The final day of racing brought smiles to the face of the sailors and race committee as the breeze kicked in as forecasted. It was Whitsunday sailing at its best with 10 to 15 knots south-east, a manageable swell and good racing around Pioneer Bay.
Sailing their J/70 JUNIOR for the first time in the regatta were Ray and Jill Carless from Sydney. Here's their report of the experience which, apparently, neither would trade for the world!
"Airlie Beach is situated in the middle of the stunning group of seventy-four Whitsunday Islands which are part of the Great Barrier Reef and is an amazing location for this iconic Australian winter race week.
With very little time to practice and still quite new to the J/70, we quickly recruit two new crew members for this highly competitive winter paradise regatta. With the boat packed we made the 1,800km three-day drive from Sydney with ease towing the J/70 with a 2 liter diesel VW.
The line-up of sports boats were typical of the high performance machines raced in Australia and New Zealand, some up to 8m, a number with wings and trapezes, most much lighter than the J/70 being built of carbon fibre.
The wind conditions were predominantly up to 8 knots with the windiest reaching 15 knots on the first day and every day in crystal-clear, sun-sparkled, aquamarine waters.
With an impressive scoreline of 3-5-5-3-4-3-4-2 and a drop of 8th, our performance for the week improved as the two new J/70 crew got used to the boat.
In short, we had a fantastic time! The J/70 is amazing! Anyone who doubts this is a good and economical way to run a modern sports boat should look at our results. We were the only boat in the fleet to have Dacron upwind sails and only one of each sail, ie. 1 main, 1 jib, 1 spinnaker, as per the J/70 class rules.
All of the other boats were sporting exotic sails and most had multiple jibs and spinnakers. This sounds too expensive and complicated to us, we just want to go sailing and have fun!
That we did and had a great time with a very good result as we get to learn the J/70. There is obviously more to be had out of this great little machine from the J/Boat stable and little wonder over 500 have now been sold in a very short space of time.
How best to sum it all up? Long drive, blue sky, little wind, much fun, great result!”
Sailing photo credits- Shirley Wodson - Shirley Wodson Photography Julie Geldard - Video Picture Promotions
Airlie Beach Race Week YouTube sailing video highlights: Day 1 Sailing summary Day 2 Sailing summary Day 3 Sailing summary Day 4 Sailing summary For more Airlie Beach Race Week sailing information