IntriigueGoes Road Tripping for Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) 2014
By Tony Constance
Leading The Bigger Tris to Windward Under A Reefed Main
After some deliberation, and deep and meaningful discussion, Claire and I decided to take Intriigue up to Airlie Beach to compete in the 2014 Vision Surveys ABRW. This year marks the 25thanniversary of the event which was first run in 1990 under the stewardship of Don Algie, founder of Hog’s Breath Café, who arrived in the Whitsundays on his 55’ sloop Storm in 1987. Intriigue has some great history up here with some division wins in heats and overall series in past race weeks with previous owner, and F-Boats Australia Dealer, Peter Hackett who is viewed by many who race the Farrier / Corsair Trimarans in Australia as one of the best sailors in our class of vessel in the world. Safe to say we had big shoes to fill! But hey – Airlie is all about having fun (or so I convinced Claire) so off we went.
Tiernan Williams was a natural choice for our foredeck after his outstanding contributions to our season wins at the PCSC in 2013-14 and proved his mettle throughout the regatta. We were short one crew member and with no one available locally from our club I called on a friend, Matt Van Keuk, who had sailed a few regattas with Roger Fawcet and I on Intrigue (the F-24 MkII) when he lived in Gladstone working on RTA Yarwun 2.
Our Entry In The Regatta Birthday book Drawn By Tiernan Williams
The road trip up on Thursday the 7thof August was reasonably uneventful with regular stops to check wheel bearings and the boat’s security only revealing that we had lost a single bearing buddy. A quick call to Club Captain Lex for some advice necessitated a quick diversion to Lacey’s Trailers on Rockhampton’s north side to supply and fit a new bearing cap and we were on the road again for a hassle free trip. Good time was made with Claire on the ‘helm’, (obviously gets that from her father...? Ian?), and before you know it we arrived at the Whitsunday Sailing Club (WSC) in Airlie Beach – the drinking town with a sailing problem!
At this stage I must give a huge thanks to our supporter John Kolesky from Projects Unlimited Gladstone. John was the founder of Projects Unlimited and has held a collegial friendship with Ray Hobbs from the days Ray worked at Orica. John was kind enough to lend us a tow vehicle, a new Nissan Navara we named ‘Nina Navara’, for the duration of the series. John – thank you, we couldn’t have got there without you and your support is hugely appreciated!
Upon arrival at the WSC we rigged up the boat, checked into our accommodation 500m (stumbling distance) from the Club and set about organising dinner whilst checking the weather reports, studying charts and settling into our home for the next 10 days. On Friday the 8ththe boat was launched in the morning at the WSC, motored over to Abell Point Marina to find its pen for the week. A wash down and final check later and we were ready to race. Briefing was held at 1700 at the WSC followed by a ‘tropical welcome party’ after that – if you haven’t been to ABRW, I’m sorry but I can’t tell you what’s involved with that particular party… you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!
Rigged Up And Ready to Launch
So racing day one was next on the agenda. Peter Hackett gave me three simple bits of advice about racing at Airlie – one of those was “Funnel Bay humbles all”. This cautionary advice pertains to a particular geographic feature located on the southern side of Airlie Beach where the wind from the south accelerates over a flat area and then funnels through the peaks of hills doubling the strength of wind gusts. Naturally this would have some serious implications for us on one of the smallest and oldest boats in the 135 boat strong fleet.
Not Sure If the Berth Was Big Enough
And so it goes, the forecast was for 25-30 knots with gusts, as the BOM states, in excess of 40% stronger than that. We left the marina early for a shakedown sail and found ourselves reaching around in the high teens of boat speed in around 20 knots of breeze 2 hours before race start. A reef was put in the main as the breeze built to, and beyond the forecast maximum with consistent 30-35 knot gales crossing the bay. Our course put us to a windward mark, then to sea to the north of Airlie around a few islands and back to the Club for the finish.
We worked the boat to windward using almost just the jib, with the boat staying on the plane to windward. Speaking to the sailors from the huge IRC class boats with all their instruments, many were registering gusts in the high 40s and up to 51 knots true wind on the beating leg. Poor little Intriigue battled it out to the windward mark watching the smaller boats in the division retire and head back to the marina (one demasted!). Upon reaching the turning point we accelerated away with our true wind coming directly from the lee but our apparent making it seem like a 2 sail reach. We carved our way through the monohull fleet, surfing down waves and burying bows into the roughening seas as our boat-speed began to climb into the early 20s. At this point I was starting to feel the breeze build further along with the seas so the decision was made to drop the jib to reduce our sail area. This had little effect as we continued on the limit of control; dead downwind towards the islands whilst more boats swung about 180 degrees for the safety of the marina.
After a few frights the thought came to my head that went somewhere along the lines of “we’re here for fun, not to break boats or people” so we turned around, and sailed home under a jib only. On the return trip we tore a 40cm hole in our jib due to the breeze, which to me was quite bad. Alas, upon returning to the Club we heard that a catamaran lost all it’s steering as rudders were torn from the gudgeons at 24 knots and went through the fleet out of control (must have missed that one!), a small tri and 2 sports boats demasted (see video here: http://bit.ly/1nDwvfN) in the breeze and one poor Beale 780 called Rumgutz dropped its keel and sunk somewhere behind us on the race course! All in all, the $80 ‘cash / mates rates’ overnight repair to my jib suddenly felt insignificant as war stories were swapped, GoPro videos shared and sorrows drowned. I felt particularly sad for the crew of Rumgutz whose slogan was “No seas to tuff, no rum to ruff!” – after their on water debacle I hope they went easy on the Mount Gay that night…! Intriigue would live to fight another day… so, after that baptism of fire, onto the rest of the week.
We enjoyed mixed results for the remainder of ABRW with highlights including our win in Race 5 of the series against some very fast boats and competent sailors in much bigger boats that were more suited to the conditions. The weather didn’t let up throughout the whole week but we pressed on and ended up finishing mid fleet on line and handicap against the bigger boats in our division.
Some of the best sailing I have ever experienced was during Race 2. The course set took us south around Pioneer Point down to a windward mark called White Rock and then downwind taking the Molle Islands to starboard and Daydream Island to port and then back into Pioneer Bay for the finish. In this particular race our Division started second to the fast IRC fleet and following us were the Division I Performance Racing Monohulls. Safe to say, in the chop and breeze, the IRC fleet left us for dead with the fastest of the Div I monos (e.g. Farr 40s, 400s, 40-60ft boats) reeling in our 5 minute head start and passing us by the time we reached White Rock. With 15 or so big boats ahead of us we popped our smallest asymmetric kite in the 25-30knot breeze and began the onslaught! By the time we reached the kite drop point not only had we caught and passed the Div I fleet that murdered us upwind but we also set a new record speed for Intriigue (the 26 year old trailer boat with everything and the kitchen sink!) – 23.6 knots confirmed on the GPS! Yeehaa!
A week of festivities eventually came to a close and it was time to haul the boat out, drop the stick and head south for a hassle free but rainy trip home. The crew and I would definitely head back to Airlie if the planets align next year – but for us, a lighter forecast will definitely help sway the choice. If we survived this year, what could go wrong next year, right?
Intriigue With Claire Holding On