On the opening day of the Whitsunday Sailing Club’s 26th Airlie Beach Race Week the sun was on full beam, and a lovely breeze built to 15 knots, making it a perfect day out.
Chris Williams sailed Morticia to a near five minute win over Andrew Stransky’s Fantasia in the Multihull Racing class.
In the Multihull Passage division Kestral crossed the line first but were beaten on handicap by Tyee III.
On Day 2 Multihull favourite, Shaun Carroll’s Morticia held onto her lead and has firmed as odds on favourite to take the title at Whitsunday Sailing Club’s annual regatta.
Skippered by noted sports boat sailor and ocean racer Chris Williams, Morticia, the Seacart 30 trimaran, played second fiddle to Peter Wilcox’s Schionning G-Force1500 designed Mojo, on day 2.
Sailing a Passage Race from Pioneer Bay to Grassy Island return, Voodoo beat Morticia to the post by just over two minutes once the handicaps were applied. However, following her win of yesterday, Morticia leads the series by one point, with Mojo second and Andrew Stransky’s Fantasia in third.
The fleet started in light air just after 11.00am.
“Instead of sailing the rating game, which we normally do, we’ve set Morticia up to sail overseas at St Barts and at St Maarten Heineken Week – a few regattas in the med over an 18 month to two year period,” Williams said this afternoon.
“Our rating has gone from 983 to 1012 and we’re throwing as much horsepower as we can at the boat to be competitive on the world stage,” the Sydney sailor said. Williams has been steering the boat for two years now, but says he is still at novice at multihulls. Nor did he expect them to win here, given the modifications to the boat that have affected its handicap.
“We didn’t expect to win here, because we are trying to learn to sail the boat again, we are learning from scratch, it is such a different boat,” he said.
Carroll, Williams and the crew will likely leave for the Med after the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race in January.
“It will likely be our last Australian regatta. When we return, Shaun and I will be doing the next Melbourne-Osaka double-handed race – the first time they have included multihulls,” Williams said.
Back on Airlie Beach Race Week, Williams said they had a good day yesterday, but things got off on a bad footing today.
“I stuffed up the start, got there a bit late and with the tide going out, crossed the line early, so had to go around the pin and re-start. We fought back well, but the pre-start was an ‘oh dear’,” he said.
His tip on who will win here at Airlie Beach? “It will come down to Fantasia, Mojo, Morticia and Mad Max. We’ll see what happens after two more Passage Races and a day of windward/leewards,” Williams said.
“This regatta is a good test for the boat and once we got over the start, the team settled into the nice breeze of around 11-14 knots.”
The light winds on Day 3 did not suit Moticia as they finished 5th. APC Mad Max crossed the line first but was beaten on handicap by Mojo.
In the Passage division Richard Jenkins took both the line honours and handicap win on Kestral ahead of Tyee III.
Day 4 after the lay day was windward/leeward races. The first race was marred by a collision at the start between Fantasia and J’Ouvert while trying to avoid Crosshair who had stalled at the start. J’Ouvert withdrew from the regatta to allow repairs to be completed. Fortunately the builder was on-board and she was repaired for the next regatta at Hamilton Island. The race won by APC Mad Max with Mojo in 3rd. The second race of the day had no incidents with APC Mad Max again winning but this time Fantasia beat Mojo by 30 seconds.
In the Passage division the Fontaine Pajot design Mon Amie won on handicap with the Catana 4311 Tyee III proving consistency with a 2nd place.
Day 5 started with winds 20-25 knots. Unfortunately 1 hour into the race Cool Change experienced a 30 knot gust. Fortunately, Bob Critchley and his crew were all on deck when the capsize occurred. They fell into the water before climbing atop the upturned hull of Cool Change before being transferred to other vessels.
All aboard were fine, save for a couple of cuts and bruises and shock. Fortunately, the water temperature was 20 degrees and none of the crew were in the water for long.
While some crew were taken aboard Mark Boat 2 and Blake Boulton’s racing yacht, Trumpcard, Critchley was taken aboard More Noise, whose owner, Jason Close said, “it capsized nearly on top of us. It all happened so quickly – three seconds was all it took before the boat was upside down.
“We used sign language to them to do a quick head count and realised all six crew members were on the hull and safe. We immediately dropped our sails to go and standby and assist. Then I got on the radio and notified race officials,” Close said.
“The forecast was for 20-25 knots, which is very sailable, but when we got to North Molle there were big sudden gusts,” he said.
Bob Critchley said never in his 30 years of sailing had he even come close to capsizing.
“That gust hit so suddenly, we didn’t get a chance to respond. Lucky we had a reef in the main. Even last year, when we sailed in much worse weather at Airlie Beach Race Week, nothing even like this came close to happening.”
“We got hit suddenly by the biggest gust at Hanna Point and it was over in seconds - all six of us were on the hull quickly. We saw others around us get hit by the same gust.
Critchley said he was grateful to all who made sure he and his crew were safe and that their situation was being constantly monitored by the experienced race officials at Airlie Beach Race Week.
By the time they had reached Abell Point Marina, where More Noise is berthed during Race Week, Critchley had already advised his insurance company and a salvage crew, who were to retrieve the catamaran today.
“They’ll have to cut the mast and rig away and all the electronics are ruined. We all lost our personal possessions, watches, wallets and my hearing aids. My crew is a very experienced one except for one person, so we did all the right things,” the Queenslander ended.
In racing Fantasia finished ahead of Mojo and The Boat Works. 2nd place for Mojo has them leading by 2 points going into the final day ahead of APC Mad Max. Andrew Stransky (Fantasia), is a further two points behind in third place overall.
Victories in Races 2 and 3 have given Mojo the small jump on its competitors, “all of them top boats,” according to Wilcox who represents the Multihull Yacht Club Queensland. In fact, Mojo’s worst result in the event has been third place.
The Multihull division crews, along with other classes at Airlie Beach Race Week, struggled at times in the heavy winds.
“Add to that the lumpy and bumpy seaway and sailing against the tide on the first leg, and you have very challenging conditions,” said Wilcox, adding: “It was very hard to steer the boat.”
Forecasts were for south-easterly 20 to 25 knot winds, but went beyond, keeping all competitors on the ball.
“It was hectic, a top-end breeze. It was a tough day at the office. It was cranking low to mid 20’s, and 28 knots at the top end. Both my boat and crew worked hard the whole time,” the Queenslander said.
“We’ve got one race to go, so today was about minimising damage,” said Wilcox who admitted his boat and crew are comfortable in big conditions, of which more are expected tomorrow.
Wilcox and Mojo have been away competing on the Asian circuit at the Kings Cup, Raja Muda and others for the past two years, having left Australia after the 2012 Brisbane Gladstone Race.
“It’s great to be home and to be at Airlie Beach Race Week. It’s such a great fleet here,” he said of the large entry list of 18 of the best multihulls from Australia wide.
The school teacher said being here is not just about racing and winning, “It’s the great camaraderie in our class. We were very sorry about Cool Change capsizing today.”
“From my perspective, this is sport, and as such, you have to enjoy it. That’s always been my philosophy. It’s a great sport; people of all ages can take part. My crew’s ages are from 17 to 65 years.”
“We’re all here having a great time this week, loving every minute,” Wilcox ended.
The Series’ early leader, the highly fancied Morticia (Shaun Carroll) helmed by Chris Williams, has dropped to fourth overall with another fifth place.
There was a new winner in the Passage series, Misty Sea which is a 12.5m Roger Hill designed Montebello.
On the final day Peter Wilcox held on by the skin of his teeth to claim the Multihull Racing series with a 3rd on Mojo. The Schionning G-Force1500 from the MYCQ, defeated Tony Considine’s Grainger 10, APC Mad Max, skippered by George Owen by one point and Andrew Stranksy’s Seven Seas 50, Fantasia by a further point in this close series.
“This is the best competition you will see in the multis, so it was really satisfying to win,” Peter Wilcox said.
“After all the work and preparation Craig Humphries at Signature Yacht Services and Ben Kelly at Quantum put in. The boat’s been out of the water for a refit since we got back from Asia, and all is working well.
“I couldn’t have done this without my crew. There are no egos on the boat; it’s a real team effort. I’d especially like to thank Steve Lord who’s been with me from day 1 and been instrumental in keeping the boat running. He’s totally dedicated,” Wilcox added.
To Bob Critchley and his Cool Change crew, we hope to see you back on the water soon after the unfortunate capsize of Thursday.
In Multihull Passage, John Williams was just too good with his Tyee III. He finished four points clear of his nearest rivals, second placed Mon Amie (Fiona Kermeen) and third placed Kestrel (Richard Jenkins), which finished on equal points. It is interesting to note that Kestral was the first Multihull Passage yacht to finish in every race.