By Chris Dewar
Brilliant sailing conditions on day one of the 32nd Hamilton Island Race Week. The forecast was for 16-18 knot south-easterly winds and at the start there was a cool 20 knot SSE trade-wind with the photographers in a clicking fury. The start/finish line was experiencing wind against tide, which had only a minor effect at the start, made for a difficult finish with some quite obtuse tacking angles. I was flying into Hamilton Island just as the Multihulls were finishing and took some photos. It showed the tacking angles looking quite good from the air but the plotters showed a different story.
In the Multihull Racing division Fantasia drew first blood with a win on handicap with Chillpill in second. Morticia would have been disappointed with 5th and first over the line APC Mad Max in 6th place.
In the Cruising Division, Kestral continued it’s Airlie Beach form finishing 1st over the line but were beaten on handicap by the Lagoon with a flybridge, Bundalong followed by the Seawind from RQYC, Talisker.
An interesting incident occurred during the finish of the IRC yachts. One of the large maxis had just finished as a plane was attempting to land. The tall mast spooked the pilot and they aborted the landing. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority sent the skipper of the yacht involved a $7,000 bill to cover expenses.
Day 2 saw good winds again but not as strong as Day 1. This was my first race on Renaissance and unfortunately we were about 5 minutes late crossing the start line. We made good progress and managed to still overtake a couple of yachts. Cut Snake managed to go into irons rounding Dent and needed to start its motors to avoid hitting the rocks (no penalty was incurred).
APC Mad Max crossed the line first again but was beaten on handicap by Morticia. Chillpill finished in 3rd just ahead of Mojo. The day 1 winner Fantasia was relegated to 6th.
In the Cruising Division Kestral was able to have a large enough win to win on Handicap. They finished about 40 minutes ahead of Talisker which put them two and a half minutes ahead on handicap. The 59 foot Catana Cap Rocat crossed the line in 3rd spot but on handicap Bundalong was awarded 3rd place.
Later that night there was a dinner with the 4 Olympians (2 sailors and 2 swimmers). Tom Slingsby, Glenn Burke, Libby Tricket and Ky Hurst.
On Day 3 the wind disappeared with less than 10 knots at the start. The planned course was about 30nm around the islands and so it was going to be a long race.
Renaissance kept in touch with all the other Multihulls as it approached Lindeman Island. Unfortunately it was like a parking lot as a few hundred boats converged to round the Islands in between 0 and 2 knots of breeze. It took close to an hour to cover about one mile. Once around it was a Spinnaker run to White Rock, while trying to stay in some breeze. We were about level with Cut Snake. Earthling were a few hundred metres behind us. Ocean Emu were probably the same distance in front of us but had stopped in a hole. Renaissance in some breeze sailed passed it. Fortunately the Race Committee shortened the course to end at White Rock so all four trailing yachts arrived at the finish at around the same time. As each yacht sailed in and out of holes it became the closest race to fourth last ever seen. Cut Snake had the better wind and crossed the line some 12 seconds in front of Renaissance who passed Earthling metres from the finish doing about 2 knots.
At the front of the fleet this type of weather suited APC Mad Max and Morticia who crossed the line 1st and 2nd respectively. The Boat Works, Chillpill and Fantasia finished about half an hour later in that order. Handicaps put Morticia in 1st followed by Fantasia and Chillpill.
In the cruising class it was interesting to see how the heavy catamarans handled the light weather. Again it was Kestral over the line first followed by the Seawind Talisker 30 minutes later. A further 15 minutes behind were Snap, a Fontaine Pajot, and Storm Boy, a Chamberlin 14. On handicap it was Cerulean, a Seawind 1000xl, followed by Vivacious, a Seawind 1160, and Snap. Talisker was back on 5th and Kestral in 7th.
The next day was a lay day and several yachts took the opportunity to sail to Whitehaven for lunch. The photo below probably does not do justice to the colour of the water and sand, but it was amazing.
On our return trip we were passed by Kato, a Schionning G-Force 1800. It was an impressive yacht as it passed us going to windward at over 10 knots with only 2 people on board, hardly making a bow wave. The photo looks like it is standing still but it was far from it.
Unfortunately, on our return, we found out that Chillpill had been hit by two commercial ferries, once on each hull.
The next day, Day 4, started with a nice breeze and with 15-20 knots forecasted. At the start line it was blowing 20 knots with a 1 metre chop. There were a number of monohulls hanging around in the prestart area and when Fantasia was making starting manoeuvrers, on a starboard tack, could not avoid a monohull and did severe damage to its port bow.
At about one minute before the start Carbon Credit was leeward of the start line travelling parallel to it on a port tack and as it luffed up to tack was hit by a wave and stopped head to wind. Earthling, now on a collision course with Carbon Credit, bore away and remained on a collision course, Earthling luffed in an attempt to avoid contact but hit them side on. Carbon Credit was damaged losing three metres off the front of her starboard hull. And some damage to the main hull. Carbon Credit was out of the series and Earthling had damaged its prodder.
For Renaissance these were ideal conditions. J’Ouvert and Cut Snake were in close proximity most of the day. With Cut Snake along side flying a hull every now and then. With J’Ouvert and Renaissance having similar handicaps the aim was to stay within 6 minutes of J’Ouvert and Renaissance would beat her on handicap. It was neck and neck most of the way on the downwind leg but J’Ouvert could only get about 4 minutes in front so Renaissance finally had a small victory. Mojo finished in first place with Morticia in second and The Boat Works loving these conditions finished in third place.
In the Cruising Division “Pelican” Mick (Hayes) left Renaissance to sail his own boat Saskia, which is a 40 foot Lock Crowther Design. Having the highest handicap of .931 and not having the fastest boat meant he was not a threat to any of the competitors but did cross the line second behind Kestrel. On handicap it was Cerulean taking the win again followed by Storm Boy and Misty Sea, a Roger Hill Montebello design.
By the morning of Day 5 the Fantasia crew had, against the odds, patched the hull and were ready for racing. Earthling started the day’s racing but their broken prodder must have been a problem and they retired on the downwind leg. Today seemed a little uneventful compared to yesterday with only an incident with Ragamuffin and Renaissance. Renaissance was the leeward boat on a spinnaker run when Ragamuffin came from windward. Mike called them to come up but they would not and so we changed course, went behind them and then sailed over the top of them.
Chillpill had a good day with their first win. Fantasia had made a remarkable recovery from yesterday’s events finishing second and Morticia was hanging in there on third.
Except for Kestrel crossing the line first the Cruising division had some new winners. Storm Boy crossed the line only 10 minutes behind Kestrel and Talisker was another 5 minutes behind. On handicap Misty Sea had their first win and Ameldec, a Leopard 43, had their first podium finish in 2nd with Cap Rocat in 3rd.
For the Final Day Saskia was racing again in the Cruising Division and I was on-board with Mick, Annie and Martin. The Cruisers were first to start with a race around Lindeman Island. The first leg was to windward and I was surprised to see a number of the cruisers going surprising well to windward. Kestrel was obviously well in front but the Seawind Talisker was pointing high level with Saskia and not letting Kestrel get too far in front. Storm Boy was not too far behind but the real surprise was the huge flybridge Lagoon. It was also pointing quite high with good speed. A few short tacks were needed to get through the channel and this split the boats. Kestrel stayed in front while Talisker, Storm Boy and Saskia. I lost sight of the others so I am not sure if they had problems with the tide and short tacks. Talisker was pointing directly downwind with its symmetrical kite look like they had got in front of Saskia but when Saskia gybed to come back to Talisker it was in some good pressure pointing quite high and had speeds of around 12 knots. This put Saskia clear ahead of Talisker and Storm Boy and finished in second place behind Kestrel. On handicap Talisker had the win with Kestrel in second and Storm Boy in 3rd. The Racing Multihulls started about 15 minutes behind us and the leading cruisers finished about 50 minutes in front of Renaissance. This was mentioned quite a few times over several drinks after the race.
This gave Talisker the overall win with another Seawind Cerulean in second. Misty Sea was in third. The cruising handicaps did seem a little amiss so the line honours order interested me the most, as it gave an indication of which cruising designs performed and which did not.Kestrel was the stand-out with the Seawind 1160 Talisker and the Chamberlin 14 Strom Boy looking good. As you would expect the Crowther Saskia was also up the front when it did race. Was it the designs or just good sailors making the boats look good?
On the last day of the Multihull Racing Division it was coming down to the wire and Morticia, Chillpill or Fantasia could win. APC Mad Max was the first yacht to pass us. They were flying a hull in not much wind as we rounded Lindeman Island. Mortica was next some 15 minutes later after we had rounded the island. Mojo seemed to have the better of Chillpill and Fantasia was another 20 minutes behind. On handicap APC Mad Max had done extremely well to win line honours and on handicap. Mojo was in second place followed by Chillpill, Morticia and Fantasia. 4th place for Morticia was enough to give them a one point win over Chillpill and Fantasia had tied with Mojo on points. Fantasia were given the win on countback with both having one win but Fantasia having two 2nd places to Mojo’s one second.
This was a wonderful event for the racers and the cruisers. There was good competition, great scenery with whales and dolphins sighted most days. The water was a wonderful aqua colour and a perfect place to go cruising. Hamilton Island had parties going every night and there were plenty of nice restaurants.
If the Multihull Nationals could be run at the same time at the race week one year that would be fantastic and a lot of fun for all the competitors, families and friends.