The 2010 Festival of Sails proved to be another outstanding success with the Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week and the prestigious Audi Hamilton Island Race Week showcasing the Whitsunday Islands as a world standard yachting destination.
Remarkably the two regattas developed from a grudge match race between the majestic barque Dahlia and the traditional pearling lugger Torres Herald for a bottle of Bundaberg Rum over forty years ago now attract over 300 yachts to race in the tropical sailing paradise.
Many of the crews and their families break the ‘shackles’ from the colder latitudes of New Zealand, Tasmania, Victoria and many other ports south of the Tropic Of Capricorn to record the warm Whitsunday sailing experience in their personal long books.
Not every individual sailor arrives with the expectation to win a regatta medal they simply pack their seabag then man the weather rail to enjoy the friendly fellowship of racing with good mates against some of their best mates.
The Whitsunday regatta racing has become a tradition for the popular Victorian skipper Michael Hiatt and his Living Doll crew who successfully defended their IRC championship at the Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week and remain as a strong contender to successfully defend their Grand Prix class win in the prestigious Audi Hamilton Island Race Week on Saturday.
However Stephen Ainsworth and his high performance sailing yacht Loki crew who outpaced the competitive IRC class fleet to win the opening three races stands as the championship pacesetter.
But sailing yacht Living Doll remains as a threat after leading Victorian team mates Scarlet Runner (Robert Date) and the Nicholas Bartels helmed Terra Firma to a clean sweep of the major points in the short course Pentecost Island race last Monday.
The more consistent form shown by the Gordon Maguire steered Loki which includes wins in the Audi Sydney Harbour regatta followed by another impressive victory in the 348 n/ml Sydney to Gold Coast race in late July suggests they will be the crew to beat when the sails are tensioned in the final race over the 23n/ml Lindeman Island course on Saturday.
Loki also remains as the front runner to win the 2010 Audi Australian IRC championship while the battle for the line honours ‘Gun Boat’ of the regatta title between the 30 m maxi sailing yacht Lahana and her match racing 20m rivals yacht Wild Oats X and Black Jack is poised to remain undecided until the three yachts cross the finish line off the Hamilton Island Yacht Club in Saturday’s final.
Size and sail power favours sail yacht Lahana to add the Gun Boat trophy to her record breaking 22 second line honours win over S/Y Wild Oats X in the recent Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel ocean race.
However the tactical pressure remains focused on the Lahana crew to keep their bow in front of the Iain Murray skippered sailing yacht Wild Oats X and the Mark Bradford helmed Black Jack who stand to present a speed sailing challenge with the expected forecast of squally trade winds.
By Ian Grant.