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Airlie Beach Race Week: Déjà vu as racing delayed

by Di Pearson / ABRW 15 Aug 2023 23:44 UTC 10-17 August 2023
Mothers and calf take an interest in the boats - Airlie Beach Race Week © Andrea Francolini

Another warm sunny morning at Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) on Day 5, but racing has already been postponed due to identical conditions to yesterday's - blue skies, balmy weather, but no wind, as the Whitsunday Sailing Club (WSC) race management team grappled with how to get some racing in.

"We're hoping for breeze later today, a light nor'-easter," said highly respected Race Officer Kevin Wilson who has worked all over the world at major sailing events.

"There will be no racing until at least 11.55am," Wilson said after his team met to discuss the situation. This after they were forced to cancel racing in many classes on Sunday and yesterday when the wind gods went on strike.

The gods were aided and abetted by an extremely low tide yesterday, meaning yachts with deeper keels could not get in and out of the marinas by the time a light breeze filled in.

"It takes a lot of discussion with the team to make these decisions. We know competitors have come here expecting to race."

Today's plan, if racing can be held, is to set two windward/leeward courses on Pioneer Bay. Multihull Divisions 0, 1, 2, Multihull Passage, the Trailable & Sports Boat divisions, along with the F16/18s and Weta trimarans will go to battle on one course area, while the monohull divisions will take the other.

"To get two races in would be a bonus," a hopeful Wilson said.

The Race Management team is stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to making these decisions, based on what is in everyone's best interest, not to mention what is possible. As the old saying goes, 'You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time'.

One of the start boats is named 'Fishing Impossible', which raised a laugh this morning, as right now, that is all that is possible.

We spoke to a couple of competitors about Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing, including Mark Tolhurst, who in owners' Andy Kearnan and Peter Wrigley's absence, is skippering the TP52 Koa, which is currently in second place to Ray Roberts' Team Hollywood.

Tolhurst, known more for racing in the 5.5 Metre and Etchells keelboat classes, explained, "I skippered Koa here for the first time last year. I love the racing up here. It's the right time of year, the weather is right, everything is right.

"We won Race 3 on the second day up to the Molles. It was beautiful. Ray (Roberts) has a very competitive boat, as do others," Tolhurst said referring to the likes of 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Alive (Phillip Turner).

"Like them, we are here to try to win. We're lucky to have Steve McConaghy calling tactics. Three of our team left yesterday and three new ones came in. They're all experienced sailors," Tolhurst said.

Vesna Wells has sailed her Shaw 12, Blink, all the way from New Zealand to race in IRC/ORCi Division 1 against some of Australia's top boats at the 35th running of ABRW.

"We sailed over here from Evans Bay Yacht Club (Wellington, New Zealand). It's our first time at Airlie Beach and our first regatta in Australia," crew member Conny Rohr explained. "From here, we'll go to Hamilton Island to race, then we'll sail the boat home.

"We were smoking in the first race on the first day, until we had sub-optimal kite drop and let the fleet pass us."

"We like heavier wind with the Shaw 12, so the lighter weather (on the second day) and our handicap has kept us out of a placing," she admitted.

"I'm loving it here," said another crew member, Jason Hurdle. "The weather is great, the food at the Club (WSC) is too, this regatta's got everything."

Tomorrow is the final day of ABRW, so a reminder to those that wish to buy regatta clothing from Duncan Curnow and his team at Quality Marine Clothing, they can still do so today and tomorrow following racing. The full range can be viewed and orders placed at: www.acmemerch.com.au/airlie-beach-race-week

Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and is a feature on the It's Live! in Queensland events calendar.

For full results in all classes, please visit abrw.com.au.

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