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The biggest offshore regatta in Australia, Audi Hamilton Island
Race Week from August 21-27 is clearly a standout yachting event
that compares with the best in the world.
Staged annually on the magical waters of the Whitsunday Passage,
this event is strategically programmed to lure sailors from the deep
south, leaving behind those dreary, miserable, finger numbing winter
months for a week of sailing fun in the warmer climes of the 74-island
chain that make up the Whitsunday Islands from Scawfell Island in
the south to Hayman Island in the north.
Fifteen nautical miles from Airlie Beach on the mainland,
Hamilton Island Race Week has continued to go from strength to
strength since the inaugural event in 1984 when a little yacht from
Perth, Peter Briggs’ Hitchhiker won the series.
Then, Race Week attracted an impressive fleet of 93 boats. So it
was that Hamilton Island founder Keith Williams realised a dream
that began as an idea in Newport, Rhode Island during the 1983
America’s Cup, when the Aussies, after six challenges since 1962
finally beat the Americans breaking their 132 year stranglehold on
yachting’s Holy Grail.
In 1985, the resort
was all but destroyed by
fire as race week drew to
a close then four years
later Cyclone Aivu cut
a destructive swathe
through the area making
landfall near the coastal
township of Ayr.
Race Week has had
its fair share of highs and
lows but here it is 2016
and this iconic event
has grown to become
possibly the finest
regatta in Australia or
better, in the world.
Keith Williams was
forced to move on. A
host of big corporate
sent in to run the show
but really, what do bean counters know about hospitality and service.
The island couldn’t have fallen into better hands.
Robert ‘Bob’ Oatley first visited the island in 1987 and from the
moment he set foot upon this tropical jewel he was smitten and
vowed to one day own the island.
Bob knew quite a bit about running a business that relies on
service and so with son Sandy and the management skills of CEO,
Glenn Bourke, a former world sailing champion, Hamilton Island
has become an Australian tourism icon.
Since purchasing the Island for a reputed sum just short of $200
million in 2005 the Oatley team has delivered and continues to do so,
an island escape and experience as good as any. There’s so much to
do and see. One can be as busy as a bee with so many activities in
which to participate or as lazy as a lizard by simply doing nothing but
relax, drink and dine or simply lie by the pool. Hamilton Island has
become a wonderful destination for any event and with the annual
Race Week, it is a must for sailors, family and friends as well as the
many visitors from near and far.
Currently there are 209 yachts nominated for this year’s series
competing in eight divisions and attracting the likes of the Oatley’s
famous eight time Hobart line honours winner Wild Oats XI, Syd
Fischer’s former R agamuf fin 100, now called Scallywag and owned
by Seng Huang Lee, Executive Chairman of Mulpha International
Bhd, a hotel, development and financial group with offices in Hong
Kong and the Gold Coast, Matt Allen’s Ich Ban, Duncan Hine’s Alive,
Patrice, Secret Men’s Business, Kahleesi, The Goat for Bruce Foye and the
former 18-footer World Champion Peter ‘BHP’ Sorensen with Botany
The Cruising Division has attracted the biggest fleet with a total 75
entries and the events new format is proving very popular with both
the trailer classes and the multihull racing and cruising divisions.
h Patrick Bollen
Sydney yachtsman Ervin Vidor has shipped his recently launched
23m yacht, Charlotte, from Europe to Australia to compete.
Strong fleet for Hamilton
Island Race Week
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