That's a wrap for the 2017 Airlie Beach Race Week.
That's a wrap for the 2017 Airlie Beach Race Week. Shirley Wodson

Airlie Beach Race Week in 2018 surpasses all expectation

THE Whitsunday's own bluewater racing regatta, Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing, wrapped up yesterday afternoon on the alluring azure waters of Pioneer Bay.

Surpassing expectations in its 30th anniversary year the event produced a wide variety of conditions which allowed each division to perform under optimum conditions.

At the top end, winds reached 25 knots with gusts - and at the lower end, 7-9 knots and lovely fluent trade winds - competitors were spoilt for choice.

The IRC Passage series was hard fought all the way between Ray 'Hollywood' Roberts' Botin 40, Team Hollywood, and the two TP52s, Matt Allen's Ichi Ban and Marcus Blackmore's Hooligan.

Ichi Ban won the final race by seven seconds over Hooligan to claim the series from the latter by three points.

Team Hollywood placed third after a race drop came into play.

Roberts lost out, as he dropped a third place, the TP52s dropped a seventh and eighth respectively.

Allen, the President of Australian Sailing, said he enjoyed the regatta as a whole.

"A variety of courses, tactical races, flat water, a friendly and relaxed attitude - it's what we've come to expect from Airlie Beach Race Week - and catching up with old friends,” he said.

Of facing Hooligan for the first time, Allen said, "It was a great hit-out. The characteristics of the two boats are similar with minor differences. Ours has offshore capabilities; Marcus' is an inshore boat. It's gratifying knowing that you can have a boat that can do both.

"Today wasn't the most tactical on the bay, more of a reaching up and down race,” he said.

As Race Director Denis Thompson said earlier in the day, those who sailed well in all conditions are "true champions.”

Standout performances came from the crews of local Whitsunday sailor Paul Mitchell on Ullman Sails in Multihull Racing, Queenslander John Fowell with First Born in Trailable Yachts, and newcomer Matt Doyle in Cruising Non-Spinnaker with La Troisieme Mitemps.

Mitchell, the defending champion, sailed his 12 metre Grainger Appex to six wins from seven races.

Mitchell cheekily port tacked his rivals in today's final race and was not headed from there.

They have been poetry in motion all week.

Second place went to Mitchell's older brother Dale, who helmed the NSW Lombard Tri, Morticia, and won the lone race.

Following a week-long stoush between famous yachts of yesteryear, Cruising Division 1 went to Bumblebee 4 (owned by a syndicate skippered by Mick McLean) from Helsal 3, owned by the Helsal 3 syndicate from NSW - on countback.

Don Algie, founder of Airlie Beach Race Week presented the Boss Hog trophy to Condor skipper, Dave Molloy.

Condor, which took line honours in the 1983 and 1986 in the Sydney to Hobart, has been a great supporter of Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing for the past 10 years.

Ross Chisholm, Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing Event Chairman said, "A fantastic week of sailing with a quality fleet and a real mixture of conditions made everyone happy. It meant the best performing boats were at the top of each division list.

"To finish, I'd like to thank all the volunteers that make the event the success it is. Many have been coming for so many years, they are part of the Airlie Beach family. Finally, I'd like to thank the staff at Whitsunday Sailing Club - they work tirelessly before and through the week.”

Crews were again complimentary of Abell Point Marina which berths most competitors' boats.


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