BOATLOADS OF FUN: Riff Raff’s Nikki Abbott and Dan White getting ready for last year’s Great Whitsunday Fun Race.
BOATLOADS OF FUN: Riff Raff’s Nikki Abbott and Dan White getting ready for last year’s Great Whitsunday Fun Race.

Celebrating life in the Whitsundays

STUART Harris remembers a time when the Great Whitsunday Fun Race took over Pioneer Bay with merry making and rowdy shenanigans

Since the early years of the race in the late 1970s - like a fine bottle of rum - it has mellowed with age but the essence of the race remains in 2017.

Mr Harris, the current commodore of the Whitsunday Sailing Club, describes that essence as "having fun and celebrating life in the Whitsundays".

The race began in 1977 as bet to settle a personal dispute between long time Whitsunday skipper Allen Southwood and Bob Porter.

Over the years it evolved to include the Miss Figurehead competition and the dressing of boats and their crews.

On Saturday August 20, expect to see everything from bar-room wenches and doctors to nurses, gladiators, pirates and even nuns.

Mr Harris said the word "race" in the event's title needed to be interpreted loosely to understand what the day was about.

"It's about getting the community to come down and have a good a party as whole, as a group," he said.

"It's not just about sailors either. If you don't have a sailing boat that doesn't matter, you can register your power boat and do a lap as well."

Rachel Thiele was 19 when she first discovered the Great Whitsunday Fun Race.

The year was 1989 and she was sailing on board a boat called Whisper.

She saw a human figurehead on the bow of another boat in the race and thought to herself "ah, I wonder who that is?"

"I got closer and realised it was my mum," she said.

Ms Thiele recalls a great time on the water for the Fun Race that year and said "I have never forgotten that race".

Mr Harris said the Great Whitsunday Fun Race was about the bringing together of a community who are all bound to the ocean and this year half of  proceeds will be donated for prostate cancer research via the Shat Islet Cruising Yacht Club.

Mr Harris also said $500 was up for grabs in the Miss Figurehead competition, with rum prizes awarded to the winners of the five divisions.

There will also be prizes for best dressed crew and boat.

Registration can be completed at the Whitsunday Sailing Club from 7pm on Friday August 19. 

This year the event is particularly special as it provides the perfect climax to the Whitsunday Reef Festival and Airlie Beach Race Week.

WHITSUNDAY FUN

  • What: The Great Whitsunday Fun Race
  • Where: The Whitsunday Sailing Club, Pioneer Bay
  • When: Saturday, August 20, briefing at 9am, racing from 11am
  • Cost: $20 per boat

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