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A mass migration to the tropics for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week
Whale watching: Competing crews at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2016 are destined to be in the company of an abundance of whales. © Andrea Francolini / Audi http://www.afrancolini.com

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

A mass migration to the tropics for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week – Amid unprecedented scenes, hundreds of yachts and thousands of sailors and their supporters are descending on tropical Hamilton Island, in the Whitsundays, for the start of Australia’s largest offshore regatta, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

The record fleet of 252 represents a remarkable cross section of the sailing scene: from big boats measuring 30 metres in length to the smallest at just 6.5 metres overall; from one hull to three; heavyweight cruising yachts to a high-flying hydrofoilerer, new thoroughbreds and classic examples of sailing history.

Racing starts tomorrow.

Amazingly, calculations confirm that this remarkable fleet has travelled well over 900,000 miles by sea and road to be at the regatta – a distance greater than four trips to the moon and back!

Then there are the more than 2500 sailors and supporters who will be on the island to ensure the fun had on the water during the day extends into a solid party atmosphere at night. And, every budget and culinary desire is well catered for – from Five Star to fish and chips.

A mass migration to the tropics for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

No better bow: The old bow section of champion supermaxi Wild Oats XI is now mounted on an external wall of Hamilton Island Yacht Club. No bow has seen more success in the 71-year history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race © Andrea Francolini / Audi http://www.afrancolini.com

Little wonder that Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is now seen as sailing’s answer to Australia’s premier horse race, the Melbourne Cup. It has something for everyone.

Not even liquid sunshine (aka, rain showers), and a 5.8 magnitude earthquake across the Whitsunday region on Thursday, have dulled the excitement on the eve of the regatta.

The competing sailors are certainly happy with the preliminary weather outlook for the week: yachting meteorologist Roger Badham has forecast winds averaging around 15 knots for much of the time, and ample sunshine.

Regatta Director Denis Thompson has divided the fleet into 14 divisions to ensure the best possible competition. Eleven of the divisions are for monohull yachts and three for the rapidly expanding multihulls. Five divisions will decide winners of the Australian Yachting Championship while the remaining divisions, ranging from non-spinnaker cruising yachts and trailables through to high-performance multihulls, will determine the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week champions.

Much interest in the racing will centre on the clash of the titans – the 30-metre long supermaxis, Wild Oats XI, owned by the Oatley family and skippered by Mark Richards, and the re-vamped Scallywag, entered by offshore racing newcomer, Seng Huang Lee, and skippered by David Witt.

Scallywag has arrived at Race Week via a circuitous route. After being forced out of the recent Sydney to Gold Coast race when the hydraulic ram controlling the canting keel failed, she was repaired in Newcastle then put to the test by being sailed 2000 nautical miles to the Whitsundays via Noumea.

Also, there is an ironic twist to Wild Oats XI’s presence. While she lies at her dock within Hamilton Island’s harbor, the 10-metre long section of her bow that was lopped off late last year so the hull could be modified, has been mounted on the external wall of Hamilton Island Yacht Club so it points proudly out into the harbor. The Oatley family, who also own Hamilton Island, saw this as a fitting tribute to their father, Bob, who built the hugely successful Wild Oats XI in 2005. He passed away in January this year.

A mass migration to the tropics for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

Hamilton Harbour – 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week © Ciaran Handy http://www.sail-world.com

The social agenda for the week provides competitors, their families, friends, and island visitors, the opportunity to enjoy some unique culinary experiences. Some of Australia’s highest profile chefs have been brought specially to Hamilton Island just for Race Week. The shopping list to support these 100-plus events alone includes more than 3000 bottles of champagne and wine, 10 tonnes of ice, 800 punnets of strawberries and 540kg of coffee.

Audi Australia returns as the naming right sponsor of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for an incredible eleventh year. Throughout the past decade of partnership, Audi and Hamilton Island have worked hand-in-hand to create the most impressive sailing regatta in Australia, with even more activities on offer for sailors and onshore guests alike. This shared vision is based on a joint passion for winning performance, technological innovation and spirited competition.

by Rob Mundle

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