Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2015 – Yachting Queensland recently had the pleasure of meeting Bruce and Gail Absolon who had many stories to share about their recent time.
The race originated in 1983 and 32 years later, the event is more popular than ever with overseas and national participants.
This year, the event took place from 16th-22nd August and was Bruce’s tenth time entering. The event holds fond memories for the passionate couple. Bruce dropped onto one knee during the 2012 event and a year later, at the same event, they got married. Much to Gail’s happiness, Bruce will never be able to forget their anniversary!
Both Bruce and Gail grew up sailing, however when Bruce and Gail met, Gail made a big leap and moved from her Hobie 16 to the Volvo 60.Gail said, “she is a really good boat but she will bite you too if you do something wrong.” In Bruce’s life, he says, “boats are a bit like mortgages, they have just gotten bigger over the years” which I’m sure many sailors can relate to.
Bruce and Gail entered the event again on their Volvo 60, called Spirit of the Maid, which also has a lot of history behind it. Bruce told us the story of a yacht he used to own called Ausmaid, which held many titles, being a multiple Hobart winner. On a delivery coming down for the 2009 Gladstone race, Ausmaid was caught up in a microsystem off Double Island Point. The yacht went vertical in a 14 metre wave, back flipped and then got barrel rolled three times and finally popped back up with the mast in three pieces. The coastguard managed to tow it into Lagoon Bay off the coast of Noosa, but luck twisted again as the anchor snapped during the night and Ausmaid ended up washing onto Noosa Northshore, written off. Bruce said, “it was sitting up on the beach with all the navigation lights and everything still on, it was like turning off life support”. In loving memory of Ausmaid, Bruce’s next yacht was christened Spirit of the Maid.
Luck has definitely been on the couple’s side since taking six out of seven line honours in the 2015 event in the Racer Cruiser Division. This year, coming seventh overall on handicap, winning an Audi TT for a year would top it off for the two… and it happened!
Bruce said it was, “icing on the cake” and “we’re still pinching ourselves”. Although being drawn for the car was a magnificent win, Bruce was very proud to be able to show the boat sailed well in the conditions it is designed for and he couldn’t be prouder of his crew. The couple decided to name the Audi TT, ‘Zen’, in memory of one of the competing boats with whom they had a battle with during the race on the same day as they won the Audi.
The couple were asked if they planned on entering the race again next year and Bruce said, “at this stage, the boat has been on the market for a while so we will probably be sailing on another boat”. Bruce and Gail are looking at getting something smaller. As Bruce joked, “it’s a great boat for going on a romantic sail, as long as you take 16 other people with the same intention”.
With most of the Spirit of the Maid crew flying in from interstate, Bruce’s secret to success was, “training? Oh yes, that was an hour and a half before race one!” “All of the crew fly in from interstate, there are a few locals on board, but most of them are coming from down South. The crew has been racing with me for years.” The couple were pleased to have had good windy weather this year as it is usually said to be very calm. Bruce said, “we had a good 20-25 knots all week.
Apart from Tuesday- that was the only race we didn’t win – it was about five knots. Our main competition was a yacht called, Heartbreak, who were a great bunch of guys, but we were about fifty metres apart heading towards a little island just South of Hamilton Island and everyone was just bobbing around. With a little bit of breeze, Heartbreak got around the corner, but we didn’t get around until an hour and a half later”.
Bruce and Gail sail every Wednesday night at their club on Hamilton Island and enjoy introducing new people to sailing, regularly taking out twenty to twenty five people in the evening and are very passionate about getting young people into the sport.
Yachting Queensland wish Bruce and Gail all of the success in the future and congratulate them on their achievements and for being lucky enough to win the Audi TT on top of a great Race Week. They definitely looked very happy and smart with their prize as they drove away back home to Hamilton Island.