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SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week
Geoff & Vicky Player's Silver Minx leads the Cruising divisions in the 2014 Round Magnetic Island Race.Norman Jenkin

SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week

The SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week, which is being held August 27 to September 1, continues to put Magnetic Island and surrounding region on the map as the perfect Spring-time holiday and sailing destination.

The regatta showcases the beauty of Magnetic Island and the local region, attracting sailors from around Australia to the annual event which is now in its ninth year.

Racing around the 40km of the Great Barrier Reef island coastline, past the Townsville foreshore and criss-crossing the deep blue Cleveland Bay, the monohull and multihull sailors experience the pleasure of pristine waters, stunning natural beauty backdrops and plenty of tactical challenges.

Townsville Yacht Club’s Rear Commodore Tony Muller said the racing is held close to the island or close to the Townsville shore which helps to showcase the event and the sport. “We try to get them racing where they can be seen from the shore,” Muller said.

SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week

Party time at Magnetic Island Race Week. Credit Stefan Kracke.Tracey Johnstone

“The access to the race area is just so convenient. You’re on the race course in two minutes. You have four or five hours on the water, then you come back and you are there with everybody at the same venue. All the boats are parked at the same place and everybody gets together in a social, almost intimate environment,” Muller added.

On shore both the sailors and visitors have the choice of a variety of affordable accommodation options and four quaint towns to visit, and the enjoyment of a hearty north Queensland welcome in the relaxed destination.

Muller said that with the bulk of the fleet being made up of Cruising Spinnaker and Non Spinnaker entries and with owners often aged 50 and older, there tends to be a large number of family and friends travelling with those teams. “They try and make it a round-off to the other winter regattas. We also market our event as much more relaxed and a bit of a holiday with racing in between,” Muller added.

The visitor numbers certainly reflect the sailors taking advantage of all that the island has to offer. The estimated total visitors to the Regatta of around 4,500 for the race week and its associated festivities more than doubles the regular population numbers on the island. Added to that, about 70 per cent of the sailors come from outside of Townsville. These numbers have impressed the region’s tourism body Townsville Enterprise who rate the regatta as a significant event which with their help they hope to see it turning into a major event in future years.

“The event is extremely important and we are very supportive of what the event organisers are achieving for our destination. Any event that showcases our region and the beauty of the island is important for us to promote and support.

“Events are a major attraction to visitors into our region. This has been identified in our Destination and Tourism Plan. One of the goals we have set ourselves is to grow our events,” Townsville Enterprise’s Executive Manager Tourism and Events, Bridget Woods, said.

SeaLink’s Queensland General Manager and Race Committee Chair, Paul Victory, said his event organising committee have listened to what Townsville Enterprise has said. They have taken the batten and started running with ideas and actions to expand the annual event.

In 2013 the Committee set a strategic vision to attract more sailing events to the Townsville region, launching the broader Sail Townsville brand, to attract other major sailing events. “Sport tourism is becoming such an important part of the economy of a regional town like Townsville. Sailing brings people and brings visitors to experience a beautiful part of the world and a great sailing destination. And it’s great for our local economy.

“It is a core direction of the Race Committee to not only attract IRC, performance racing yachts and cruising yachts, but to also attract the broader sailing community to the region. We will see that in 2015 with the Tasar National Championship later in September and the growing international KiteFoil Gold Cup in early October which are all becoming such an important elements of Sail Townsville” Victory said.

After looking at other major regattas and learning from them, plans are underway to engage both visiting sailors and holiday-makers in 2016 for the 10th annual SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week.

“The 10th year should be a beauty, and we have been focussed on what other sailing destinations such as Auckland have been able to achieve, engaging with locals and visitors to experience the sport of sailing and more broadly the marine tourism industry,” Victory added.

The regatta sits comfortably between Townsville and Magnetic Island. The town benefits from the prestige of the event and the influx of visitors on their way to and from the island. The island community benefits from both the economic gains of a big event and the opportunity to participate with the sailors and their family and friends in community social events organised throughout the regatta week.

General Manager of the island’s Peppers Blue on Blue resort, Stefan Kracke, is genuinely enthusiastic about the value that the SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week brings to both the island and to Townsville.

“We are very proud to be the headquarters of the Magnetic Island Race Week. It’s good for our business and its sends a positive sign to a lot of people in Townsville, which is the main market for tourism on the island. Having race week reminds everyone about how beautiful the island is.

“This regatta is what yacht racing is all about which is a form of lifestyle. The event epitomises the flair of the island for relaxed holiday-makers. You don’t want the adventure seekers here, you don’t want the fast-paced like in Queenstown, New Zealand.

“It’s the relaxed way of spending your holidays. I think a number of yacht owners are coming up here particularly for the affordability and because it is the end of the season where everyone can hang out, make friends and catch up with old friends. It has that really nice feel about it,” Kracke said.

Throughout the previous eight years of the regatta and with the energetic support of the island businesses, the impact of the event on the island has been invaluable. “It is absolutely important to have this regatta on the island. That is why previous General Managers at Peppers have always supported the event because it sends a sign to a lot of other institutions to recognise the island as a destination that you can actually have those events.

“It’s a staple in the calendar every year. Everyone is working towards it and getting excited about it.

“SeaLink are trying to spread it across the island so that a lot people and businesses are benefitting from the influx of people. I think that’s great to incorporate the island, not just Nelly Bay and Peppers,” Kracke added.

Last year there were day and night-time festivities at Arcadia. This year those festivities will be held at the historic Picnic Bay Hotel where Managing Director Pam Abraham promises the family-owned hotel only ever serves great meals and ice cold drinks to its visitors.

“The regatta puts the island on the map.

“Magnetic Island has always been a welcome spot for sailors coming through. We also have safe moorings for most of the year over at the pretty Horseshoe Bay. It’s a very laid-back, easy going island,” Abraham said.

The Picnic Bay Hotel will be providing a warm welcome to the Yachties Hour attendees on Saturday and Sunday nights as well as hosting the Townsville Airport Picnic Bay Beach Fair on Sunday. The hotel is in the old part of the island and provides a pleasantly different atmosphere from the ultra-modern marina and Peppers Blue on Blue resort.

Registrations for the ninth Annual SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week are open and online at magneticislandraceweek.com.au.

by Tracey Johnstone

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