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Hamilton Island Race Week

In media session after the Race 5 of Hamilton Island Race Week, five visiting international sailors from the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and Olympics gave their verdict on the regatta.

America’s Cup skipper and double Olympic Gold Medalist, Iain Percy is racing this week as tactician aboard the supermaxi Black Jack.

“I’m used to going around marks and not islands,” he said. “So there is a bit of a trade-off. The marks are easier, but the islands are far more beautiful, that’s for sure.

“Having to avoid whales and all the tidal issues has been a totally new experience and a wonderful one. It has been very new for me, and we have a great bunch of people on board and we’re enjoying ourselves a lot on Black Jack.

“Like any time you are doing something new, it’s great fun. But when you are sailing around those stunning tropical islands, it ticks all the boxes.”

Wild Oats XI navigator, Juan Vila fresh from MAPFRE in the Volvo Ocean Race and enjoying his second sailing sojourn at Hamilton Island Race Week, compared the race area to Sardinia. “It is lovely sailing here. You have a nice currents here and it is quite challenging for a navigator, you have to watch your depth, watch your wind and your wind shadow. It is a very nice coast to be racing around. It is just great to be here again and sail in these waters”

Double Olympic Gold Medalist - Iain Percy - (green hat) aboard Black Jack - Hamilton Island Race Week - Day 5 © Richard Gladwell
Double Olympic Gold Medalist – Iain Percy – (green hat) aboard Black Jack – Hamilton Island Race Week – Day 5 © Richard Gladwell

Former Olympic representative, GC32 and Volvo Ocean Race sailor, Sharron Ferris-Choat is leading an all-female crew and sailing the 40ft Crowther design trimaran Ave Gitana, said that competing at Hamilton Island Race Week had been a personal goal for over 20 years. “Now I’ve finally done it. The sailing is exceptionally beautiful and challenging as Juan says. The whole organisation of Hamilton Island Race Week is second to none.

“Every little detail has been sorted, and every little stone has been inspected and carefully put in place. If you haven’t been here before you must put Hamilton Island Race Week on your Bucket List, because this place is simply stunning,” she added.

Round the World sailor, Rob Greenhalgh, and like Juan Vila was also a member of the crew of MAPFRE second placed in the Volvo Ocean race which finished in June.

He’s at Hamilton Island sailing the TP52 Ichi Ban. “Everyone is saying how fantastic it is here,” Greenhalgh said. “We were lucky to be here for the week before, just across the water at Airlie Beach. It’s been great here. We’ve had great racing with Hooligan. It’s been really interesting racing. There are a lot of strong boats up here, and I’m looking forward to coming again.”

Former Volvo Ocean Race navigator, Wouter Verbraak is sailing on the Reichel Pugh 66, Alive: “I’m from Holland but live in the UK. The timing of this regatta is pretty impecable because while we had an amazing summer in Europe, it has now taken a turn for the worse so flying here was perfect timing to continue to enjoy a streak of good weather, and enjoy sailing in nice places. But there’s maybe a few too many reefs for my liking,” he quipped.

The Hamilton Island Race Week has attracted a fleet of 233 boats from Supermaxis to sports boats. All have sailed to the event either as part of a feeder race, or sailing direct as Sharon Ferris-Choat has done in the trimaran Ave Gitana.

“They announced at the opening ceremony that there will be a bigger feeder race from Brisbane to Hamilton Island”, she said in response to a question as to how the Hamilton Island Race Week could attract more boats and particularly more international entries. “We came onto here from New Caledonia – and that was after we had done the Groupama race [circumnavigating New Caledonia].

Ferris-Choat says that more feeder races are the way to expand entries and break through the 250 entry record. “The feeder races make it more attractive.”

“But there are a lot of good Australian boats here, and they’re having a lot of fun. They may not want a lot more international boats here to spoil their fun”, she laughed.

“Just come. You’ve got to try this regatta for yourselves – it’s a sensational regatta,” she added.

by Richard Gladwell

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