Long memories and big stories at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2017

Saturday, 26 August 2017

By Crosbie Lorimer/AHIRW media

They may sail the smallest boats at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, but amongst the crew members of the Trailable Yachts class there are some very long memories of the Whitsunday regatta and some very big stories to tell.

The Vonk brothers Ian, Bruce and David have returned after a long break between regattas with their Ross 7.8 Anka’s Away. The brothers first sailed at Race Week in 1989, at a time when the regatta was held in April.

That year Cyclone Aivu hit the Queensland coast in the first few days and, with a rising king tide, the resultant storm surge threatened the entire Race Week fleet moored in the island’s harbour. “All the boats that could lay their masts down put them on the decks and we all tied our boats together into one big spider’s web,” recalls Ian.
“By midnight everyone was in the Barefoot Bar and watching the tide rise. Then someone yelled out ‘The tide’s changed!’ The bar erupted and everyone went home. I think we only lost a day’s sailing!” recounts Ian with a laugh.

The Vonk brothers, who grew up sailing on a dam in rural Queensland, didn’t start this year’s Race Week well - bending their tiller in the heavy air running of day one and retiring. They recovered and lie mid-fleet going into the final series race, on Saturday August 26, 2017.

There are long Race Week memories too for NSW veteran sailors Gunter and Marie Kopp, who last sailed their 30 year-old Noelex 25 Pipedream at Hamilton Island in 1994.

“We’re still young, all the oldies have dropped out, only us young ones are still in it!” said Gunter with a wink.  “We might only have another 20 years to sail, so we thought that we’d come up every year now.”

“It was all very different in 1994,” recalled Marie, “the Barefoot Bar was the only real venue and all the events were held out on the grass; everyone in bare feet and drinking beer. There was even a dragon boat race.”

“We love this place,” said Gunter, “it’s better than Hawaii or the Bahamas. It’s just the atmosphere - you don’t need a passport, you don’t need to change money and no-one’s going to pickpocket you! And the people are fantastic and all very friendly.”

For the island-based trio of Stuart Green, Ben Harper and Morgan James who enjoyed a regatta win with their Boomaroo 22 Rhumbmaid in 2016, just having their boat at Race Week again in 2017 has been something of a miracle.

Rhumbmaid sat out Cyclone Debbie on her trailer with her mast still rigged and the boat tied down to the concrete on the island boatyard’s hardstand. When the cyclone was over the co-owners - who collectively call themselves ‘It’s a Team Effort’ - started to remove the storm-strewn wreckage that had all but hidden their boat.

“Layers of debris, flora, parts of buildings and even other vessels were peeled back and there she was - completely intact, mast still standing, like a raised middle finger to the wanton destruction that Debbie couldn’t do,” said the team in their notes for Race Week.

The Rhumbmaid crew is going to need a serious team effort if they’re going to win the Trailable class again this year. They are now placed fifth, five points behind the current leader, Odi Cummings’ Melges 24 from NSW, Kraken.

Win or lose there is one part of Rhumbmaid’s performance that has benefited from the boat’s wrestle with Cyclone Debbie, as Ben explained: “The cyclone seems to have cured a really annoying hum we always used to get when we played the stereo up loud!”

All results here

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All information relating to the regatta is on the website: www.audihamiltonislandraceweek.com.au

For additional information please contact:

Lisa Ratcliff                                                                     
AHIRW Media Manager           
e. lisa@occ.net.au m. + 61 (0) 418 428 511

Lisa Ratcliff

event management | public relations | independent journalist

OCC - On Course Communications
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Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 August 2017 )