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Vision Surveys Airlie Beach Race Week 2014: Performance divisions guaranteeing hot competition - Airlie Beach Race Week 2014. Performance Division 1 entrant Dolce's crew Don Buckley, Phil Chaloner, Pierre Gal and Christophe Yanck
As the skippers gather in front of the Registration table at the Vision Surveys 25th Airlie Beach Race Week, the talk is about the depth of competition expected in the Performance Division.

The 21-boat fleet is a mix of the known and unknown, new, refurbished, re-built and old boats line up in the two divisions.

In big boat Division 1 it is hard to see who will dominate the field to start. All have the potential to stamp their claim on the division, but it will be those that can handle the heavy winds of the first few race days who will be best placed on the pointscore.

John Leman’s Bobby’s Girl, Stephen Kerin’s Dekadence, Stewart Lewis’s Ocean Affinity and Trevor Bailey’s Carbon Credits have all used the Brisbane to Keppel Race to get their boats into race mode. It was for the most part a light air race so their job now is prepare for a regatta and for heavy wind.

Colin and Denise Wilson have taken a much more leisurely approach, delivering their boat Never a Dull Moment from Sydney to Airlie Beach. Wilson is familiar with the Airlie Beach Race Week courses and the bullets that often meet the fleet as they approach the rocky shores and coves. He said his early race strategy is going to be to reef early.

The Farr 400 has a new name, Vento, and the helm handed over to former co-owner Walter Lewin.

The Bullrush team have bought the Elliott 12m back to Airlie Beach for a third time. They are in the middle of a Pacific racing program with their most recent event the ANZ Sail Fiji Auckland to Denarau, Fiji race.

The quietly spoken Ray Semmens is not talking up the Davidson 52 Prime Example, but with Leigh Dorrington in charge of the deck, the fleet should be expecting a solid performance from the experienced team. He is confident the boat will do well in anything above about 12 knots.

The really unknown package in this fleet is the modified Inglis 47, Dolce. In the two years since the boat was purchased Pierre Gal and co-owner Doug Gayford have made significant changes to it. “We bought it two years ago and put it in the shed in Coffs Harbour. We have completely rebuilt it. We ended up with the hull, just the skin, then did a new deck, new inside, a complete re-build to make it like a cruiser- racer. It used to be a pure racer.

“This is the first time we have raced it. New mast, new sails, new everything,” Gal said.

Gal has in recent years spent a lot of time racing Sports Boats on board Kiss, winning their division in 2011. Before that he completed a lot of big boat racing in France so stepping on the helm of a fast 47 footer shouldn’t daunt him.

Gal and Gayford have gathered around them a strong team including campaign sponsor, Christophe Vanek of Queensland Yacht Charters / Dream Yacht Charter, Peter Moore who is a previous Moth class World Champion, big boat specialist Don Buckley, Peter Gaddon, Jan Scholten and a number of sailors from Gal’s Sports Boat days.

In Division 2, local competitor Damian Suckling’s Another Fiasco, knows the Airlie Beach podium well, but the start of this year’s regatta look ominous for the team.

“I have had a look at the divisions. It’s going to be very competitive. There are lots of boats around the same size so it’s going to be good,” Suckling said.

Suckling thinks everyone in his division will be better than them in the heavy winds. “Our boat struggles in heavy conditions. I’m not looking forward to that. When it gets under 15 knots then we have an advantage. I think the first couple of days will be a bit windy and then it should die off a bit,” he added.

A late change to the division numbers will add tension to the Division 2 fleet as Gary McCarthy’s Beneteau First 34.7 gets moved from IRC Racing to Performance. A disappointed McCarthy who had packed away the For Sale for the week and unpacked a new mainsail in readiness for another year of great IRC racing acknowledged that the little 33 footer would battle to make a dent in the division that has entries from between 42 and 60 feet.

Regatta Director Denis Thompson explained the decision for asking McCarthy to move across to Performance. “We’re disappointed that more boats didn’t enter IRC Racing. The intention was always to break it up into two divisions. So we had Brilliant Pearl in that division against 60 footers and 50 footers, and it was going to be quite unbalanced for both race management and for the way the results are. IRC, like all rating systems, always work best when you’ve got like boats racing against each other.

“Being a windy regatta, there’s a good chance that the big boats are going to get away and poor little Brilliant Pearl would be left struggling along. So the decision to go to Performance Racing means that Brilliant Pearl will be racing against like boats which is much better racing,” Thompson said.

Racing for all divisions starts tomorrow, Friday 8th August. To follow the regatta, go www.abrw.com.au.

Photo : Tracey Johnstone
Cruising_Division_1_team_Witchy_Woman_checking_out_the_newly_posted_Day_1_handicaps.jpg IRC_skippers_Matt_Allen,_Tony_Kirby_and_Daryl_Hodgkinson.jpg Airlie_Beach_Race_Week_2014__Dolce_s_Don_Buckley,_Phil_Chaloner,_Pierre_Gal_and_Christophe_Yanck__Credit_Tracey_Johnstone.jpg Airlie_Beach_Race_Week_has_broken_the_record_number_of_entries_in_its_25th_anniversary_year-Shirley_Wodson_Photography.jpg Vision_Surveys_Airlie_Beach_Race_Week_2014__Twenty-fifth_anniversary_final_regatta_for_Storm_2__Credit_Shirley_Wodson.jpg