SAILING: Airlie Beach Race Week 2019 (Photo by Andrea Francolini)
SAILING: Airlie Beach Race Week 2019 (Photo by Andrea Francolini)

Airlie Beach Race Week 2020: Full steam ahead

IT is full steam ahead for Airlie Beach Race Week Whitsundays Festival of Sailing, according to the Whitsunday Sailing Club, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Due to be held from August 6 to 13, the annual event will be held on a smaller scale this year.

Event chairman and marketing director Adrian Bram said while opening borders was in the hands of the individual state governments, it hadn’t stopped interstate hopefuls from entering.

“If borders open, we are targeting around 80 entries,” Adrian Bram said.

“At this moment we have 51 entries, which is comparable to previous years - in fact, it’s up on previous years for the this time of the year.

“The entries are from all states at this stage. If the borders are still closed, we anticipate about 35 entries from around Queensland.

“The desire to come here and sail is incredibly strong and the only question is, will the borders be open to let the escapees from the deep south get here.

“And will it be announced early enough for them to make that decision, because they have still got to get here.”

Among the early interest is Gweilo, a TP52 owned by Matt Donald and Chris Townsend. The NSW yacht finished second overall to Ichi Ban in the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Unsurprisingly, Victorians exceed the rest of the states in terms of numbers with the cold weather at home driving them north.

In the Rating Passage division alone, Rob Date’s Scarlet Runner II, Gerry Cantwell’s Carrera S and David Currie’s Ponyo are ready and waiting.

And there is a high-profile new entry from Queensland, with Glenn Burrell entering Black Diamond, the RP42 better known as Black Jack Too.

Onshore action at Whitsunday Sailing Club will be limited to 100 people in one sitting, at this stage, pending further advice from the Queensland government.

“Winning crews from each division will be invited back to the club for the daily prize presentation,” Mr Bram said.

“It will be live streamed so all competitors can share the glory from the comfort of their cockpits. Would-be entrants do not need to pay an entry fee until respective border openings are confirmed.”

Airlie Beach Race Week Race Director Ross Chisholm said racing would be “business as usual” but, with the possibility of a diminished fleet, some rearrangement of divisions may be necessary.

“However, the Whitsunday islands are still there, providing a fantastic backdrop for racing,” he said.

Airlie Beach Race Week Whitsundays Festival of Sailing is the region’s premier sporting and entertainment event, attracting thousands of people from all over Australia and around the world.

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