COMPETETIVE SPIRIT: Dan White and Nikki Abbott are busily preparing for Airlie Beach Race Week.
COMPETETIVE SPIRIT: Dan White and Nikki Abbott are busily preparing for Airlie Beach Race Week. Peter Carruthers

Racing is all about the crew

IT'S not just the boats that personify Airlie Beach Race Week; it's the colourful crews who are already making the 2017 Festival of Sailing an event to remember.

Airlie Beach sailor Nikki Abbott - who together with her partner Dan White will be sailing a much-loved boat called Riff Raff - said the couple weren't initially sure if they would make the event this year.

"We've had a few dramas, and a few leaks here and there, and she suffered a fair bit of damage in the cyclone. She's been on dry land for three months,” Ms Abbott (who suffers terrible sea sickness) said.

Supplies to fix the boat - described as "a renovator's delight” - were hard to find since the cyclone, Ms Abbott said.

But when a group of friends co-ordinated a working bee (led by Alan and Jean Sneddon), she knew there was no turning back.

"Then we knew there was hope. And now, we'll be out there, whatever happens... and we'll have an awesome time,” she said.

The local couple, who are competing in their seventh annual Airlie Beach Race Week, said their competitive spirit kicked in when they got out on the water.

"We like to compete. We're a cruising boat that we've tried to turn into a racing boat. But it's really about the fun and the camaraderie that we have.

"It's great to see familiar faces from previous years and meet new people. This is our pinnacle of the year ... win, lose or draw,” Ms Abbott said.

Race Week marketing manager Adrian Bram said more than 100 boats were expected to take part in this year's popular regatta.

"When you get the parade of yachts coming out of both marinas between 9am and 10am, it's a sea of colours,” Mr Bram said. "They're all flying their battle flags, and once they get out there and pop their kites open, it's just a fabulous image.”

With the highest person-to-boat ownership in Queensland and possibly Australia, Mr Bram said the event - founded in 1989 and now the largest yachting regatta on the Queensland coast - generated huge amounts of excitement among a community already passionate about the water.

Between 3000 and 4000 people are expected to come to the region for Race Week and it is expected more than $2 million will be injected into the local economy.


WHAT: Airlie Beach Race Week, Festival of Sailing

WHEN: August 10-17

LAY DAY: Monday, August 14

REGATTA HQ: Whitsunday Sailing Club