Winners crowned at Airlie Beach Race Week
THE 31st running of Airlie Beach Race Week came to a close on Thursday afternoon.
Marcus Blackmore (Hooligan, NSW) was too good in IRC Passage, taking the final race and regatta from regatta-long TP52 rival, Zen (Gordon Ketelbey, NSW).
"I have fond memories of Airlie Beach - I started here at Whitsunday Fun Race years and years ago," Blackmore said.
"Today came down to the last race - if we finished in front, we won - if he won the final race, they won. Gordon (Ketelbey) said to me at the beginning of week, 'looks like we'll have good racing this week'. He was right. They sailed so well. Upwind they are right on our hammer, all over us.
"The organisers did a good job of it and the weather was fantastic - and it doesn't hurt to win. It's been a great week and the courses were good."
Gerrit Veenemans saved the best until last, steering his Fareast design Fareast 28R to second place in the final race to claim the Performance Racing division.
The Queenslander won the division on countback to Tim Cummings' Kraken, a Melges 24 from Lake Macquarie, which won the race.
"We had more wins on the scorecard than them. It was a great week and the Kraken boys did really well. We thought they would win; they deserved to," Veenemens said.
"Goggles (aka Justin Ruckert) does a great job too; he's good to compete against," Veenemans said of Mister Magoo's owner who was fifth this year, but has won in the past.
"We had some lovely downwind runs, especially the last two days in good breeze. The first two days difficult in light, a bit of a lotter fell into a couple wind holes.
"We had a lovely week. It's great to be back and I hope to be back next year. It's a lovely regatta and you don't get better competition than in this division."
Luke Ratcliff, his brother Paul, Paul's son William and Geoff Williams were able to maintain their winning streak on Thursday.
Winning all three of Wednesday's windward/leeward races with RE-Heat (NSW) gave the four the momentum to keep on keeping on - all the way to the top of the overall leaderboard.
Andrew Wiklund's Crank (Qld) finished second in the day's race, but it was the consistently well-sailed The Stig (Malcolm Dean, NSW) that finished second overall, four points adrift of RE-Heat.
Tanya Kelly and her Spartan crew won a very competitive Cruising Division 2.
The Queensland yachtswoman drove her Beneteau First 34.7 to its first win this afternoon, but had sailed consistently throughout, to claim the overall prize.
Spartan beat her nearest competitor, Brendon Gregg's Quest 3 (NSW), by four points after the latter finished sixth in the final race.
"We are very happy to be here. We learnt a lot about current and tide this week - and staying out of them," Kelly said.
"We certainly spent a lot of time optimising new sails and how to get good height out of them.
"This is the first time we've done Airlie Beach Race Week; it's been a fantastic regatta. We've really enjoyed the courses.
"There has been a good mix of passage and windward/leeward races. We had one race where our strategy didn't pay off, but the rest were good. We kept looking for max speed downwind."
"I have a lovely team of eight sailors who have been amazing this week. We pushed hard. I feel when I am on the boat there are eight people working hard, not just me. We're definitely looking forward to coming back and we want to say a big thank you to the race committee on doing such a great job."
Paul Mitchell skippered Ullman Sails claimed the Australian Multihull Championship title; finishing 11 points clear of nearest rival, Julian Griffiths' The Boat Works.
Ullman Sails, representing WSC, won an extraordinary five out of seven races, finished second in another and used its Race 2 fourth place as the drop.
"I definitely didn't expect to win. Having the four Extreme 40's here, it was always going to be difficult. It's definitely good to win this one, as the boat goes to a new owner in two weeks, so it's good to tick my final regatta off with a win," Mitchell said.
"The boat has been sold to an Australian and is going to Asia. Its first regatta there will be the Kings Cup. I hope new owner has as much success with the boat as I have."
Mitchell counts crew work as a large proportion of his ongoing success.
"It comes down to good crew work over a long period. Three of the six crew have been with me for a long time."
Griffiths was pleased with The Boat Works' second overall, as behind him in third, fourth and fifth overall were other three Extreme 40s; High Voltage (Mike Peberdy), Back in Black (Michel Van Der Zwaard) and Deepwater Collective (Brad Cawthorne).
It is the very first time four Extremes have raced together in Australia, and it happened here at Airlie Beach, much to the thrill of onlookers and fellow racers.
Division 2 Australian Multihull champion was Clive Kennedy's Evil Gnome.
The Farrier 85 from NSW was well sailed throughout, winning four of the seven races.
"I am very happy, it's a very hard place to sail," Kennedy said.
"The team worked well together and we won it. Today we had a nice breeze and a decent long course. We let the boat go and everything held together, so very happy with it.
"It's good to win the title; good to win in that fleet. It's a tough fleet and we had good racing. The Club did a good job this week, the regatta was very professionally run."
Tyee III, the Catana 431 owned by veteran Victorian yachtsman, John Williams, finished second overall.
Kevin Lord's Vivacious, a Seawind 1160 from NSW took out the Multihulls Passage Series:
"You have to be pretty happy when you win; it's been really competitive. Everyone was on the money and each had a win. We kept each other honest and we had great conditions, which doesn't always happen," Lord said.
"We've enjoyed ourselves and the regatta is very well run, the committee does a wonderful job - it's a tough job. Loved having the sports boats here, flying past us like flies. Then there's the beautiful classics, it's a great mix of boats at Airlie Beach."
Thank you to the multitude of volunteers who arrive each year to help make the Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing the success it is.
Full results: www.abrw.com.au.