With entry for the 30th anniversary Airlie Beach Race Week now open, owners of in excess of 20 cruising yachts have already put up their hands to join the fun and help celebrate this important milestone.

Cruisers swell the fleet numbers every year, equating to a little bit of exciting argy-bargy on the start line and around the buoys. But afterwards it’s always fun back at, Whitsunday Sailing Club, host of the tropical event, where the party atmosphere is legendary.

To be held from 9-16 August, the Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing will be staged amid some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It is the perfect playground for cruising – and for those who like to spice it up a little, they add cruiser racing at this event to their programs. An additional bonus is meeting likeminded people.

SAILING – Airlie Beach Race Week 2017
Airlie Beach, Queensland
ph. Andrea Francolini

An entry in the Cruising division is a famous yacht of yesteryear, Bumblebee 4, with which original owner John Kahlbetzer enjoyed international success and sailed to line honours in the 1979 Sydney Hobart. Syd Fischer purchased and renamed the German Frers designed maxi ‘Ragamuffin’ and raced her to 1988 and 1990 Sydney Hobart line honours.

Last year the yacht was purchased by the syndicate of Graham Eaton, Joe Akacich, Andrew Torti and former rugby league second rower Mike McLean. They had her refurbished and returned to her original name.

Down the track, like other old Sydney Hobart warhorses entered for the Airlie Beach Race Week; Condor (won the 1983 and 1986 Hobarts), Hammer of Queensland and Helsal 3, Bumblebee 4 will ply her trade as a charter vessel, giving ordinary people an extraordinary opportunity to race on an illustrious yacht.

Joining these famous boats will be the likes of the Bavaria 44 Vision, Crescendo. Victorian Richard Gilhome has owned her since 2011 and like others, is looking forward to leaving winter behind to race in Airlie Beach’s much warmer climes.

He says: She is a wonderful cruiser with a turn of speed. We won the club’s (Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron) Keel Boat Non-Spinnaker Series last year.”

SAILING – Airlie Beach Race Week 2017
Airlie Beach, Queensland
ph. Andrea Francolini

And of course, there is the perennial Airlie Beach entry, ‘Holy Cow’. A notorious ‘first entry received’ for Airlie Beach Race Week over the years, owners John and Kim Clinton have raced and won at Australia’s major eastern seaboard races and regattas – while having fun at the same time. The emphasis is on enjoyment.

“Holy Cow is easily recognised by her black and white cow spots, her cow horn and flamboyant, fluoro lime cow crew,” says her just as recognisable skipper, John Clinton, who sports an interesting beard and drums for the country blues band, Wolverines

Among other recent entries received across the various classes is that of Phillip Turner’s Tasmanian flyer, Alive, formerly known as Black Jack. The Reichel/Pugh 66 took race records at east coast of Australia events.

Competing in Asia since 2015, her many accolades include the triple line honours, race record and IRC DIV 0 wins in the biannual Rolex China Sea Race 2016. She won the 2016 Brisbane to Keppel overall and hopes to repeat that experience prior to arriving at Airlie Beach this year, where she will join others entered in the IRC Passage Series.

From the 50 current entries across the board, eight are entered in the Performance Racing division. An eclectic mix includes regulars; Mister Magoo, the Thompson 7 owned and skippered by Jason ‘Goggles’ Ruckert and Roger Jepsen’s Farreast 28r Whereswal II.

Entries for Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing close at 2400 hours on Thursday 2 August, 2018, so please go online and enter now. Entrants requiring berthing need to make arrangements with Abell Point Marina or Port of Airlie as soon as possible, because demand is at a premium throughout August.

Growing corporate support is making an ever-improving program for the week- long onshore festival possible. “The event can’t be staged without the backing of a range of sponsors, from major partners through to local business supporters,” Chisholm said.

Those interested in viewing sponsorship packages can email: [email protected] or take a look online at: www.abrw.com.au/sponsors

For entry, Notice of Race and all information go to: www.abrw.com.au/sailing/entries

By Di Pearson, ABRW media