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Airlie Beach Race Week Day 1: Mass start enthralls onlookers

by Di Pearson/ABRW 12 Aug 10:50 BST 11-18 August 2022

A stunning day for the Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) opener, a mass start of 178 boats on Pioneer Bay, in winds of 15 knots from the south-east blowing down on those taking part in the Whitsunday Sailing Club's marquee event in the scenic Whitsunday Islands - then petering out for the second line - making for an interesting day and some surprise results.

Once the start was dealt with, the IRC/ORC Division 1, PHS Racing, Multihull Division 1 and Cruising Division 1 sailed a 23 nautical mile course taking in Double Cone and Gumbrell Islands, Grimston to the finish.

The remaining divisions, barring the F16, F18 and Wetas, also sailed a 23nm course, but were caught at the start as the breeze faded to almost nothing. Their course slightly deviated on the other, going from Double Cone to Armit Island, Grimston to the finish, while the off the beach classes sailed a separate course taking in the Whitsunday Islands.

Multihull Racing - We are not mad on Coconuts!

Rob Engwirda's Coconuts, a Stealth 12.2, topped the Multihull Racing Division 1 leaderboard today. The classy field includes Extreme 40s, M32s and other 'big multis. Coconuts is a cruising multi, so her grand prix rivals were most impressed by Engwirda's performance today.

"It was nice of them to show us the way, we just followed. They might be looking for tow ropes later...," a pleased Engwirda said with a laugh.

"The light weather seemed to work out for us. A nice day and a great event. It was a good day and the crew's coming together well. It was our first race together and we're still friends at the end of the day!

"Last time here I crewed with George Owen on Mad Max. George taught us well, showed us all his tricks," said Engwirda, who calculated he has done Airlie Beach Race Week 10 times.

Michel Van Zwaard skippered the Extreme 40, Angus, to second overall, while slippery sailor Rohan Veal helmed the Marstrom, M32, to third overall.

Van Der Zwaard, from Queensland, takes up the story: "The start was really interesting, we were hoping to get away nicely, but got stuck behind a TP52. Rohan got away and was a small dot when we looked up. We got close to him around Gumbrell, they got too close to the island and we sailed through them. It was light and the tide played a big role today - if you got on the wrong side of it, you lost.

"From Grimston it looked like there was no wind at all, but we were lucky to get some breeze. The boats behind us came home with more though. We had a good day. It was pretty close - but we got beaten by a cruising boat - Coconuts - they must have sailed really well, it was impressive."

Division 2 went to William Richards' Kay Cee, a GBE Sportsdeck cat from the host club. Darren Drew's Wind Cheetah from NSW claimed second place and Peter Hackett's Full Bore (Qld) was third.

In the Multihull Passage Division, Marc Gerard's Storm Bay stole the show by just over a minute from Glenn Rutherford's Earthling, with Stephen Leonard's Sea Dragon third.

"We got a terrible start, there was no wind and everyone was going round in circles," Gerard said. Going up to Double Cones we got 14-16 knots out of the boat. A really good race, but we lost the outhaul, clawed our way back and still sat on 9 knots. All in all it was a good race," Gerard said.

IRC/ORC - Hooray for Hollywood

Ray 'Hollywood' Roberts stumped up in first place with his Botin 40, Team Hollywood from NSW. In second was 'Captain' Anthony Kirke's latest Enterprise, named Enterprise Next Gen. Andy Kiernan/Peter Wrigley's TP52, Koa, filled third place.

Most of the division is sharpening their tools ahead of the Australian Yachting Championships at Hamilton Island starting in just over a week's time.

Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing is being held from 11 to 18 August. It is supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland and is a feature on the It's Live! in Queensland events calendar.

For full results in all divisions and all information on Airlie Beach Race Week, please visit abrw.com.au or whitsundaysailingclub.com.au

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