NEWS - Man of Steel returns to Hamo

NEWS - Man of Steel returns for Hamo quest

Bob Steel, winner of the 2008 Rolex Sydney to Hobart and three-time winner of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (AHIRW), always planned to be at the island for the big event in August this year but now that plan has become a little bit easier.

He sailed his TP52, Quest, to a perfect score of four wins in the NSW IRC Championship at the Sail Port Stephens Regatta (April 20 to 26). As well as claiming the championship trophy, Steel left the regatta with an additional prize — free entry to AHIRW (held from August 22 to 29).

“Race Week is a fabulous regatta and we were always planning to have Quest back there this year. Now I’m worried that people will think I’m a cheapskate and only turning up this time because I got a free entry,” Steel said with a laugh. “Make sure everyone knows that’s not the case.”

Steel said that apart from the great sailing to be enjoyed at AHIRW, he is looking forward to being there this year for a hit-out at the new Hamilton Island Golf Club and to be present for the official opening of Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

“I’m particularly looking forward to having a crack at the golf course,” said Steel. “From what I have already seen of the development it’s going to be a very special course — unique in many ways. It looks exciting.”

AHIRW organisers said this year Steel will be trying his hardest to secure his fourth Race Week title in the Grand Prix IRC division. Quest was in the hunt for overall top honours last year but her run ended when the keel clipped the edge of the appropriately named Surprise Rock during a passage race around some of the magnificent uninhabited islands in the tropical Whitsunday Group.

Today Steel lives every moment of his stellar offshore racing career with added gusto, and it’s for a good reason. Four years ago he went very close to dying from a severe case of septicaemia, a consequence of a prostate cancer operation. Showing incredible determination to survive, he battled his way back to health, returned to ocean racing, then last December became only the ninth yachtsman in the 64-year history of the Sydney Hobart race to become a dual winner on handicap.

Now he’d like to see another AHIRW championship trophy in his trophy cabinet to sit alongside his two Sydney Hobart race and three AHIRW awards.

AHIRW described itself as Australia’s most awarded keelboat regatta and biggest offshore classic, attracting a record fleet of 225 for its 25th anniversary event in 2008.

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PHOTO: Warm and windy.
A southeast tradewind presents ideal sailing conditions as the fleet prepares for a start at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. (Photo – Jack Atley)