SPORT – Meridien Marines Airlie Beach Race Week 2009

SPORT - Meridien Marines Airlie Beach Race Week 2009

Today is the start of the 20th annual Airlie Beach regatta, which is more often than not sailed in robust southeasterly trade winds, but not today, the high-pressure system sitting over North Queensland has seen to that, organisers said.

While this morning’s official weather bureau forecast is for north to northwesterly winds of 10 to 15kts, shifting northeasterly at 15 to 20kts inshore in the afternoon, local sailors do not expect to see that much wind out on Pioneer Bay and north towards the Double Cones.

Officials said the traditional Airlie Beach starting race is the 28-nautical mile Double Cone-Armit race and under the wind conditions, test tacticians and crews will be tested.

In the Grand Prix IRC Racing fleet, Michael Hiatt's Farr 55 Living Doll, Robert Date's Reichel Pugh 52 Scarlet Runner and Ray Robert's Cookson 50 Evolution Racing would have been expected to dominate, but now the smaller boats, especially the three Farr 40s, could come into their own if they return home on a building breeze.

Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron commodore, Russell McCart, will be well placed with his Farr 40 Night Nurse as will Bob Robertson and his Cracklin Rosie team.

The Whitsunday crew on Ian Thomson's E11even will certainly have local knowledge on their side and Noel Humphrey's Farr 39 Samurai Jack, which has a Farr 40 mast and rig will be helped by lighter conditions.

Regatta organisers report it's a similar story for the Sports Boat fleets. Queenslander Mark Buchbach is smiling this morning as his lightweight Stealth 7 sportsboat Raptor will be favoured by softer conditions in her battle against the bigger boats.

Buchbach commented: “She is already a light boat, in 2007 we did well at Airlie Beach, winning line honours overall and coming fourth on handicap, but now we have a new keel and she is going even better in soft conditions.”

Michael Cowan from Stealthy, the Lake Macquarie Stealth 8 agrees: “Overall, it's going to be a speed battle with Pierre Gal's Conquistador, Bruce Tardew's No Limits, and Noel Leigh Smith's Bethwaite 8 Vivace and the 7m Raptor —she'll do well if it stays light and us. We of course would like it to blow dogs, but you can't always get what you want.”

Race Week founder, Don Algie, said this morning: “The southeast trades have been in for weeks and this will be just a temporary soft patch, I am sure we will get good winds later in the week.”

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