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Audi Hamilton Island Race Week

Yachties from around the globe are about to head for the Whitsundays to compete in Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta: Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Joanna Tovia reports.

The setting could not be more picturesque for the nation’s premier offshore sailing regatta. Azure water, sand-rimmed islands and sunny skies are enough to put a smile on anyone’s face but when you’re doing what you love while you’re there, it’s cause for celebration. Sailing enthusiasts aren’t the only ones to gather here each August. Hamilton Island’s carnival atmosphere and host of on-shore activities entice friends and families along, and its location on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef is a prime base from which to explore the other 73 Whitsunday islands nearby.

More than 150 entrants have signed up for this year’s regatta, to be held the week of 19-26 August. As a firm fixture on the international sailing calendar, many of the same faces (and yachts) congregate here year after year. The regatta has been held annually since 1983, attracting racing craft from grand dames of the ocean to high-tech recent acquisitions ever since. There are four classes for racing boats (IRC, One Design, Performance Racing and Racing Multihulls), and four classes for the ‘notso-flat-out’ racers and cruising boats (IRC Passage, Cruising, Non-spinnaker and Cruising Multihulls).

Making her way to Hamilton Island for the first time this year, and sure to attract plenty of attention, is the world’s most successful ocean racing yacht: the 16-metre American yawl Dorade. Launched in 1930 at Minneford Yacht Yard in New York, Dorade’s claim to fame is that she has covered more offshore racing miles than any other yacht and has won more of the world’s major races than any other in the process. Her design broke with tradition. Onlookers at her launch were surprised to see a deep keel with external ballast, narrow beam of 3.1 metres, and sail plan spread across a yawl rig – all of which set global yacht design on a new course.

Also making an impact were the ondeck ventilators designed to keep the rain and sea water out of the cabin while maximising airflow. The concept became known as a ‘Dorade Box’ and is widely used in yacht design today. Most of the yacht’s success has been in the Northern Hemisphere but owners Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy have now decided to venture further south. After competing in Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, the yacht will sail south to Sydney for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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Head to head

While this year will mark Dorade’s first foray at the regatta, making her 10th and final appearance will be the 24-metre maxi Condor, once known as the world’s most technologically advanced maxi yacht. Owner Dave Molloy believes the time will be right following the regatta to retire “the old girl” from racing. Spectators will also be keeping their eye on two well-known 30-metre supermaxis: the Oatley family’s recordbreaking Wild Oats XI, and Brisbane yachtsman Peter Harburg’s latest acquisition, Black Jack 100. Black Jack 100’s sailing master Mark Bradford, a Brisbane sailmaker, says the Hamilton Island regatta will be an important part of the crew’s preparation for this year’s Sydney Hobart. “We have assembled a really strong crew, including Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner, Tom Slingsby, so we’re looking to give Wild Oats XI a run for her money,” Bradford says.

The Oatley family acquired full ownership of Hamilton Island in 2003, and has since spent more than $450 million on improvements to the island, including building luxury resort qualia. Many yachties live on board during the regatta. For those wanting to stay on shore, six-star resort qualia is set to reopen in July after repairs to damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie earlier in the year. Yacht Club Villas on the waterfront are a popular choice for families or groups wanting to be in the heart of the action alongside the 240-berth marina and iconic Hamilton Island Yacht Club.

Parties, concerts and events make the regatta as much a social scene as it is for racing. In 2016, guests of principal partner, Audi, were able to soak up the sights (and crashes) from aboard sleek superyacht charter, Quantum. There’s plenty to do between racing and socialising too, from sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding to snorkelling, diving and fishing. And any aching muscles in need of some TLC can be soothed at the Spa qualia or Spa wumurdaylin, both open each day of Race Week.

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Set sail on your own crewed superyacht

Spend a day on the glittering waters of Sydney Harbour or island-hopping among the Whitsundays aboard luxury 36-metre yacht Quantum. This elegant boat operates out of Hamilton Island during August and September, spending the rest of her time in Sydney. Whether you’re looking for a half- or full-day escape for you and the family, a sumptuous dinner for 18, or a themed corporate event for up to 38, Quantum offers a refined setting for business or pleasure.

A professional crew is on hand to look after any requests, with top onboard chefs and additional wait staff available as required. If you’d like to spend more time in the yacht’s world-class embrace, embark on an extended multi-day voyage for up to eight guests, staying in four luxurious staterooms. Quantum is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to make your charter easy and enjoyable, including an iPad-controlled sound system. Bask in the sun in spacious outdoor and entertaining spaces and dive into Australia’s most beautiful waters from the large swimming platform. Quantum has been custom built for enjoyment, so it’s simply a matter of sitting back, relaxing and soaking up the sun.

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This article appeared in volume 26 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.