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Whitsunday Racing 2016: More Gold Coast boats reach the podium

Whitsunday Racing 2016: More Gold Coast boats reach the podium

The Gold Coast boats have again shown they are a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Whitsunday race series. For the second year running, the Gold Coast has supplied boats that either won or figured prominently in their divisions.

The Whitsunday series started with the Airlie Beach Race Week. Mother nature played her part by supplying strong winds that caused a bit of carnage for many of the competitors. It was not for the faint-hearted as winds reached more than 60kph at times.

The Sports Boat division was won by Gold Coast boat, Retuned, owned and skippered by one of the Sherring boating family, Graham Sherring. Last year, Graham ran second and returned this year to clinch the title in massive form, winning nearly every race. After running second last year, Graham had the boat reconfigured making changes to the bow and stern that made a massive difference to the boat’s performance.

One of the big hopes in the Sports Boat category was local Gold Coast boat, Shorty, owned and skippered by young sailor Jack Sherring, another member of the Sherring family. It unfortunately succumbed to the conditions by breaking its mast on the second day of the series. A disappointed Jack returned to the Gold Coast vowing to “show them” next year.

In the Trailable Yachts division, local 21-year-old, Sophie Lahey, and her crew showed that the Gold Coast is not a ‘one-boat town’ by taking out second place in a strong fleet of 20 boats. Sophie showed most of the fleet a “clean pair of heels” and narrowly missed the top spot in her division.

In other divisions, The Boat Works catamaran took third place in the multihull division. Skippered by Julian Griffiths, the fast racing cat, supported by the local ship yard, The Boat Works, showed the Gold Coast is not limited to fast monohulls.

Prominent Southport Yacht Club member, Drew Jones, competed in the cruising division, but unfortunately did not make it to the podium.

After the Airlie Beach Race Week concluded for another year, sailors went on a one-day sail over to Hamilton Island for the start of the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (AHIRW). This year, AHIRW had a record entry of over 250 boats. To reach the podium was going to be a tough act! But nobody told Gold Coasters that!

Again, the Gold Coast boats excelled in what is now an internationally recognised regatta. Leading the way was local boat, Onyx, a 32-foot boat owned by local boating family, the Hutcheson’s. Just getting a 32-foot boat to Hamilton Island is a massive six-day sail. And then, to win the Racer Cruiser division made skipper Matt Owen a very happy man. Another Gold Coast boat in the same division, Fareast28R, owned and skippered by Noel Leigh-Smith, came perilously close to the podium by finishing fourth in the same division.

The Gold Coast entrant in the IRC division was the Beneteau Ocean Gem, owned and skippered by David Hows. It was competing in arguably the toughest division of the regatta. Ocean Gem competed in the Sydney to Gold Coast race, Brisbane to Keppel race, and the AHIRW regatta, all within a four-week period. Those long miles could have had an effect on the boat, as they did not achieve the results they normally would.

Nevertheless, it was in the Cruising Division 4 that the Gold Coast boats felt right at home and shone through as a group. Being pipped at the post and taking second place was Wildflower 2. Glenn Burrell and his crew of locals matched it with the best in what was the largest fleet in the AHIRW regatta. Painkiller OP (Rod West) placed fifth, Upstart (Michael Daly) finished 10th, and Lookout (Paul Giles) placed a credible 11th in the same division. The Bellamy, competing in her first national regatta with owner Barry Berg having only been sailing for a short while, made the top 20 with a pleasing 19th place, followed by Stormy Petrel V (Drew Jones) not far behind in 24th place.

The lightning-fast catamaran, The Boat Works, took a credible 9th place in the Multihull Racing division. And the lovely catamaran Tropical Sunset managed 9th place in its second year competing in the Multihull Cruising division.

With the Gold Coast boats doing better and better each year, it is only a matter of time until we are achieving even more podium placing.


All of these boats, plus many other interstate boats, will be competing in the Southport Yacht Club’s Sail Paradise regatta on 8-12 January 2017.


By Ray McMahon