Full steam ahead

The Whitsunday Sailing Club announces it will push ahead with the Airlie Beach Race Week Whitsundays Festival of Sailing.

Written by Di Pearson
Photography by Andrea Francolini

03 June 2020


To be held from 6–13 August, the annual Airlie Beach Race Week (ABRW) will be held on a smaller scale this year.

Event Chairman and Marketing Director Adrian Bram says, “If borders open, we are targeting around 80 entries. At the moment we have 51, which is comparable to previous years.”

Suffering the ill-effects of cabin fever caused by the pandemic, not to mention the cold weather inflicted on those who live south and south-west of the Queensland border, owners are keen to break out and leave town for the beautiful Whitsundays.

Opening borders is in the hands of individual state governments, but that hasn’t stopped interstate hopefuls from entering. Among the early interest is Gweilo, a TP52 owned by Matt Donald and Chris Townsend. The NSW yacht finished second overall to Ichi Ban in the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart.



Unsurprisingly, Victorians exceed the rest of the states in terms of numbers. In the Rating Passage division alone, Rob Date’s Scarlet Runner II, Gerry Cantwell’s Carrera S and David Currie’s Ponyo are ready and waiting.

Should the borders remain closed, Bram says the event will nevertheless go ahead: “In that case, Airlie Beach Race Week will return to its roots,” he said, meaning it will be an all-Queensland regatta.

There is a high-profile new entry from Queensland, too, with Glenn Burrell entering Black Diamond, the RP42 better known as Black Jack Too. Burrell purchased the boat from Peter Harburg early this year and intends to campaign her locally as well as in major offshore races. Don’t be surprised to find Harburg’s prominent skipper Mark Bradford aboard.

Onshore action at the Whitsunday Sailing Club (WSC) will be limited to 100 people in one sitting at this stage, pending further advice from the Queensland government.

“Winning crews from each division will be invited back to the club for the daily prize presentation. It will be live-streamed so all competitors can share the glory from the comfort of their cockpits,” Bram says, reminding would-be entrants they don’t need to pay the entry fee until respective border openings are confirmed.

Prior to the lockdown, Ian Edwards had entered his much-travelled Wings, a Dehler 46, in the Performance Cruising division. The NSW yacht was last at Race Week in 2018 and finished the 75th Sydney Hobart among a myriad of other sailing events on the eastern seaboard.

“I’ve done 18,000 nautical miles in the last 27 months,” Edwards confirmed in April.

I enjoy Airlie Beach Race Week and hope all Australians do the right thing during this virus so that we can keep on enjoying the racing.

“If we do all the right things, we’ll be able to sail and race again. If we stay on task and minimise the impact on sailors, officials, administrators and the public in general, we will be alright.

“The most important thing right now is to do what is being asked of us and stay healthy,” Edwards stated.

Airlie Beach Race Week Race Director Ross Chisholm said that racing will be “business as usual” but with the possibility of a diminished fleet, some rearrangement of divisions may be necessary.

“However, the Whitsunday islands are still there, providing a fantastic backdrop for racing,” said Chisholm, who advises courses will be reviewed and set to provide great competition for entrants.

The WSC is once again calling on volunteers to assist with the regatta. Experienced volunteer coordinator Susie Jones will manage the volunteers. Would-be volunteers are encouraged to visit the ABRW website to register their interest.


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