Privately owned Hamilton Island is looming large in the landscape of luxury getaways. We visit this lovely location just off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on the occasion of the Audi Race Week
We're aboard a fine vessel called the Ghost, the official media yacht of the Audi Race Week on Hamilton Island, and we're going nowhere. Some 500 meters off the starboard bow, two unexpected guests have us in their sights and are steadily powering their way towards the boat. So unexpected are they in fact that the race itself fades into the background momentarily.
Our guests are a mother humpback whale and her calf, which go from leisurely drifting in whatever patch of water they please to carving a path for themselves right next to the race course. The race in question is the largest offshore yachting regatta in Australia and involves many different classes of yachts. As of 2010, the organizers have not created a division for whales so they are a bit of a diversion for the moment. There are also reports of a pair of albino dolphins somewhere in the mix but we don't see them, unfortunately.
Back aboard the Ghost, we are awaiting the start of proceedings. Given that tomorrow is lay day, today is traditionally reserved for the Club Marine Classic Long Race, with IRC Classes, the Coppersmith Rock Race, Performance Passage and Around Islands all mixing it up. It's a very pleasant day, from a landlubber's perspective, but we are told that the changing weather is holding up the start. The Long Race has already been replaced by a shorter race, thanks to the peachy weather, and nature's irascible fickleness is working towards changing the day yet again.
All around us are yachts of all persuasions, from behemoths such as Lang Walker's Kokomo and Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI to nimble players such as Manly Too. The organizers put the number here at 200, with everyone out on the water in advance of the lay day. We are told that somewhere in our midst is the recently famous Jessica Watson, teen-solo-sailing-around-the-world sensation, and Australian sailing icon, Iain Murray (at the helm of Wild Oats X) representing the other end of the experience spectrum.
The race presses on, with yacht after yacht careening here to fro as they struggle to come together as a group behind the mandated start line. Wind changes and delays alike are playing havoc with everyone's concentration and the line breaks down a couple of times. Once the boats get going though, they move with a speed that belies their elegant profiles. On the day, Lahana is the big winner, at least amongst the IRC Grand Prix contenders but the champion of the overall regatta, now in its 27th year, is a mischievous boat called Loki.