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11 May 2005, 11:03 am
Southern States Contest Northern Circuit
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Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week 2005
Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

In Australia, a battle is looming at this year's Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week between sisterships, Hardys Secret Mens Business, owned by Adelaide yachtsman Geoff BOETTCHER (AUS), and XLR8, another Reichel Pugh 46, which will be campaigned by the TROON (AUS) family from Ballarat in Victoria.
The TROON family has been sailing out of Royal Geelong Yacht Club for 19 years. Father GRAEME has spent 65 of his 75 years racing boats and he project managed the construction of this all-carbon fibre 46-footer that was designed by Reichel/Pugh in the USA and built by Hart Marine in Mornington.

Sons Ross, 50, Steve, 48, Michael, 37, and grandson James, 21, will join their father for XLR8's second Hamilton Island campaign, which was launched less than twelve months ago. Graeme and all three sons also work for the 135-year-old family commercial construction business H. Troon Pty Ltd in Ballarat.

'We knew where the gaps were after racing at the 2003 Hamilton Island Regatta on our 36-footer and as a family, we decided then we'd have a red hot go at designing and developing a very fast IRC racer,' says Steve TROON.

XLR8 finished tenth overall on IRC at last year's Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week and was the stand out yacht at this year's Association Cup on Port Phillip Bay, finishing first on IRC and taking line honours in every race.

While XLR8 is race tuned, TROON advises that 'before we head offshore, we are going to replace the rig which was damaged in a collision with Geoff BOETTCHER's previous Secret Mens Business [BOETTCHER's previous boat was also called Secret Mens Business, although she was not under his ownership at Geelong - Ed] at Skandia Geelong Race Week in January'.

BOETTCHER was already campaigning his new boat at Geelong, ironically, it is a sistership to XLR8 and it is the looming tussle that has both skippers wound up.

'We are looking forward to some magnificent match racing with Hardys Secret Mens Business. We are really excited about going head to head with her,' confesses TROON.

XLR8 will this year have a new weapon in her arsenal for the northern circuit. Ian 'Barney' WALKER (AUS) is project managing the only Australian entry in this year's Volvo Ocean Race and while the Volvo 70 is being shipped to Europe, he has a window of opportunity to join his fellow 'Mexicans' for the winter circuit along the eastern Australian seaboard.

'There is a window of six to seven weeks which has allowed us to secure 'Barney' as helmsman for the Sydney Gold Coast Race in late July and Hamilton Island Race Week in August,' says TROON.

Rolex Sydney Hobart Race veteran Ross LLOYD from North Sails, who was the driving force behind the boat's technology, will join the XLR8 crew, as will Simon CUNNINGTON (AUS) who sailed with John CALVERT-JONES (AUS) in the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in Sydney in March.

BOETTCHER will travel close to 2,000 nautical miles from Adelaide to Hamilton Island with Hardys Secret Mens Business and like many competitors, will use the 20th anniversary Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race as the feeder.

'It is a long passage for us to get as far north as Hamilton Island but it gives the guys the opportunity to do some delivery work and gain valuable offshore experience,' said BOETTCHER.

BOETTCHER is also upping the ante by adding experienced yachtsmen Mike GREEN (LCA) and Carl CRAFOORD (AUS) to his crew for the Sydney Gold Coast leg. CRAFOORD will remain on the boat for Hahn Premium Race Week, from 20-27 August, and Brad STEPHENS from sailcloth manufacturers Dimension Polyant will fly in to join the crew.

'We love the atmosphere at Hamilton Island,' admits BOETTCHER.

Of the 70 entries already received, 17 are from Victoria, two are from South Australia, two are from Western Australia, one is from Tasmania and one is from the Northern Territory. Two international entries have also been received, including one from Scotland and one from Hong Kong. Stewart THWAITES' 98-foot Konica Minolta from New Zealand is expected to be one of the high profile overseas entries.

Around 170 yachts are expected to contest the Australian Tourism Award winning regatta from 20-27 August.

Lisa Ratcliff (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Last year's race week:© Event Media
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