'We are well up on our previous record fleet of 184 set last year,' said regatta director Warwick HOBAN. 'Luckily, enlargements of the marina over recent years will mean that the whole fleet can be accommodated on the marina, but we will certainly need every inch of space.'
'Both the fleet size and the quality of the line up are stand outs this year,' said HOBAN.
'The IRC class has 33 entries, a very healthy increase from last year's 23, and includes the absolute cream of Australia's offshore fleet. The competition amongst this class on the short courses will be more intense than ever before. There are a lot of boats with the potential to win, and the crew which finally comes out on top will have sailed a truly brilliant regatta.'
'It's also gratifying to see the growing numbers in the Premier Cruising and IRC Cruising classes. These are cruising yachts which prefer to race on IRC rather than arbitrary handicaps, and the two classes account for 55 boats this year - more than a quarter of our total fleet.'
'Our growing fleet clearly shows that going yacht racing in the middle of winter in shorts and a T-shirt is seen as a good thing to do. Who could argue with that?' HOBAN added.
Fresh off the back of a line honours win in the 20th Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, the Reichel/Pugh 66 Wild Oats, skippered by owner Bob OATLEY, who bought Hamilton Island just under two years ago, is a pre-regatta handicap favourite while Eric ROBINSON's Volvo 60 Seriously TEN is also well and truly race tuned finished first over the line in the wild Southport to Mackay Blue Water Yacht Race over the weekend.
Neville CRICHTON's brand new line honours favourite, the 98 foot super maxi Alfa Romeo was expected to leave Sydney for Queensland yesterday for its debut race at Hamilton Island.
Amongst the 205 boats entered is at least that many stories.
Also making its way north to Hamilton Island from its home port of Noosa is the Noelex 25 trailer sailer, T Bags.
'The boat has always been trailed from Noosa Heads to its destination but this year we are sailing it all the way. This has been a bit of a task with the weather this year being so changeable,' admitted owner Rodney EVANS.
'We left Noosa on the afternoon of 26 July and at present, on the 6 August, we are at the Keppels so we are only half way. I hope we make it in time.'
'The boat is 21 years old this year and I have owned it for the last eleven years. The original owner's wife ran a tea and coffee shop, hence the T Bags, a name which seems to amuse so many people,' quipped EVANS.
Making its return to racing at Hamilton Island after a ten year break is the Farr 1220 Fiona which was built by Jock STURROCK to represent Australia in the 1979 Admirals Cup trials but did not make the final cut. Edward EARL, who took ownership of Fiona a couple of years back and had her refitted as a cruising boat, and most of his Sydney crew have sailed together on and off for 30 years and they are looking forward to returning the veteran boat to competition in the Cruising Division.
From a total of 205, 33 boats have entered the IRC division, nine have entered the Sydney 38 division, ten yachts are lining up for the Performance Handicap division, 24 for the Premier Cruising, 31 for the IRC Cruising and 98 for the Cruising Division.
The Lindeman Island Race on 20 August will mark the start of the Australian Tourism Award winning regatta with the final race, the South Molle/Daydream Island Race on 27 August to be followed by the regatta presentation dinner that evening.