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19 August 2005, 10:31 am
Cream Of Australian Yachting Prepare
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Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week 2005
Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The cream of Australian yachting is preparing for the start of the Hamilton Island Hahn Premium Race Week tomorrow with many of the IRC grand prix boats out training today in the brisk trade winds which are expected to provide ideal conditions for the annual tropical regatta.
Attracting the most attention on the marina is Neville CRICHTON's Reichel/Pugh designed 98 footer Alfa Romeo which was launched in Sydney in last month and sailed with its full crew for the first time yesterday.

'The boat feels quick,' said CRICHTON this morning, but he admitted there is still a lot of work to do and they 'could have done with another month in the yard.'

Following the Hahn Premium Race Week, CRICHTON plans to sail the boat to New Zealand to complete work on the giant 30 metre super maxi before heading to Sydney for a crack at his second line honours win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in December. His previous 90 foot Alfa Romeo took line honours in the 2002 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

'With its canting keel and twin rudders, this boat is very different to the previous one. We are on a completely different learning programme,' said CRICHTON who will carry a top crew of 20 for this regatta including at least half a dozen America's Cup sailors and one of Australia's best known tacticians Michael COXON from North Sails, which supplied the sail wardrobe for Alfa Romeo.

'We aren't expecting to be that competitive on handicap because we haven't had time to optimize the boat but on line honours, I don't think anyone will get near us,' CricHton added confidently.

Jim PUGH from the US firm of Reichel/Pugh, which designed Alfa Romeo, has flown from San Diego, USA to Hamilton Island and will join the boat for its training sail today. He will also be keeping a close eye on the 'other' latest creation from his design house, the 60 foot Loki, skippered by Stephen AINSWORTH.

Fresh from an IRC overall win at the Hog's Breath Race Week which finished yesterday, Steven DAVID's 60 footer Wild Joe is expected to arrive at Hamilton Island this afternoon before he also gathers his crew for a late training run.

'We are positive about our chances of another good handicap result but we are not underestimating the opposition,' said DAVID this morning.

'Competing at Airlie Beach was our first opportunity to sail in the fresher trade winds and we expecting more of the same, plus plenty of current, for this regatta,' he added.

Bob OATLEY's canting keel 66 footer Wild Oats, a challenger for line honours, will also be out today having a final training sail before the competition kicks off at 1000 hours local time tomorrow.

'The level of activity on the dock is ramping right up and a lot will use today for a final shake down,' said regatta director Warwick HOBAN this morning.

'We've put a windward/leeward course down today for those wanting to practice and we are expecting a good mixture of boats will be out,' he added.

The first race of the Australian Tourism Award winning regatta, which has attracted a record fleet of 205, will be the 22 nautical mile Lindeman Island Race starting at 1000 tomorrow, for the IRC yachts with the other divisions starting at five minute intervals until the final group, the Cruising Division head off at 1020.

Tomorrow's forecast is for 13-18 knot south to southeasterly breezes.

Lisa Ratcliff
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