The Meltemi mob went north again this year. For the third year running, we decided to pit our wits against the fickle tides and fast modern hulls at the Airlie Beach Regatta and then travel across the passage for the Hamilton Island Race Week. Meltemi is a 34 year old S&S 34. She has belonged to Jim Shannon for many years and lately has two new partners, Robert Gun and Fergus Keegan. Jim sailed her from her original home in Perth to Brisbane in 2000. Since then she has had many adventures along the Queensland coast with a crew of friends from throughout Australia, the UK and Ireland!! The Whitsunday odyssey began three years ago when her Brisbane crew was joined by old Western Australian friends to take her north for the regattas. They have come back for more each subsequent year.
Meltemi is red, beautiful, has big hips and can be quite a handful when she feels like it. You realize how small you are when stooging about at the start among a hundred larger boats with rigs twice as tall. However Meltemi has spirit, and it is said youth and beauty can’t compete against age and cunning, so even though beautiful we decided to sail ‘cunning’!
We started well at Airlie and with a favorable handicap. With some good finishes, by the lay day we found ourselves leading our fleet. We duly basked in the glory .The feeling was lovely while it lasted. However, after that rising winds and less favorable handicapping contributed to a slide in our ranking. Our Airlie campaign ended in a tacking duel with our friends on More Intrigue (another RQ boat), which lead to us beating them by one second in the final race. We got a fanfare of tooting from the committee boat. It goes to show that with handicapping, competition at the back of the fleet is as fierce as at the front. The little red boat was happy.
We headed across the Whitsunday Passage to Hamilton Island. Our waterline length was greatly increased as we were laden down with provisions and the other necessities of spending a week on Hamilton. It was great to be back at this regatta, and this year it was bigger and better than ever. The marina takes on the look of Aberdeen Boat Harbor in Hong Kong with all human activities taking place there. We were in our usual position with the smaller boats at the start of “Beneteau Boulevard”, and renewed acquaintances with boats from previous visits. It is so good to have crews and boats from the other States there and Merve and his More Intrigue crew were never too far away!
We sailed in Cruising Division 3, a group of approximately 30 yachts. As usual Meltemi had to think big and so we raced smart, hugging the coast when necessary or tacking out when the ‘man on the plotter’ thought that a good option. The accumulation of three years knowledge helped. Our crew had become well honed. Jim was canny upwind; Dennis was a good starter and got more out of Meltemi going downwind than most. Manfred was our weather god and after making his morning forecasts was a whiz on the winch and strength all round. Hilary was on the foredeck, or wherever, as she moves fast and is small. Paul was the strings, flags, radio, troubleshooter, mast, everywhere man. Rob and Fergus joined us later in the week when Manfred departed to deal with the Brisbane weather!
Hamilton really is a sailing paradise. The regatta is much more than the actual races.