Chal­leng­ing jour­ney to Air­lie Race Week

Whitsunday Times - - ON THE WATER -

DIG­GING through the early en­try list for this year’s Vi­sion Sur­veys 25th Air­lie Beach Race Week has turned up an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter among the cruis­ing di­vi­sions.

Mark Hip­grave is a re­turn com­peti­tor hav­ing en­joyed a pleas­ing third place fin­ish in last year’s Cruis­ing Di­vi­sion 2. The un­usual el­e­ment to Hip­grave’s 2014 en­try is that be­fore he gets to Air­lie Beach this year, he is tak­ing him­self off on a sin­gle-handed voy­age touted to be the long­est in Aus­trala­sia.

Hip­grave is rac­ing his Ben­teau 36 The Healer in the Solo Tas­man Yacht Chal­lenge – a qua­dren­nial sin­gle-handed race for mono­hulls and mul­ti­hulls, start­ing on April 20 from New Zealand’s Port Taranaki. The 14boat fleet will race 1380 nau­ti­cal miles to Mooloolaba in Queens­land.

This will be a unique chal­lenge for Hip­grave who has never com­peted in sin­gle­handed rac­ing be­fore.

The Healer is now safely in New Ply­mouth af­ter Hip­grave de­liv­ered it in mid-March with two of his usual crew. While they were sail­ing the boat across the Tas­man the sub­ject of this year’s Air­lie Beach Race Week came up.

“We all had such a great time at Air­lie last year [and] the crew asked me on the way if I was go­ing to do it again this year,” he said.

“I said I hadn’t re­ally thought about it [but] with the foun­da­tion of the crew in place right there... when I got back to Bris­bane last week I jumped on the in­ter­net and en­tered for this year.”

Be­fore Hip­grave gets to en­joy race week he has quite a chal­lenge ahead of him. There will be a raft of new ex­pe­ri­ences he ad­mits he will have to deal with in­clud­ing the Tas­man Sea cur­rents, stay­ing mo­ti­vated and “when the wind drops, be­ing pre­pared to change a head­sail or take a reef out, rather than bob along at less than op­ti­mal speed”.

Once Hip­grave has com­pleted his solo ad­ven­ture he says he will be hap­pily stay­ing close to land, head­ing north to Air­lie Beach in readi­ness for his five crew to join him for some race week fun.

“We had such a ball last year [and] I am not just say­ing that. It was a laid-back, fun re­gatta,” he said.

The Vi­sion Sur­veys Air­lie Beach Race will be held from Au­gust 8-15.

The No­tice of Race and the on­line en­try for the nine di­vi­sions can be found at www.air­lier­ace­week.com. En­tries close on Fri­day, Au­gust 1.

CHAL­LENGE: Mark Hip­grave's The Healer, rac­ing on Bris­bane's More­ton Bay, in prepa­ra­tion for a trans-Tas­man sin­gle-handed cross­ing and this year's Vi­sion Sur­veys Air­lie Beach Race Week. Photo by Tracey Johnstone

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