Challenging journey to Airlie Race Week
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