By Rob Mundle
It’s a long leap between competing at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in a yacht that’s a fraction longer than the average-sized family sedan, and racing a near identical design single-handed, 3500 nautical miles across the Atlantic.
But that’s Justin Hickey’s plan.
In what will be a David and Goliath challenge, Hickey will use Race Week in August as a strategic step towards his dream: competing in next year’s single-handed Mini Transat race across the Atlantic from La Rochelle, in France, to the Caribbean in a yacht that’s just 6.5 metres long. In fact, the yacht is so small it would sit comfortably on the foredeck of any of the maxi yachts contesting Race Week, scheduled for August 20-27 this year.
As much as he would like to, Tasmanian-born Hickey won’t be racing his tiny yacht, HydraPlay, single-handled at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week as the rules don’t allow it. Instead, he will have two mates join him for the series.
Hickey’s single-handed training will come prior to Race Week: he plans to sail HydraPlay solo and non-stop over 530 nautical miles from the Gold Coast to Hamilton Island in early August.
“I see Audi Hamilton Island Race Week as an ideal opportunity to hone my racing skills in preparation for the Mini Transat,” said Hickey, who has three Race Weeks to his credit and was aboard the mighty American maxi, Comanche, when it debuted in the Sydney Hobart race two years ago. “The level of the competition and the fact that we will be racing in tropical trade-winds at Hamilton Island will make for excellent training. HydraPlay is like an overgrown 18ft skiff with a massive sail area for its size, so we should enjoy some memorable rides.”
To ensure he and his crew experience the highest heat of the competition Hickey has entered the Racer/Cruiser division of the Australian Yachting Championship, which will be decided at Race Week. However, he does have one concern: “The toughest challenge during the series could well be our ability to survive the legendary on-shore partying.”
The entry list for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week continues to grow at a record rate – up 47 percent at this stage on the previous best. Should this momentum continue, the regatta is destined to see a fleet of more than 200.
Exciting trade-wind racing, exceptional dockside camaraderie among competitors, and an unprecedented party agenda across the entire week combine to make Audi Hamilton Island Race Week unlike any other local or international regatta.
The Notice of Race and entry form for the 33rd staging of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week are now posted on the website, www.audihamiltonislandraceweek.com.au. The regatta – Australia’s largest offshore sailing series – caters for a remarkably wide range of sailboats: from sport-boats and trailables through to Grand Prix level keelboats, maxi yachts, cruising yachts of all sizes and configuration, and multihulls.
Audi Australia returns as the naming right sponsor of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week for an incredible eleventh year. Throughout the past decade of partnership, Audi and Hamilton Island have worked hand-in-hand to create the most impressive sailing regatta in Australia, with even more activities on offer for sailors and onshore guests alike. This shared vision is based on a joint passion for winning performance, technological innovation and spirited competition.