Vivace and Crank at Airlie Beach Race Week 2019 - Photo: Andrea Francolini

Family pride on the line at Airlie Beach Race Week

It’s Day 3 at Airlie Beach Race Week and a breeze of up to 15 knots is on the horizon at the Whitsunday Sailing Club’s 2019 event, which plays into the hands of the sports boats where winning is just about winning, it’s all about family pride, with six of the ten entries chockablockwith family talent on board.

The Sports Boats will draw swords on Pioneer Bay today on windward/leeward courses starting from 10am, with the remainder of the 109 entries on island courses.

REO Speedwagon - Photo: Andrea Francolini
REO Speedwagon in the thick of the Sportsboat action – Photo: Andrea Francolini

REO Speedwagon is the newest vessel of Andrew York. ‘Yorky’ is a veteran America’s Cup sailor with top results in a variety of other classes, such as Dragons, Etchells’ and Lasers.Is he competitive? Hell yeah.

This week Yorky has friend Mark on main, Mark’s wife Gemma is the ‘floater’ and their son Joel is up front where it’s wet. York says: “We’re a good combination; We understand each other.”

The theory has already been proved, as REO Speedwagon is currently at the top of the leaderboard, a mere two points ahead of The Stig, a Shaw 650 skippered by Malcolm Dean. Both boats are from NSW.

Dean’s boat was launched earlier this year and he has thrown down the gauntlet: “We’ve only raced it at Port Stephens, and we won,” he says.

Dean specifically wants to beat his half-brother, John Rae, co-owner of Vivace (sitting in third place overall going into today’s racing), a Bethwaite 79er, and of course the other Shaw 650, Kevin Clarkson’s Lickety Split.

Tongue in cheek, Dean, from north of Sydney maintains: “We only got into the sports boats because the Morisset country club closed and the boys needed something to do. We’re a bunch of lawn bowlers who love to sail almost as much as we love a rum or two.”

Clarkson, owner of Lickety Split, has brother Scott on bow. The two have many Sydney Hobarts between them and have a long history racing 16 foot skiffs. Kevin moved from Sydney to Queensland last year and moved into sports boats.

“I’m pretty new to it and had nothing to gauge ourselves against until this Airlie Beach Race Week. We’re on a learning curve and a bit slow, but really enjoying ourselves. I rang Ben De Coster (Managing Director of Hood Sails and a racing yachtsman) to talk about sails and tuning, so there’s something new learned this week.”

Vivace and Crank at Airlie Beach Race Week – Photo: Andrea Francolini 

NSW brothers Luke and Paul Ratcliff purchased York’s previous REO Speedwagon (the 7.2 metre boat is slightly smaller than York’s 7.7m boat) and have renamed it RE-Heat. The brothers have grown up sailing, starting with Sabots and Flying 11’s at Vaucluse 12ft Skiff Club in Sydney. Last year they were here with Heat, a Viper 640.

This year they have Paul’s son, William with them, who has also come up through skiffs at ‘Vaucy 12’s’. Their secret weapon is Geoff ‘Skippy’ Williams, who also sailed skiffs at the same Club with the brothers Ratcliff. He does main on the boat and is the coach and the reason of calm.

Team Ratcliff is still learning their new boat and are looking to move up the rankings this week from their current fifth place. They are under some pressure, as Yorky won two previous ASBA nationals with this boat.

“We intend to do as many ASBA events as possible with a combination of family and friends,” Luke Ratcliff says.

“It’ll be a lot of fun. We’ve enjoyed our previous sports boat and look forward to sailing this girl as well as Andrew did,” he ends.

Growing in stature each year, the event is enjoying coverage through the photographs of the international award winning Andrea Francolini, Queensland’s Sharon Smallwood, Shirley Wodson, Andrew Pattison (Vampp) and Wasp, which is also providing drone coverage. World on Water is also here, as is Sails Magazine, while well-known American photographer, Mary Longpre, arrives today.

Post race celebrations at the Whitsunday Sailing Club - Photo: Andrew Pattinson / Vampp Photography
Post race celebrations at the Whitsunday Sailing Club – Photo: Andrew Pattinson / Vampp Photography


Onshore photography is courtesy Andrew Pattinson / Vampp Photography
Onshore photography is courtesy Andrew Pattinson / Vampp Photography

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By Di Pearson, ABRW media