by Ian Grant
The year of 1998 remains indelible in the minds of Australian sailors particularly those who experienced the mood swing of Bass Strait in its wildest moment.
Sunset in Bass Strait
Both Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea have never been rated as the most pleasant places to be when the storm winds torment the sea surface turning the challenge of the crossing into a test of personal survival.
Mackay seafarer Bob Thomas who has often said he prefers to sail in the warmer waters off Mackay and in the Whitsunday Islands has the career distinction of winning the navigators trophy when he and the co owner of Midnight Rambler Ed Psaltis won the 1998 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race.
That enormous struggle to beat the threat of growling white crested waves and the roaring gales remain with every sailor who was at sea when the wild weather turned the 1998 blue water classic into a massive rescue mission.
What the fleet can expect in terms of weather this year has not interrupted the pre-race preparations for the crews of the Whitsunday Sailing Club entries Merit (Leo Rodriguez) and the Terry Archer helmed Questionable Logic.
They have lodged their entry which is yet to be officially confirmed by race management and safety officers.
However Merit which flew the now famous spinnaker with the words 'We would rather be sailing in the Whitsundays' last year and Questionable Logic are expected to be official competitors when the fleet set sail on Boxing Day.
Meanwhile the year 1998 is remembered by Whitsunday Sailing Club officials and their happy team of volunteers who successfully hosted the Hog’s Breath World Hobie 16 catamaran championships on Pioneer Bay.
The regatta committee headed by Don Algie, Miles Wood and Geoff Smith set the foundation in place for the Whitsunday Sailing Club, Pioneer Bay and Airlie Beach to be internationally exposed as a World standard sailing venue.
Naturally South Africa’s Blane Dodds and Steve Arnold winners of the open men’s championship and the Australian crew of Kerry Ireland and Jacinta Tonner the open female champions both unanimously agreed that the venue was a perfect choice.
Sure their compliments at the time were appreciated by the club officials who understand they have a top class dinghy and yacht racing facility yet apart from hosting the Australian Sabot and Tasar championships and the annual Airlie Beach Race Week the excellent venue appears to have fallen from favour with the class associations.
Generally the decisions favour the clubs who support class racing but most of those clubs fail to compare with the Whitsunday Sailing Clubs access to a tourism related community which offers a selection of accommodation, restaurants and fast food outlets within a casual walk from the rigging area.