Race Week was founded in 1983 by David Hutchen, an ex Melbourne man who had moved to the Whitsundays to start his own business with his yacht “Banjo Paterson”. He had become friendly with the owner of Hamilton Island at the time, Keith Williams, and when David suggested it, Keith agreed to host a regatta at Hamilton Island – and so Race Week was born.
A three man Race Committee was formed and David Hutchen, Warwick Hoban and Leon O’Donoghue started the races, worked out the results, and in the early years even ran most of the on-water social event – it was a busy time.
The first event was held in April 1984, when the island had only begun trading and was far from finished. The accommodation deal on offer at the time was called “Construction Capers” – appropriate because there always seemed to be a bulldozer going past as you sat and ate your lunch.
That first year attracted a fleet of 93 boats, but the media unkindly dubbed it “Hamilton Island Rain Week” in the “Wetsundays” after it rained everyday with howling winds. But despite the unfavourable weather, the atmosphere thrived and Race Week was well and truly born.
For the first eight years Race Week was held in April, starting on the first Saturday after Easter. Southern boats sailed up the coast in the Sydney-Mooloolaba, and then the Brisbane-Gladstone at Easter, then made their way to Hamilton Island. It meant that southern boats had to leave their home base before the end of the summer sailing season, which wasn’t as appealing as the prospect of doing some winter sailing in shorts and a t-shirt.
After a few years of holding Race Week in April with mixed weather conditions, it was moved to August in 1992 when the weather is much more settled and it is also a more appealing time of year for Southern sailors to leave their winter home and head for the tropics. Since then it has gone from strength to strength to its present position of being Australia's premier keelboat regatta.
Race Week's success has grown from its mix of beautiful courses around the picturesque Whitsundays, top quality race management, and amazing shore side partying. The format has been moulded over the years to meet the changing circumstances of handicapping systems, design trends, and the general needs of sailors looking for a good time. We have always had a policy of listening to yacht owners and responding to their suggestions. There is plenty to do ashore at Hamilton Island, so Race Week has also grown in popularity with wives, partners and families, and each year more and more come to Race Week to share in the fun. The result is a carnival atmosphere on the island during Race Week - a good time is assured for everyone.