Sailing amongst the Whitsunday Islands, Australia

- Mary Gostelow, arguably the most-traveled, and most-traveling, lady of the 21st century. She is owner and president of The Gostelow Report, essential monthly market intelligence briefing for the top levels of the hospitality industry. She is also contributing editor to Elite Traveler, The Private Jet Lifestyle Magazine and EnRoute.

Hamilton Island became home to what was a record breaking fleet competing in the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

Sailors from all over Australia and beyond were in the Whitsundays for the annual Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, which took place August 22-30, 2008.

As always, Hamilton Island, in the heart of the Whitsundays, offered ideal racing conditions along with spectacular off water events.

There was a lot of interest when Peter Harburg’s Black Jack – named after the legendary three-time One world champion Sir Jack Brabham in honor of his sporting achievements and launched in Brisbane last month – edged out the Oatley family’s Wild Oats X.

Bob Oatley built up the legendary Rosemount wine label, which he established in 1969. He and his family built it into Australia’s largest family owned winery and in March 2001 it was sold to Southcorp, which in turn, in 2005, was bought by the Foster’s Group. It is thought that at least some of the fortune the Oatleys made from the Rosemount sale has gone towards what they want to be Australia’s premium luxury destination, qualia Great Barrier Reef, on Hamilton Island.

qualia Great Barrier Reef conveniently opened a few weeks before the 2008 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, and a big plus is that General Manager is Jason Friedman, who was opening Manager of Four Seasons Tented Camp in northern Thailand – before that, he had co-owned and managed a premium wine store in Manhattan so he is obviously well versed in chatting with qualia’s owners, who are led by Bob Oatley and his son Sandy.

The 60-villa resort has been designed by architect and designer Chris Beckingham, who had worked on Bob Oatley’s private home. Apparently it is not quite finished: the Oatleys plan a golf course on nearby Dent Island, and they will build their own marina, too. Fortunately the main resort and its restaurants, and its fabulous wine cellar, were all ready in plenty of time to host the Oatleys’ guests during the 2008 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

The roll-call included Australia’s best-known international fashion designer, Collette Dinnigan, who once again will be showing during the Paris ready-to-wear collections, October 4th, 2008, at the Louvre, Paris.

At any time, by the way, you can charter the 130-ft luxury yacht Southern Cloud to take up to twelve guests around the beautiful Australian Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. The boat comes with six crew and full entertainment for guests in and out of the water. Built in Denmark in 1990, this gorgeous 130-ft yacht has now completed a full two-year refurbishment in Sydney and is fitted with everything you could want; whether it is to relax in their beautifully appointed cabin with fine food from the ship’s dedicated chef, or explore the exquisite surroundings with all of the diving and snorkeling equipment one could need. Cabins are fitted with LCD television and surround sound, individual climate control, full Internet access and electronic ensuite amenities.

The yacht sails at a leisurely ten knots and with 200 tons of displacement the Southern Cloud has very high levels of stability and safety to ensure a seamless, relaxing cruise throughout the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef. Encompassing 74 tropical islands and countless thriving reefs housing over 3,000 different species of wildlife, the Whitsundays are among the most picturesque tropical locations in the world. Visit Whitehaven beach, the most idyllic and utopian beach in Australia, dive into the water and explore the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, or just stay on deck and watch it all float by.

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