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From fast racer to comfy cruiser at SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week

Pictured above: Wind Cheetah leads a double life. Photo courtesy Andrea Francolini

Darren Drew normally arrives from NSW to the northern regatta circuit with one of Australia’s fastest ocean racing catamarans, his Crowther 50 catamaran Top Gun, but this time he surprised contemporaries by turning up at SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week (SMIRW) with Wind Cheetah, a smaller and heavier 1992 launched Arber Southeaster 38 cruising cat.

Wind Cheetah is a far cry from Top Gun, a much larger boat that sails at high speeds. Drew confirmed at Townsville Yacht Club’s (TYC) regatta at ‘Maggie’ Island that he has been cruising the former since the 1st of April.

“My wife, a mate, his wife and a friend decided to do Airlie Beach and Magnetic Island Race Weeks with Wind Cheetah. For me, it’s about keeping my wife on the boat and her being happy. I don’t want to see the day when she doesn’t want to sail anymore because of the boat,” said the multi fanatic from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club who is a regular on the northern circuit and elsewhere.

Drew says Wind Cheetah “was old and daggy when we got her. I put a new two metre taller rig on her, new carbon sails, replaced the deck hardware, repainted and gave her new electronics and plumbing.”

The multi looks brand new. “I love the history of her and she’s very comfortable, where Top Gun isn’t, it’s a full-on racing boat,” he says.

“Wind Cheetah won two Brisbane to Gladstone races on OMR (multihull rating category) during the nineties, but she’s been in cruising mode for the past 20 years and we’re cruising the East Coast until the end of 2022, with a couple of regattas thrown in.”

Next stop after SMIRW is Lizard Island and Wind Cheetah and her passengers will eventually return home in November.

“That’s when I’ll grab Top Gun and going racing again,” Drew comments.

Pictured above: Top Gun in top gear at the 2019 Airlie Beach RW. Photo courtesy Andrea Francolini

In the meantime, the cat’s crew are enjoying SMIRW immensely. “It’s fantastic. A great fun regatta. The marina and everything you need is right here (at Peppers Blue on Blue Resort).

“Yesterday we went to pull the main up, but the boat has a tricky headboard and the halyard jammed. We had to come back to the marina (a five minute motor from the start line) and fix it. We were only two minutes late for the start. That’s how close things are here.”

They finished fourth and in all probability it cost them a podium place. Coming into today’s final race, Drew is sitting in third place overall on countback to second placed Scamper (Adrian Lawrie) from Queensland and one point behind the leader, Roamance (Gordon Beath) from NSW after placing second in all other races.

“Monday was different,” the sailor says. “It was the most perfect day – we sailed the boat perfectly and loved every minute of it. It’s a great regatta to come to…”

Racing concludes today, with racing to start from 11am.

For all information, including full results and more, please visit:

By Di Pearson/SMIRW media

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