Sailing, style and celebs descended on Hamilton Island for Race Week.
Melissa Hoyer on Hamilton Island
Just the word Qualia – the premium resort on Hamilton Island in Australia’s 50-shades-of-blue Whitsundays – conjurs up an air of lavish luxury. And the sumptuous resort and entire island in fact didn’t disappoint in a week dedicated to sailing, style, celebs and socialites.
The 6-star island getaway was THE perfect backdrop for the annual Hamilton Island Race Week, but the entire island is full of ‘degrees’ of accommodation to suit all styles of island-hopping and sailing fans.
The sailing ‘week’ is when maxi, major and minor (there’s actually nothing minor about the sailing world) yachts venture up north in the hope of taking home line honours.
Oh, and have a mighty mega week of brilliant chefs, fashion, parties, live gigs, champagne, boat-hopping and lots of laughs and socialising.
Each year, Race Week has become more and more lifestyle-oriented with specialist chefs, ‘influencer’ guests, fashion and beauty brands and plush media flown up to see what all the fuss is about.
Invited as a guest of Qualia – wow, where do I even begin with this exquisite place. Made up of private villas or ‘pavilions’, they’re all removed from each other enough so no one can peer in and see you wandering around as Mother Nature prefers to see us, as you slink from living area to self-standing, oval bath or (in some of the pavilions) into your own lavish private pool.
Each pavilion is accessible by your own golf-inspired buggy, but before the keys to that are handed over, arriving at Qualia is like entering the hallowed grounds of Jurassic Park as the huge steel and wooden doors slowly and grandly open as you make your way up to the resort’s ‘Long Pavillion’ (aka reception and the home of the most brilliant bar, restaurant and room-with-view waiting area.)
As you walk in, a chilled glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne is gently thrust into your hand by the joyous staff (umm, thank you very much btw ….) before you’re given the key to your own buggy, the buggy that moves you around Qualia and the entire island.
On the buggy safety front, seat belts need to be worn all the time AND breath tests are randomly taken. Great idea indeed.
By this stage, I hadn’t even arrived at my pavilion and I was already getting into that resort, race week, relaxed kind of vibe.
As soon as we settled into our room, it was a quick shoe change and it was off to the marina, stepping onto the glam launch Quantum which gave us a few perfect hours of observing that days racing and spotting whales while we supped on delicacies from Otto Brisbane’s chef, Will Cowper and sipped on bubbles from Piper Heidsieck.
Chef Cowper was at it again the next night as he prepared an exquisite dinner, featuring Charles Heidsieck bubbles and most importantly, it was a dinner available for anyone to enjoy – obviously at a (very good) price.
That’s the beauty of Race Week: events are open to everyone so it doesn’t and hasn’t become a stuffy, up-itself affair, or a socialite/celebrity-only zone.
At this stage I need to mention the sailors! Yup. We can’t forget the real workers of the week.
While lots of lifestyle and social action is happening onshore, the serious work is offshore with a couple of thousand sailors on the island to crew nearly 200 hulls of all-sorts – with the super-maxis, Andoo Comanche and Wild Oats of special interest – their rivalry fierce and nicely riveting.
This year was the 38th year of the regatta and while conditions were super-favourable, the 2 super-trooper maxis had to pull out before the last few days of sailing due to mechanical issues. But hey, that’s sailing. You really are in the lap of the nature gods.
So back to the ‘event’ part of the week, another highlight of the week was an exquisite dinner hosted on Pebble Beach at Qualia and next to an extraordinary flame tree, by leading beauty brand Mecca Cosmetica.
Mecca was launching – very appropriately – their latest inclusion to its SPF range while on another evening, a beachfront dinner was created by kitchen dynamo Guillaume Brahimi.
But when I pondered the major social highlight of the week, that crowning glory had to go to Paspaley who hosted an exquiste and annual lunch for 180, pool and beach side at Qualia with a sleek navy and white dress code. Talk about chic. Oh, and pearls if you have them.
Guests included Kate Waterhouse and husband Luke Ricketson, Ned and Deborah O’Neil, the gloriously pregnant Nadia Fairfax, Tash Sefton, The Matilda’s Louis Vuitton-accessorised player Kyah Symon with her divine partner and fellow footballer Faye Bryson, Michael and Lisa Wipfli, Elle Halliwell, Caroline Gair, Darren Jahn, Nicky Oatley, Justine Cullen, Joanna Hunkin and Beard Season’s Scott Maggs, who was hosting sessions on the island that checked out everyone’s skin (if they chose) in case of any sun cancer concern.
It was Paspaley’s style weapon (aka creative director) the tres elegant Christine Salter who gave us a beautiful overview of her favourite subject: pearls.
Christine regaled the lunch team with stories of her master pearler grandfather who captained a ship, to be thrown overboard “so a pearl could be stolen by the crew,” Ms Salter told guests over lunch.
“There was no way for the old wooden luggers to communicate with town, so they’d get back and the families would be told the master pearler had been lost at sea so the pearl would make its way to the black market.”
Paspaley’s Lavalier design was the focus of the afternoon. It was named so because when Christine’s grandfather said ‘full moon rising’ over a radio code, he actually meant he had discovered a pearl of serious importance. Like the 60.80 carat, 20mm round pearl that became the inspiration for the creation of Paspaley’s iconic Lavalier, a patented ‘net’ design, the net wraps a pearl – which we can obviously see through – and the 2013 collection when it was unveiled – was the stand-out star of the beachside lunch.
As a wrap, the week really is one of the best fusions of sport, style and socialising and no doubt, it has many, many years of life ahead of it.
*Melissa Hoyer was a guest of Hamilton Island’s Qualia he and the Oatley family for the annual Race Week.