Delivery South

Last week was the first time in over a decade that I’ve spent some time at sea, ironically with the same skipper but different yacht. This time it was assisting to bring back a 49’er that had won it’s division at Magnetic Island Race Week recently. I flew to the Gold Coast on Monday expecting to leave that afternoon, however due to the southerlies we didn’t get away till the following afternoon. Apparently they’d had southerlies the whole way heading south from Townsville and were not keen on bashing into more of the same.

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Heading south the following day we had the leftovers of the southerly for the first couple of hours, then the breeze went left and it became a little easier to motor sail with just the mainsail up. Into Wednesday the breeze was forecast to build from the north and build it did to around 20knots.

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Around 1600 whilst below, Bruce did a sudden gybe and as a result the strop holding the mainsheet block on the end of the boom broke. Mainsail down and off and the jib top was set instead. Still without a motor we carried this all the way to Broughton Island off Port Stephens. The forecast was for a short sharp southerly change so it was in to Nelson Bay for the night. Timing was pretty good as it hit as we were motoring into the marina in the wee hours of the morning.

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Just like leaving Southport we saw the first whales just as we headed south, inside a mile of leaving the heads. Thursday was to be a day of motoring as the breeze struggled to get over 5 knots all day, at least the seaway was reasonable with little pounding in the leftover seas.

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I finally went below whilst off Broken Bay and only a few hours short of Sydney Harbour and woke to the sound of the motor being throttled back, we were off Sow and Pigs. It was absolutely calm with not even a ripple or a wave movement other than those we made. Brought back memories of offshore racing and finishing at night in similar conditions.  Thanks to James, Bruce and Jason for an enjoyable delivery passage and the usual yarns whilst at sea.

Northern NSW this time

Last week I took the time to attend the Mid Coast Caravan and Camping show at Wauchope. The last time I went to Wauchope was with the family last century having a look around Timbertown, a modern look at life in colonial times. This time however it was wandering around looking at what may be new in the self-contained life on the road market. Certainly something a little different to boat shows.

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Farr40 Indian Pacific, John Eylses Sydney Hobart winner. I sailed on her some 30+ years ago.

 

I then headed north, beginning at Ballina and working my way south through Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Taree seeing a few customers and catching up on a few happenings. It was good to see work progressing at the re build of the Big River Sailing Club at Harwood following the destruction of the old clubhouse in a wild storm. Commodore Harriet has her team on to it and they will continue to run sailing events whilst work continues. The new building will be an extension of the old with a larger outside deck and a bigger start box upstairs. I’ve certainly enjoyed the regattas there and look forward to more. If you haven’t been, put it in the calendar.

Manning River Taree

Once a busy highway bridge, now just used by the locals after the opening of the Taree bypass.

 

The one thing that has changed and is being steadily updated is the Pacific Highway. With the new bypasses and dual lanes the time on the road has dropped considerably from Sydney to Grafton. The remaining section north to the border won’t be finished for another couple of years and is eagerly awaited certainly by the transport companies. What does disappoint is the new ‘rest stops’. Whilst the facilities are nice and there’s tables and BBQs, there’s absolutely no shade to park under.  At least the trees of the older smaller stops provided some respite from the Sun whilst having a ‘short catnap’. In northern Victoria, there’s some excellent stops that are covering 6-8 parking spots. That’s my thoughts anyway.

 

I’m out on the water this weekend as the 2018-2019 sailing season starts and I’m looking forward to it, especially as it gets warmer. This time I’ll be at Newcastle for their second running of the NSW Country Offshore Regatta, out on yet another start boat as PRO. I’ve sailed past more often than sailed in to Newcastle Harbour, hopefully I can take in some of the sights as well. It’ll certainly be something different and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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NCYC start boat on the marina behind the clubs match racing fleet

I went for a sail

First though, I went for a drive. I spent over a week in Queensland seeing old and new DeckHardware customers, retail outlets, sailmakers and maintenance facilities. I had a nice drive up the New England Highway as my first stop was out west of Toowoomba. The first time I saw Matt I arrived in the dark driving up the hill so I didn’t see much other than his shed, this time arriving in the morning I had the chance to see his view over the country side. There’s probably no more than 20 houses, but wow I can see why he chose that spot. Next stop was Bundaberg. Yes, home of Bundy rum and ginger beer, both different businesses on the east side of town. I had done the Bundy Rum factory tour on a previous trip, so didn’t stop this time. I did notice however that they’ve opened a new visitor centre. If you haven’t been and done the Rum tour and if you have the chance, it’s one to tick off.

 

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It was the beginning of a full week, starting at Bundaberg and working south. What was also good was the chance to catch up with a few friends and relatives overnight. Craig and Tracee surprised me with the fact that after many years being together, they were getting married that weekend. They’ve bought a new property just west of the Bruce Highway on the Sunshine Coast. Being in ‘the sticks’ they have a fire risk as well as requiring somewhere to store boats, with 10 acres there’s plenty of room. As I left the following morning, Tracee and I were on the veranda counting the kangaroos, apparently this was the largest number they had seen, over 10 and it looked like two were big alpha males, so a couple of families? Unfortunately neither of us had a chance to take a photo, I’m sure in times to come she will, as they are certainly a lot bigger than our bandicoots to get in to a vegetable garden.

 

Working my way south, the next person I caught up with overnight was former Brookvale sailmaker Tony Hannan. Tony’s retired to the northern suburbs of Brisbane and is pretty much out of the ‘rat race’, enjoying walking the dog and sailing his Laser. We could of chatted for a lot longer, but there’s always the next trip Hanno. I also stayed with my Aunt and Uncle on the Gold Coast for a couple of nights. Aside from the general banter of what are we all up to, I also try to get snippets of family history when talking with Cynthia, there’s always something that hasn’t come up in past conversations. I had always thought that PA [Percy] Yeomans of Keyline Plowing was my grandfathers brother, however I learnt that he was in fact the son of, making him my grandfathers nephew instead. As a child I can remember going to NevAllan and YeoBarney, the properties on Yeomans Road at Kurmond at the base of the Blue Mountains with all the cousins and ‘mucking’ around on the farm, sleeping in the barn at night with all the animal noises and smells rather than the sound of the sea.

 

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One slipway I visited is where Defiance, the Dibble family old S&S 1/2 tonner is being rebuilt. Craig, the new owner has kept me up to date over the last few years as work progressed. It’s a testament to Doug Brookers craft and now Peter Kerr’s workmanship that she’ll be around for another 45years. When finished Craig is taking her south to Tasmania with hopefully a stopover at MHYC and maybe a match up with the old foe Plum Crazy. She’s now back to being the light blue and with a new mast to come, the trip south should be a good one. One boat that Peter does have to work on is a 19th century Logan from Auckland, it was my first time to his shed so it’ll be interesting watching the progress of this one too.

 

It was a busy week and the return trip south was made even better by the recent opening of the Pacific Highway bypass around Macksville and Nambucca Heads. Unfortunately, I drove at night so didn’t get a good look. It was certainly quicker, however the new rest stops that have been built offer no shade. Good facilities for a quick stop but not a good rest. It’ll be interesting to see if trees are planted or shades provided to park under like the ones in northern Victoria on the Hume. Another 3400 kms on the odometer and a lot of different businesses seen.

 

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The late Benny Nossiter on the helm of Sirius.

Ohh yeah and I went for a sail last Saturday. Garth Riley is the new owner of the A10 Sirius at MHYC and gave me a call. It was the last of the winter sprint series with two races on the Sound. Race one and we were buried at the start so couldn’t get right which was the favoured side. It was a good sail however with a crew I hadn’t met before. Race two and the fleet went left and we went right so a bit off at the top, my bad that one but we caught them back on the downhill for Sirius to record a third and a third overall for the series. Well done Team Sirius, it was great to have the chance to sail again especially on a Adams10 that I’d sailed before under the previous ownership, hopefully not the last. It was a nice day at least, at typical winters day with a land breeze to start and a sea breeze to finish, one of those good not to be the RO for.

 

As the year marches on, it’s not that far away to the start of the Summer sailing season in Sydney, about 6 weeks for many clubs. The Gold Coast race starts soon too for those heading north

What a week and a bit.

Sunday before last I flew over to Perth to do the WA rounds seeing the DeckHardware customers over there.  It was a big couple of days, up to Hillarys, down to Bunbury and Mandurah, around Fremantle, back up to Hillarys and more in between, some 675kms. There’s always plenty going on, new roads and buildings, things change my bearings, where am I again? Turn on the GPS.. Unfortunately there were several who I didn’t get to see for a variety of reasons, next time eh Rachel and Colin?

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Once again I was hosted by Paul and Sarah who make these trips west possible. As it’s nice to come ‘home’ at the end of the day to a smile and ‘how was your day’ rather than an empty motel room. One evening we enjoyed the fireworks held for WA Day down at Fremantle Boat Harbour, a pleasant clear sky too.

I had a quick turnaround and was back in Sydney for literally only a couple of hours before heading off in a packed DeckHardware van. This time it was to the 50th Annual Keepit Kool Regatta halfway between Gunnedah and Tamworth, some 450kms north west from Sydney. DeckHardware has supported the Lake Keepit Sailing Club and this event for a few years now and as always it’s great to see ‘old but familiar faces again.  It was an easy drive there and I had dinner waiting for me courtesy of Marita Wilmot this time. Coming home? Well that was a different matter. There was the now usual holdup on the F3 from Morisset to Wyong due to road works, however this time there was also a 3 car pileup blocking two lanes near the exit at Hornsby. It was a crawl from before Mt White to the exit which added another two hours to the trip.

It was however a great weekend in that it wasn’t the chill of previous. Once the morning fog lifted it was a pleasant 17-18c around midday and less blankets and no portable heater at night. There were the two firepits outside the clubhouse where you could stand and rotate the body appropriately which was nice in the early evening. As well as providing a fully stocked canteen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Saturday night was the Crustacean Challenge where Yabbies are ‘sold’ off and the winners collect, at which children and adults both enjoy the atmosphere. Sunday night they held a trivia competition for the keen ones. There really is something about the hospitality of the country clubs that keeps the sailors coming back.

On the water, I wasn’t involved this year but they had about 70 entries spread across 4 divisions, the largest for some time. Keepit Kool is known for being a generally light air event with the odd hour here and there lost in a drift-a-thon. This year there was enough breeze to get in 5 races on Saturday and Sunday, the last race on Monday was abandoned, then the breeze came in not long after. However everyone had started packing up and results were being tabulated. Water level was down around 13% from last years nearly70% but there was still enough and there’s plenty of rigging space too. Everyone has space, there’s no barging for a ramp, you just pick your spot at the waters edge.

Over the 50 years there’s been plenty who’ve been to Keepit, make a point in your diary for 2019 and if it’s been a while, you never know who you’ll run into. There were plenty of world and national champion sailors competing and enjoying the event for what it is, fun.

 

 

Back on the horse

Last weekend was the annual Sydney Harbour Regatta hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club and supported by the other major yacht clubs east of the bridge and RPAYC from Pittwater. As an example, the CYCA ran the Offshore boats, RSYS had Ynglings and Etchells, Manly Yacht Club ran the PHF handicap divisions and RPAYC had a mixture of sportsboat types.

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After being offshore last year with the Sydney 38s and Farr40s, it was back inshore on Hugh George [MHYC start boat]with the Adams10s again, this time alongside the Cavalier28s who were sailing their State titles as a part of this event.

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On Saturday we couldn’t have been given a better day, the sun was out and a NorEaster around 10knots. Just perfect, flat seas made it even better. The only downside for the competitors was the huge runout tide forcing a couple of individual recalls in both fleets. I did however advise them over the radio in the count down, that the start boat was hanging to tide not the wind and to note that it would push them over. All good as they recognised the fact and returned quickly and in one case even to win that race. I gave the Adams10s three laps and the Cavs two and the 10s with masthead spinnakers managed to catch the tail of the Cavs to ensure no hold up in a turnaround. It was a great day and no better had this summer. Three races ran without incident.

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Sunday however was a turnaround, miserable would be the word. A southerly change had come through forcing the Offshore boats inshore and many courses and divisions cancelled for the day. The Cavalier28s made the decision to not sail, so I only had a small but competitive fleet of Adams10s sailing. They of course loved the 20knot Southerly, hounds spinnakers and #3 jibs ruled the day however. In one race the third placegetter didn’t set a spinnaker, just poled out the jib and ran straight downhill faster than those trying to gybe spinnakers. There were a few broaches, the best was from No Friends who photographer Andrea Francolini managed to capture. We set them three short races, two lappers and 15 minutes in between to make it easy for all. Anchoring on the western ferry channel in the Sound is pretty uncomfortable in those conditions so the least time spent out there, the better.

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Having the Offshore boats inshore, including Marcus Blackmores new Hooligan and Paul Clitheroe Hobart winner Balance made for some exciting viewing as they came back to Manly from Shark Island. Hooligan on one run out ran the Manly Ferry, such was her speed, well in to the 20s. Balance gybed right beside us at speed, giving us great insight to the communication on board, no yelling just to the point. Neither boat would have been very dry given the amount of spray!

 

That was pretty much the last weekend at MHYC for the season. This weekend I’ll be down at Wallagoot Lake for their annual regatta including the Sabre States and NS14 traveller series. After that, also coming up is the NS14 States at BYRA on Pittwater at Easter and the Annual Batemans Bay Regatta following that. Then the Sydney Summer sailing season will be over. Time to hit the road again.

That’s the year done

Calendar year for 2017, that is with the last event being the Hobart race. The sailing and regatta season continues at full pace through January 2018.  We’ve all been doing the Rolex Sydney Hobart start for a while now, so it’s pretty much another event albeit with a little more media. Some of the MHYC team do the check in on the pin boat, the rest and a couple of extras are on the start boat. The photo below is of us out early before the start, getting everything in order. Thanks to Michael Hogan for the photo from one of the spectator boats.

Hugh George RSHYR2017

 

It’s been a fun year, again getting around to a few regattas out in the country and away from Sydney, it’s always good to get away from the ‘local pond’. I’ll be hanging around a few regattas in the coming weeks before stepping back on the start boat towards the end of January. Then, I’ll have a weekend of looking after the Farr40s followed by 3 days of the Adams10s and then followed by yet another weekend of the Farr40s. It’s always good to watch these guys, both are great fleets with good sportsmanship, that is few if any protests.

 

It was sad to hear of the virtual destruction of the Big River Sailing Club clubhouse in a recent weather event on the north coast of NSW. At Maclean nearby the local pub lost its roof along with plenty of other damage. I’ve always enjoyed going to their events and hopefully next season, I’ll have the chance. Knowing the committee will do their best to rebuild, they need competitors support of their regattas, I hope everyone will help by entering.

 

I’ll be sitting down over the coming weeks and planning the year ahead, what’s on when and which regatta to either attend or officiate and planning the work trips, both around New South Wales and interstate. I’m already heading to Wallagoot Lake in March, the weekend after the MHYC Sydney Harbour Regatta. Another in the pipeline is the 50th Keepit Kool mid year.

I visited the West Coast for the week

This time it was off to Perth and the DeckHardware van stayed home. The nice bit was the hire car company ‘upgrading’ me from the compact booked to a newer Commodore SV6. Robyn has an older model, so it wasn’t an issue to drive. What was nice though, was the newer features now on offer. Things like the lane changing warnings on the side mirrors, the intermittent wiper controls but more so was the number of lights when driving at night. Day one, drive one was from the airport down to Bunbury. Pleasant on the new freeway south and I was out of Perth before the afternoon peak too.

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Bunbury is a few hours drive south and I was able to catch up with a few stockists and show off some of the new DeckHardware products. As is the case a lot of times, they see the updates on products on our website and in emails but it’s not until they touch and feel that they understand what the product is all about.  They also asked me to stay a little longer but the following day I had to be at Royal Perth Yacht Club at 0900 so it wasn’t an option. I’ve often said how great the country sailors are and this was no exception even though I only see them probably once a year.

Saturday morning was an early start at RPYC, this time I was attending my third Australian Sailing Club Conference. Again there was an excellent turn up including some who had travelled from Albany and Walpole down on the south coast. These talks have been an excellent information package and each time I go away with something new about the management of our sport. Sydney’s is in a few weeks’ time, so again that’ll be interesting to see who’s there. On Sunday, I spent the day catching up with a few mates including Justin Kelleher who introduced me to the Lost at See Blind Sailing team as they were about to head off to the USA for their championships. JK as a sighted crew can’t touch anything on the boat, instead relaying what’s happening both on the boat and to the all-female crew. They gave me the honour of drawing their fund raising raffle and I hope that the winners were all happy.

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The next three and a half days were spent between Mandurah down south and Mindarie in the north seeing as many stockists as possible showing off some of the new product range. One of the bigger issues that I had driving around, is that I had to remember where I was. Having been to Southern Queensland and Victoria in the last month or so, a focus on who was next was required. Yes, I do use the GPS but only now and then for just a few off the beaten track. WA like the rest of the country is in a building stage and new roads are opened and older closed especially around the airport which threw me out a bit.

On Wednesday night I held a talk at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club discussing a few of the maintenance topics that some have with their boats. A good crowd were receptive and we discussed all things on boats and sailing. It was also great to catch up and have dinner with Colin Harrison the Australian Gold medal winning Sonar skipper in Rio. Unfortunately Sailing is no longer a Paralympic sport so we don’t get to see these guys much any more. The Sonar team coach Grant Alderson also joined us and we discussed ‘worldly issues’ over a meal.

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As always, these interstate trip can’t be done without the support of a few people and this time once again, Paul, Sarah, Murray and Grant helped out. Thanks as always especially to my hosts.