North again, then North West

With the close of the Summer sailing season and a slowdown in the on water volunteering, it’s back on the road. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been up in southern Queensland doing the rounds of the marine industry showing off new products.

I spent a few days on the Gold Coast first up doing the rounds, taking in a boat show and attending the opening of an Australian Sailing Team base at Southport. With the range that DeckHardware distributes, there’s always something new and this trip was all about getting the word out there.

Thursday afternoon saw me at Southport Yacht Clubs base at Hollywell, where Mat Belcher has set up a base for the Australian 470 squad. Middle Harbour Yacht Club is the home base for the Australian Sailing Team, however this is a first for a class to have its own home. Southport will give a variety of options with the local tidal flow and the ability to go offshore for race training without the Sydney Harbour ferries impeding. I guess that it will also free up a bit more space on the MHYC deck for the other classes as Tokyo2020 nears. When finished, they will have the ability to house under cover several fully rigged 470s.

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Over the next third of the trip it was up to Brisbane and what seems to be a regular visit to Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to have a look at the rebuild of Defiance. Craig is doing a wonderful job and along the lines of do it once and do it properly. His only time span is to have it ready for summer.   Since I last looked, it would appear to be minimal change, but to the keen eye, one can see the differences. His next step is to remove the engine and V Drive and replace with an updated model, this will make heaps of difference. Robyn and I can only grin when we think of the days of sailing in and out of the old MHYC marina. One thing that did strike me this trip was just how small she is. How did we manage to fit everyone in for a week aboard for the likes of the RSYS annual cruise? Then there are the memories of the Two Handed racing in the early 80s, it was easy because she is small and the gear easy to grab.

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The final third of this trip was up to the Sunshine Coast, not really a bad thought in a Sydney winter. The only difference was waking up to the early morning fog, it did clear up pretty quick though to a few brilliant days. Once again it was nice to catch up with everyone and for those who I didn’t see this time, I’ll be back north again soon.

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This coming weekend is another road trip, this time North West for the 49th annual Keepit Kool regatta at Lake Keepit near Gunnedah.  On previous occasions I’ve been there’s been little water, less than 15%, so with the current level of over 60% it’s hoped that everyone who has been before will return and those who haven’t make the most of the opportunity. Fresh water sailing at a country club on a Lake that is 2/3rds the size of Sydney Harbour in volume. The photo below shows the water in 2014 way down there. At over 60% there’s certainly a lot more room and I’m glad I’m not laying and pulling up the marks as it’ll be a lot deeper!

I’m looking forward again to the clubs hospitality and the evenings yabby racing. Who else is coming?

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Out on the water

It’s been a couple of full on weeks. A fortnight ago I was in Jindabyne running the annual Snowy Mountains regatta on a freshwater man made dam built for the Snowy Mountains Scheme after World War 2. The dam is huge with more than enough area to run a decent size course. There is only one obstacle however when laying marks, the flooded original township below! Luckily there’s an area that’s marked as a no go zone for anchoring.

Saturdays racing was marred by the distinct lack of wind, something that does happen from time to time at any event.

After waiting ashore for most of the day, the start team went out and had a look when there was the makings of something on the lake. I came up with the idea of a short fun race.   Amazingly it was a course that they hadn’t thought of in the past in Jindabyne. An all-in start, out around both islands and the ‘no go markers’ and back to the start /finish line. Easy eh? Except that you could go either way, clockwise or anti. Certainly made a few think, course length was the same either way, so which option? Most went anti, however it was the ones who went clockwise who made the most of the breeze. Everyone finished quite tight and all enjoyed the change.

 

Sunday was a little different, we had wind! So two quick races were held and what was to be a longer third was shortened back to the same as the others as the wind dropped. So we had results, everyone had a good time and once again the country hospitality shone, not to mention the benefits of sailing in freshwater.

 

Last weekend was the annual Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s Sydney Harbour Regatta over two days. Usually I run the Adams10s and another One Design class, this time however we hosted the Sydney38 Championships with three overseas crews and several more from both north and south of the border. We then added the Farr40 class for the weekend as well. Racing was planned for Offshore on the Manly Circle. Friday we went out and in some very challenging conditions ran 3 races for the 38s. The breeze swung all over the place depending on the clouds coming through, over 100 degrees during the day making things quite difficult.

 

Saturday was totally different. Due to an East Coast Low pressure system, both seas and wind were up. I took the start boat out to the heads and it was far too dangerous to send any one offshore. There was also no way that I could anchor the boat, or course marks, let alone see them! Seas through the heads were as big as I’ve seen in a while. So inshore with all the other courses, somehow managing to get a 1nm beat. More races completed. I would have loved to have a photographer on board as some of the finishes were spectacular, let alone some of the broaches.  The Farr40 Estate Master came through the line surfing at nearly 20knots, the major issue of course was dropping it in time on a lee shore.

 

Sunday, things had calmed down somewhat due to the overnight westerly which knocked the head off the seas. So back out to the Manly Circle and a nice south wester averaging 16-18knots, perfect. I made the one bad call that I haven’t done in a while, I thought the breeze would swing left which is the norm. Instead it stayed in the south west and went even further right. My mistake was not giving the mark boat room to lay a course as I had laid the bottom mark too close in. Unfortunately the second race became a bit of a one way track, lesson learnt. I had to apologise to the competitors over the VHF.

 

It was probably the hardest three days on the water as a race official, the East Coast Low really put paid to that. Previous years have been just nice NorEasters and one can only hope for that next year.

 

Now it’s off to Wallagoot Lake Boat Club for their annual regatta. Wallagoot is another lovely little country club, situated just north of Merimbula  on the far south coast of NSW. A small volunteer run club with 2 or 3 of each class using the yardstick for handicaps. At Jindabyne we use a common wing mark on the triangle, at Wallagoot the multihulls like their reaches so there’s a wider gybe mark for them. More mark laying but the monos and multihulls are separated making it easier on them. One of the things that does happen at these country events, is showing off the new products from our suppliers. These guys don’t have a chance to touch and feel much of the products now available, this is their chance to ‘tart up’ their boats with new lines from LIROS and boat and sail repair kits from DrSails.

 

Next week it’s back on the road in the van, north to Queensland for 10 days or so. Plenty of new products in the DeckHardware range to show  around. Forespar have a range of new lubrication products and Allen Brothers also have some new fittings. It’ll be pretty busy.

Off and running in 2017

Last weekend I was back out on the water for the first time this year. For over ten years I’ve been running the Adams10 Nationals when they’ve been held on the harbour. As Middle Harbour Yacht Club Principal Race Officer and a former longtime A10 sailor, these events have always been enjoyable to do. However on this occasion I was asked by Lake Macquarie Yacht Club to come up and be the events Race Officer. I’ve been going to the lake now to sail for 45 years with a fair bit of it on Belmont Bay on an Adams10, so no issues. The other change was the inclusion of the VXOnes for their Nationals to the course area. This wasn’t a problem as I’d previously run both classes together on Sydney Harbour.

 

I’d gone up to LMYC a couple of weeks ago to just go over their start boat and make sure all was fine. So day one on Thursday brought an overcast day and a nice #1 Southerly and a course was set at 1.2nm to shake out a few cobwebs. There were plenty of shifts, but the one constant in the first race for the A10s was the performance of Matt Watts Gogo who lead the entire race. From memory this was a first for the crew, but that was to be their only claim to fame this time around. Race two was won by last year’s winner, Powderhulk with Pat Delaney on the helm. The VX’s were shown around the course by Andrew Yorks Speedwagon.

 

Friday we woke up to nothing, as in nothing on the lake, no wind at all. ‘Hurry up and wait’ is the usual RO call. Finally a nice easterly came in and we got in three races for each class, with the best breeze of the day in the last one.  Gezzabelle from Pittwater and Eat My Shorts from the host club were the leaders on the day with a 1&2 each but with their drops for the other. It was more follow the Speedwagon on the other track. With the wind finally coming in late in the day it was great to get in three races.

 

Saturday morning was the same, nothing blowing from anywhere but a lot hotter indicating a NorEaster on the way. Finally it came in and we had some great racing. In the Adams10, Rob Clarkes KickandChase from MHYC worked things out and won both races. In the VXOnes a couple of Laser sailors also worked out what to do, Ash Brunning and Tom Burton won the last couple.

 

One of the highlights of the weekend was keeping an eye on the Wangi Wangi syndicate on Mad Max. They are new owners to the class having recently purchased the Adams10. They sailed the boat full of enthusiasm and made sure the fleet knew they were there. In race six they surprised themselves by finishing in third place having been in second for most of it. Mad Max was easy for me to keep track of especially downwind. The spinnaker used was one Melissa designed – yes, Mad Max W12 is the old Animus MH12. It was a pleasure to present the DeckHardware / Pat Carroll Memorial Trophy for the first placed timber seater to syndicate member Jody Shiels who was forward hand for this event. I hope to see more of them in upcoming Adams10 events, including the Sydney Harbour Regatta in March. On behalf of DeckHardware and as Pat’s mainsheet hand for a number of years it was great to see the timber seaters in action.

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Presenting the DeckHardware Pat Carroll Memorial Trophy to Jody Shiels from Mad Max.

 

Overall it was Eat my Shorts and Speedwagon who cleaned up, both boats too consistent. Once again it was great racing to watch in the A10s with second and third equal on points as were fourth and fifth. No one really knew where they finished till it was tallied up. I have to give due credit to the start team at LMYC, the two Ians and Wayne and Lindsay Rose from MHYC, great backing up when a lot was on and full focus on giving the sailors the best regatta possible.

 

My thanks especially go also to Lindsay as at the end of each day on the water he was first to provide refreshments ashore. Next up is back to MHYC, then I’m back on the road and headed to Tasmania next week with a fair bit on in the coming months.

 

The Adams10 years

The Joe Adams designed 10m debuted in the mid 70s and quickly gained a foothold at Middle Harbour in the inshore divisions. Originally built by Paul Kelly and then a few others including Dave Dillon, the A10 is the perfect harbour racer I think. You can race fully crewed with either 6 or 7 or shorthanded with as few as two, which I did over several decades.

A couple of the early owners were the Partridge brothers John and Kerry who owned Pear Tree and The Bird and I did a few races with them before settling down sailing with Pat Carroll [father of Matt, CEO of Australian Sailing/formerly Yachting Australia] on his original cabin top version , The Carpenter. A couple of crew back then in the early 80s included Nigel Holman before he bought the original Cuckoos Nest and Tim Gallego who still comes back each year from England to get his A10 fix.

Pat then upgraded the cabin top 10 to the last of the Timber seaters that Paul Kelly built. This boat went on to become Rock Solid/Dukes/Skinny Flat White. We had some great years sailing this boat on Wednesday’s with his brother Bill and Dave Hannon, father of sailmaker Tony. Another Saturday regular was Ian Sutherland who shares an ironic co-incidence with Robyn and I. Ian and his wife share the same birthdays as Robyn and I!

The 10s have for many years alternated the championships between Lake Macquarie Yacht Club and Middle Harbour Yacht Club, the two strongholds with the odd change to Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club at Pittwater and Gosford Sailing Club. These trips were mandatory offshore and there were plenty of easy and plenty of on the nose, not fun on an inshore racing boat with internal leads. Nowhere to go below to have a rest, without wet weather gear on.

The majority of these were of course done shorthanded either two or three up, great when it’s nice, wet on the nose and boring as all hell when you motor all the way. Those trips, you would sail a bit, motor a bit etc with the 6hp outboard ringing in your ear on the stern. I can’t remember who [The Doc?], but someone once borrowed a larger 8hp and thrashed us all motoring home, then there were the Pittwater guys who towed theirs up behind a large cruiser. The heydays were back in the 80s and early 90’s with up to 30 boats on the line, great racing amongst plenty of recognised champion sailors.

On a couple of occasions the girls joined me at the lake as we’d taken either one of Dibs’ boats or my fathers’ Thystle as accommodation. Mel had her first dinghy up there at the age of 5 or 6 sailing around the moorings, very much a family atmosphere around the regatta. She too grew up sailing with Pat Carroll, who would give her the helm to bring the boat in and out of the marina early on.

The White family had stopped racing offshore and decided to enter the A10 fleet with Salamander111 in partnership with Chris Watt, another of the Salamander11 crew. After a couple of seasons, it was noted that Extender was on the market and so a return to a timber seater 10 was made. Extender was renamed SSV after their family business, more on that boat later.

I had returned to sailing once again with Pat and he jumped at the chance to grab Cold Comfort from Tony Hill and she became The Carpenter111. The Carpenter11 initially became Dukes and then Rock Solid with a bunch of skiffies on board. I sailed with Pat Carroll on his three Adams 10s on and off for about 20 years, never quite in the placings but on our day ruffled a few feathers. It was however enjoyable sailing as Pat was ever the gentleman both on and off the water. There were a lot of Wednesdays, two handed and even a few night races usually sailed 4 or 5 up and more than a few beers during and of course how many trips to Lake Macquarie and back.

It was around 2000 that I returned to sailing with the Whites, Steve and Greg on SSV and along with Melissa, we were the core crew. We did all the usual A10 stuff, every other year up to the lake etc, competition was fierce as SSV was pretty competitive despite being one of the older timber seaters. After just missing out winning on the lake in 2001 we finally won one in 2002 and with a race to spare. It was perfect conditions for SSV, light with a few shifts. In one race we were OCS at the start but at the top mark, back in the race, somehow it all clicked that year in the championship.

At the end of that season, Mel made the call and decided to put her money in to a boat. She debated on old 1/2tonners and Adams10s of course. We looked at several boats but given our experience in the class, none stood up. One day at the club, I was talking to Ken White about not finding a suitable boat and he said ‘make me an offer’. He’d been thinking for a while about another cruising boat, talk about timing. So Extender/SSV became Animus and Mel at 22 was the youngest and only female skipper at MHYC. I stayed on the main, where I’d spent the greater majority of my time in the class and in the first season with Mel on the helm, she managed to equal Ben Nossiter for Gun Boat Trophy, number of guns at the club something few had achieved over the years when Ben dominated. Despite Ben not winning the championships. We’d beaten him to that!

Brigitta was a new boat and crew to the club and I offered to sail with Martin Chalk one winter in order to help them out and bring them up to speed. With many changes to the layout and by bringing them closer to the fleet, these guys had a lot of fun in the early noughties. With the invention of the HCW 24hr race around the lake I ‘borrowed’ Brigitta for the event and yet another overnight trip to the lake. With a pulled together crew, only one of whom had seen an A10 before, we won line honours even after a short period aground at Warners Bay. Mel sailed Animus with an all-female crew and it was around midnight that we finally caught them. I was below and when I poked my head up, ‘who’s that?’ , looking at the navigation lights nearby. ‘Animus’, finally after some 10 hours we’d caught up to them.

The following year, I ‘loaned’ Brigitta to Blake Middleton and Tom Freeman whilst I jumped back on board Animus with Mel. Blake had flown out the previous year for the HCW from Wayzata USA and Tom was Mel’s longest serving crew having also sailed with her on the Flying 11. The four of us sailed the two boats up to the lake for the second edition in a lovely easterly. Blake and I sailed both boats back during the following week in a couple of sweet NorEasters, great when that happens. Animus had a good tussle with Chris Williams and his T7 crew and they finally got away in the last couple of hours, but only just. Blake and I went on to run the next few editions of the HCW as the Race Officers.

Over the decades of sailing Adams 10s at Middle Harbour, there’s only a couple that I haven’t sailed on, three I think! They are a great class for around the harbour and have the ability to do coastal trips as well. One trip north was Mel, myself and Damo Bassett, Mel’s forward hand on Animus. We’d motor sailed overnight in company with Ben Nossiter on Sirius and at sunrise we were a little surprised at how big the southerly swell was when we went to set the kite!

One trip back was just Damo and I. We had a nice Northerly to Cape Three Points at the northern entrance to Broken Bay, before the forecast westerly hit and hit it did. Hot and windy, necessitating dropping the main and continuing under #3 headsail, the smallest aboard. The heat dried the salt spray on our clothing too. One of the harder trips offshore in the 10, but back in one piece. The majority were deliveries in optimum conditions, either downwind or reaching. Several were just motoring with the 6hp on the back ringing in your ear.

In the 10+ years I’ve been a National Race Officer I’ve run racing for the class, I’ve always enjoyed watching the racing. Especially the bottom/gate roundings and the various spinnaker drops. Needless to say I have a large portfolio of evidence in mark rounding stuff ups. Next up for the Adams 10s, I’ll be again running their National Titles at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club in January 2017.

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Animus at the boat end

The Offshore Years

I really kicked off racing offshore on Casablanca, a one off 49’er designed and built by John Biddlecombe who I worked with at Performance Sailcraft Australia. Biddles had been tinkering for a while about building an offshore boat and finally got in to it. The first race for her was the Montague Island race which started on the Friday of the October long weekend. It was a bit of a rush to finish off and we did a safety inspection on the way to the start! Due to a lack of hacksaw blades we were an unofficial entrant, so off we went turning right. As it was such a rush, one other thing that was forgotten – metho for the stove! It was funny watching George Mottl [he of the Mottle33s] filleting steak to cure in the sun. As it was my first major [aged 18] offshore, my parents made sure I had plenty of snack and muesli bars, I think they may have known. It was a great sail and we had a good battle with the original Apollo coming up the coast and in to the harbour to be pipped by a couple of minutes. Biddles was pretty happy.

 

Following my move from Pittwater to Middle Harbour, aside from sailing on Defiance with Robyn, there were many others that I sailed offshore. I did a couple of seasons sailing with Keith LeCompte on White Pointer, a Kaufmann IOR 1 tonner he had built himself. One tonners were all the go in the late 70s and into the 80s and competition was pretty fierce. Usually there was 10-12 on the startline and you knew it if a mistake was made. ‘Pointer’ was tiller driven in those days and downhill was the usual IOR wipeouts. It was great fun watching our sistership Priority learn to steer with a wheel when they converted from tiller – whoops there they go again, concentrate!

I can remember Hugh Treharne at MHYC one Friday afternoon looking for crew on ‘InchByWinch’ a Peterson 46’er that Dennis O’Neil had built for the Admirals Cup trials. ‘Can you sail to Bird Island tonight?’ ‘Yeah sure’, I went home and told Robyn and Hughie picked me up not long after. It was another learning experience and although I was really just weight on the rail, I tried helping where I could. When pointing things out forward, Hugh would say let him figure it out, he has to learn. No names here.

I’d started sailing on ‘Patsy’ a Swanson37 with Syd Yaffe on Wednesdays and Syd asked me to do Mooloolaba with him. With Fraser Johnston and Lawson Abbott running the boat, again we pushed hard. Off Smokey Cape, the southerly arrived and Lawson lost control around lunchtime in one massive wipeout. We had full main, 3/4oz kite and blooper up, I was below having just come off watch. The pole track on the front of the mast sheared off from about a meter up and went through the mainsail. All the sails had to come off and we set a headsail whilst we settled down, finally a second headsail was set and away we went with twin poles and no main. I stayed on deck while the rest of the crew sewed the main back together, utilising a harness between the reef points. The main was re hoisted later that evening off Ballina and was fine through to the finish. I had great fun surfing north by myself on deck that afternoon.

I had also started sailing on ‘Diamond Cutter’ a Davidson 1tonner owned by jeweller Alan Sweeney, built in New Zealand to the latest lightweight specifications, she was consistently a top performer. One race to Mooloolaba we had 9 crew who could all drive, 5 were top flight navigators. I was the second driver and as the youngest also the forward hand! As I mentioned earlier, the competition between the 1 tonners was pretty keen and the racing was close. DC was a great boat to steer and it was sad to see YouTube footage of her wrecked on the rocks in Victoria many years later.

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Others I crewed on in that period included ‘Beyond Thunderdome’, a Davidson40 owned by Warren Johns and skippered by Jamie Wilmot who was my ‘Best Man’. Another was Salamander11, a Farr1104 sailed by the White family. We were off the Tweed heading to Southport with another 1104 ‘Hot Prospect’ sailed by Sir Robbo of Queensland tucked away to leeward. Ken White got off the rail and went below making all sorts of noise, Steve White was driving and I was on the main – ‘what are you doing down there?’ ‘Putting beer in the fridge so it’s cold at the finish!’ Priorities.. In another Salamander race to Coffs Harbour we also had my Dad aboard as navigator and another Ken incident bears repeating. We had pole on the forestay reaching in about 5 knots and White Pointer a boat length astern, Smithy on Pointer was asking if we had any milk as they had run out. Ken went below and rather than throwing it to them [outside assistance] poured it over the stern – ‘there you go!’.

In the early Eighties, Kevin Brightwell had gone up to a Noelex30 More Imagination, a Farr centre boarder and he decided to do the Pittwater to Coffs Race having done a few JOG races in her. A crew of 5, [Kevin, Tony Barnes, Roscoe Adams and Chris Thompson and I] all experienced sailors greeted the southerly at the start off Mackerel Beach. It was spinnaker with a starboard pole to Barrenjoey, two sail to Three Points, spinnaker starboard pole to Seal Rocks, through the rocks and up again, Down for a short time around Tacking Point and back up to the finish. Well nearly the entire race on one gybe. We had to gybe to go into Coffs Harbour for a couple of hundred metres and naturally wrapped it. Chris tried getting it out and I said wrap it up tighter. With a quizzed look from the foredeck – ‘we’ve finished!’ Roscoe shinnied up and pulled the pin on the halyard. Done, good race that one, totally enjoyable and quick, under 30hours for a 30’er.

 

The Farr Out years

In 1983 Dibs [John Dibble] decided that as his family was expanding, he needed a larger boat as the family grew. A Farr1104 Farr Out was the choice once Defiance was sold. Jaime and I continued the Two Handed racing of the time racing against the likes of Salamander11 and Thirlmere both Farr1104s.

One of the first day offshore races on Farr Out was a day race to Pittwater. We were short of a forward hand and Robyn was it. A nice southerly of 10-15knots so an easy day. There was however an issue, she was still breast feeding our second daughter Jillian at the time. No issue – Jill did her first offshore race!

Once settled down with Farr Out and we were pretty happy with the setups, we decided to do a Bird Island race. Jaime was on the helm at the start and before we got to Bradleys head in the NorEaster, the mast was over the side. Bugger, quick race that one, all of a couple of hundred metres.

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The new mast was stepped in time for the next Mooloolaba Race, Hugh Treharne had made a new mainsail and Steve Keily helped with the rigging. Steve was also aboard for the race and I can remember him literally adjusting the rig every time we tacked until he was happy. It was great to have a sail with him as I’d always competed against him till then, he’s sorely missed. Off Smokey Cape in a good NorEaster, Dibs was on the helm and we coped a bad sea and he fell across the cockpit cracking a few ribs. We managed to get him below, but we were headed to Coffs as a withdrawal due to his pain.   Steve, Dibs and I were on the plane home and the rest of the crew brought Farr Out back to Middle Harbour.

Dibs always wanted to do a Hobart on his own boat, so a good crew was put together. This time however I wasn’t involved. The ’84 was a bash to windward and Roscoe Adams tells one story, whilst below having a sleep on the sails on the floor with Dibs on the settee to windward. Dibs fell to leeward when Farr Out went over a wave and landed on top of Ross. He made himself comfortable thinking this is nice and then Ross reminded him, ‘can you get off me John?’. Unfortunately the conditions took their toll and a DNF was the result.

Into the early 90s and after a foray into a string of powerboats, Dibs decided to get back in to sailing again. I hunted around for a while and Robyn and I finally found a Pawtucket35 at Pittwater, Indulgence. The first sail back to the harbour was in a NorEaster, lovely days sail but the usual new boat hassles meant a re think on the layout was required. I’ve forgotten how many winches we pulled off in favour of a bank of clutches, but it was quite a few. The final layout favoured shorter crew numbers, perfect for family sailing and weekends away.

As was the norm at the time, a race to Coffs at Christmas was on the cards. Bret Scott made a new #2 headsail as the conditions dictated it would get a lot of use. It was the perfect sail for the blast reaching at the start with a honking westerly, unfortunately it couldn’t go down the forward hatch, had to be bagged and dragged aft to go below. Race was finished inside 40hrs, so another good one.

Next up was Mooloolaba. The start was light and unfortunately we missed the wind gate and ended up with a couple of others well behind the main fleet. It wasn’t to be a small boat race, we ended pulling the pin at Coffs when most were finishing. I think we spent most of the day around Seal Rocks wallowing and watching the rest move away. For the return to Middle Harbour, there was just the four of us, Magoo [John’s longtime navigator]and his partner Robyn and for this one, my next door neighbour Paul Wilson. Due to the calm conditions, we taught Paul how to steer to the compass and away he went, thrilled with the experience of his first offshore trip. At breakfast the following morning with Paul alone on deck whilst the rest of us had a clean-up and rest, Paul posed the question ‘What time do the Dolphins come?’ “About 0900″. Silly question, silly answer. They turned up at 0915 with a delighted Paul on deck enjoying the dolphins on the bow wave.  My response to his whoops of joy? ” Bugger, they’re late!”. We all dined out on that one for a few years.

The following season was another Coffs, but what was more memorable was the couple of weeks Robyn and I with the girls spent aboard at Pittwater after the return trip. It was the year 1993 that West Head went up in smoke and we spent quite some time watching the emergency services tackling the fires. The smell after was too much down below, so whilst  Robyn and Melissa drove home in the car, Jillian [aged 10] and I brought the boat back to Sydney. It was another nice sail down the coast, just the two of us.

I did another two handed race around the harbour, this time on Indulgence with Daniel Yaffe, son of Syd from the Patsy days. Highlight was being able to set both the spinnaker and blooper down Middle Harbour to the finish. Melissa was with the other junior sailors and one made the comment, ‘look at the boat with two spinnakers up’. ‘Ahh, that’s just Dad!’. Big rush to get both down before the bridge.

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I got a call from one of Melissa’s Animus girls, Tiffany. Tiff wanted to know if I could do Southport on Next a Sydney38 with her, ‘who else is on?’ ‘Yeah ok’. This was a time when there was a fleet of S38s racing offshore so it was good competition from the start. I worked out not long before we got out the heads that I had to do a fair bit of tactics and driving after getting caught on port early. Nice call Jason. There were some long sessions on the helm with the longest from before Byron to after Tweed Heads in a NorEaster, short tacking up the beach out of the set. I got off the helm stuffed, some of the crew wanted me back on as the speed had dropped, but I couldn’t. Hard one that one.

In late 2005 I got a call, ‘would you do Hobart as helm and tactician?’. ‘Why not?’. After plenty of right hand turns, I was yet to cross Bass Strait and David and Andrea McKay had one goal – finish. The first 24hrs was pretty quiet, just working away south. The second night was a ripper NorEaster and we made good ground surfing a 49′ steel cruising boat in the high teens. Coming to the Strait we were near a Cole43 with one of my old A10 foes, Martin aboard, we made the choice to go right into the westerly for a while and they headed east. That night was another good downhill, however the next morning saw me sewing up the luff tape on the spinnaker, tacking our way towards Tasman Light. We rounded in company with 5 others at lunchtime and before the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent River, a test of my handy work was made. ‘You fixed it Phil, you trim it!’ . It held all the way to the finish – relief. We finished before sunset and my mate Martin? He finished at 1430 the following afternoon. Won that one.

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My last offshore was with the late Nigel Holman on his Sydney39 Cuckoos Nest. This was to be the time when he found out that he was crook and spent some time in a bunk. The start was a good southerly and we blew out two spinnakers before Pittwater, Nigel said we couldn’t set the mast head, so poled out heady it was. I hit the top speed for the day with a 20, everyone else couldn’t quite get there. It was another race with the breeze going north as we went north. I’d sailed with Nigel on nearly all of his Cuckoos over the years and he’s sorely missed both out on the water and back at the bar with a rum.

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Cuckoos Nest surfing out of Sydney Harbour heading north.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of other stories from the Eighties and Nineties when I did the majority of my offshore sailing. I enjoy being offshore on a good day and there’s been plenty of them.

 

The early offshore years and trailer yachts

I started offshore sailing on Temeraire, my Dads JOG boat that he built on the front lawn at Newport during the mid 60s. I was still just in my early teens and an overnighter to Bird Island out of Pittwater was a regular occurrence. We also did a few trips down to the harbour where Dad sailed with his mates in events there. Several times, it was my responsibility to bring her back to the mooring at the Alfreds. I was able to ‘borrow’ Temeraire and go away for a weekend with my mates ‘up the creek’, overnighting at Halletts Beach, Refuge Cove and down Jerusalem. These were in the days prior to having a drivers licence and we all enjoyed the freedom as well as the responsibility. Two of us even took her to Lake Macquarie, joining in with the RSYS Squadron Cruise.

This would be the first of many Squadron cruises. The first racing was with Ash Gay on his Endeavour26 ‘Emma Chisit’. Ash was a seasoned racer and his crew consisted of three young blokes, Richard ‘Bluey’ Chapman, Ian Sanderson and myself. The following year it was aboard Tawarri a Swanson42 with the Lewis family. The next one was with Max Tunbridge and his family on ‘Amazing Grace’ a Bonbridge27 that he built alongside his panel beating works at Pymble.

The next Squaddie cruise was sometime later, Kevin Brightwells Farr6000 Blue Bayou. Heaps of fun that one, especially the spinnaker run up the coast surfing the wake of the larger boats. When asked if we would sail back in a southerly, I said “no, we’ll go back and get the trailer”. In the end we motored the whole way back to Pittwater as there was no wind.

I did my first ‘serious’ offshore regatta the SCOR at Mooloolaba on Bacardi a Cole43. This was my first real big boat experience and I learnt heaps as a 19year old. During my short period living in Queensland in the mid 70s, most of my time was sailing my boss’s Triton24 on the Brisbane River with the occasional foray out to the bay and Tangalooma.

Returning to Sydney after 18 months working up north and back into building Lasers again, from there I went to work at Sydney Sailboat Centre with Geoff Pearson and David Bray retailing a range of off the beach boats, multihulls and trailer yachts. It was during this period that I met Robyn and we settled down as a couple. Her Father John had bought Defiance, the original IOR Mk3 S&S30 built by Doug Brooker, updating from a Compass30 . Needless to say sailing on Defiance was a given. We sailed 3-4 days a week almost year round split between Defiance and the many Trailer Yacht events of the time like the Sea Spray Magazine Pittwater Islands Race.

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In January 1980, we sailed Defiance in the Australian JOG titles. We didn’t place but had a great break in the week before our wedding.  I sailed Defiance in many events, the RSYS Squadron Cruise was one. I broke the boom pulling the vang on coming down Pittwater, it was a race that afternoon to replace it as the following day was the Lady skippers day. John (Robyn’s father) and I worked flat out but we were sailing the next day with Robyn steering. We also started in a MHYC South Solitary Race, however due to electrical problems and being unable to do a radio sched, we retired to Pittwater.

We campaigned the Farr6000 with Marita Wilmot before Marita and James as well as Robyn and myself started families. These were great times, towing the boat up to Lake Macquarie and down to St Georges Basin. We created a bit of a stir as a crew and there were many competitive sailors who didn’t like being beaten by the girls. One overnight race, I was asleep below and they overtook the opposition and won the race! In another, with the wind blowing hard enough to put a reef in the mainsail, we set the spinnaker for the downhill ride. One of the opposition saw us under control and set theirs and immediately broached whilst we sailed away.

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Robyn and I went to New Zealand to compete in their TY Nationals at Napier in 1979. Sea Nymph gave us a brand new Farr6000 and we set it up on the figures from Sydney. Our third crew was one of Tony Bouzaids daughters and in the invitation race we were leading the fleet by a distance. Being the invited Aussie sailors and not wanting to finish the race in first place [an Aussie sailors Hoodoo], we pulled out and went ashore for a rum. Needless to say, the Kiwis were all over our boat to see what we’d done to it but we’d de-tuned the rig. We finally finished in third place from around one hundred competitors. The opposition included many World champions and a Gold Medallist, we were ecstatic with the result.

We sailed a Status580 one year in the Pittwater series, but the Farr6000 was our favourite. I was also asked to campaign a Blazer23 when they were first launched, however as both my crew were now mothers I had to get a new crew. Robyns’ younger siblings Jaime and Shelly joined on a few occasions. In one race down at Lake Illawarra, Shelly stepped on to the keel when we put the mast in the water. Being a dinghy sailor she thought that was what you did! We raced hard.

Around the same time MHYC ran a Two Handed series in which we competed in Defiance. John Dibble and I the first few years and then Jaime Dibble and I sailed together. These events saw many top boats of the day compete including other Half Tonners Beach Inspector, Newspaper Taxi and Industries, One Tonners like Diamond Cutter and Salamander11 and in one year the entire Admirals Cup team of Ragamuffin, Police Car and Impetuous. Top flight racing at its best although two handed and didn’t we have some fun. Worst was having to pack up at the end of the day – absolutely exhausted.

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When John decided to sell Defiance and buy a Farr1104, FarrOut, Jaime and I continued the two handed sailing and like before, good fun but hard work, especially given the competition at that time in the IOR One Ton class. Somehow we got around the track in all of the two handed races without any issues. One of the things about being shorthanded is that you have to plan ahead for the next leg. There was generally no time to sit on the side and have a breather.

Another 3000kms

Well almost, 2970 over the last week up to Queensland and back. I left home early Saturday morning and stopped by Mannering Park Sailing Club en-route. They had a couple of events at the same time, one for 14′ Catamarans and the other for O’pen Bics.  Both had good numbers of entrants.  I spoke with a couple of fellows who had driven from Griffith in central NSW with their Maricats. I was unaware that they sailed out there, but yes there’s a good fleet of mixed boats that sail on Lake Wyangan and plenty of water currently too.

It was then off to the Sunshine Coast for a few days, just another few kms. I caught up with an old mate Roscoe and we spent Sunday arguing with the TV coverage of the Bathurst1000 V8 Supercars. We were both on the ‘same page’ so it was a bit of fun.

Monday morning it was off to Noosa, an hour or so away to start the week seeing DeckHardware customers, both old and new showing off some of the new product range. It’s also good to catch up with many of the builders, riggers, sailmakers and chandlery owners as many have become pretty much good mates who I see out on the water too.

As is the case with many of these trips, finding out who is doing what, building something out the back etc opens up the talk. Having a range of products from dinghies to yachts and being interested in general is a break from the long drive.   One new build is an 8m carbon foiling catamaran being built in a backyard. The owner has a couple of sheds but now that it’s almost together it’s under a shade cloth outside. Torture boarding and spraying to come, hopefully they’ll be sailing in the New Year with the focus on Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island regattas mid-year.

On Tuesday at the end of the day, I met up with a fellow Sailing Anarchist, American yachtsman Bill [BJ] Porter who is cruising the world with his family on a HalbergRassey. It’s taken several years to get to Australia, arriving in Brisbane from New Caledonia only a few weeks ago. ‘Eventide’ will be coming to Sydney for the Christmas – New Year period and I look forward to showing them around our great harbour.

Wednesday morning saw me at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron going over a familiar boat in detail. Some time ago I was contacted about the IOR Sparkman and Stephens 1/2 tonner Defiance. This was the boat that Robyn’s father owned when we first met. We spent many years racing and mucking about on her so it was good to see the effort that Craig the new owner is putting in to keep Defiance going for another couple of decades.

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Craig started out to do a minor tidy up but like all things the job list has grown. Defiance had been ashore for nearly 10 years unattended, but was still in reasonable nick due to the craftsmanship of her builder Doug Brooker. The plan is to get her down south for Christmas with hopefully a stop over at Middle Harbour Yacht Club and show her off. He did say that if it was still a NorEaster that he’d keep going south. We’ll see. I’d love to sneak in a quick sail.

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Another friend who I caught up with was Mark Gray, who with his wife Jules have provided a comfortable bed on several occasions in Brisbane. So much that his dog ‘Beer’ will cuddle up to me, “Chardy’ not so keen but a little wary. Mark’s sailing these days is as a delivery crew on Beau Geste80 and the Volvo70 Giacomo, his stories of sailing at high speeds on these maxi yachts. Always good to see them and they look after me well.

As is the norm on these business trips, it’s non stop during the day. However it’s the variety of people that I see and the range of products that DeckHardware can offer mean it varies greatly. I can be talking to one customer about plumbing and the next about TuffLuff foils.

One great change in the trip north is the roadwork being done. Various governments have promised upgrades from the two lane highway that it’s been forever it would seem between Sydney and Brisbane. There are now bypasses from the smaller towns, although I’m sure that their economy has suffered as a result from lack of travellers. What has hit me is the ‘Rest Stops’, whilst these are large and relatively clean and tidy facilities, there’s no shade. The older style are clearings amongst the trees off to the side of the road and are a delight to stop at and have a little ‘shut eye’. I hope that in time some of the landscaping at these new ones will offer the same shade, or that they see fit to build some sort of shade structures for those who use the facilities.

I’m back out on the water this weekend, it’s the first round of the Farr40 events for the season. Two days of racing so it’ll be interesting especially given that Team Transfusion will not be sailing. The former World Champs will only be doing the States and Nationals this year. Current forecast is for strong winds, so setting a course will be interesting.