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.

It’s been a busy start to 2018

Three weeks ago, I ran a weekend of racing for the Farr40 fleet at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This was a prelude for the boats to tune up for the NSW States held over the last weekend. In the middle was the Adams10m Nationals over the Australia day holiday weekend. Over the three consecutive weekends we ran about 28 race starts.

For the first weekend of the Farr40s, I asked for and received two days of lovely NorEasters and with just the five boats it was some great racing with Jeff Carters Team Edake on top. This was the second event that Edake has finished on top, following his success at the Newcastle regatta in late 2017. The eight races gave the crews a chance to blow out a few cobwebs and train any new crew prior to the States.

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Having been blessed with NorEasters the previous weekend, again we had hoped for more of the same and more were given for the small but competitive fleet of Adams10s. Clear skies and a great breeze gave the fleet some good racing and the overall leader board changed after each race. Leading in to the last day was new Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany’s Powderhulk, however a couple of inconsistent races on the last day cost them the series win. Fellow MHYC sailor and former Rugby boss Rob Clarkes, Kick and Chase once again pulled a couple of last day keepers, however overall it was 2001 winner Backchat now skippered by Tom Braidwood from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club who won overall in 2018. In a sign of the times, Toms crew included North Sails Australia boss Michael Coxon, one of several sailmakers represented in the fleet.

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Last weekend, whilst we had hoped for more NorEasters, on Saturday we ended up offshore on the Manly Circle with a strong 15-20knot Southerly with a 2m swell. Once again the volunteer start team worked wonders to give the Farr40s some good racing and with plenty of well-known tacticians including Tom Slingsby, Steve McConaghy, David Chapman, Will Ryan and Gary Gietz. As expected, it was pretty tight racing especially downwind with plenty of waves to surf. After three races and in consultation with the class president, it was decided that was enough and racing was adjourned for the day. Sunday’s wind was forecasted to be again out of the south with the course inshore on The Sound. With a few showers around, we went in to sequence for the first race of the day. It was not to be however, the rain killed the breeze and a postponement of ninety minutes was the outcome. We moved the fleet down the harbour and finally a Southeaster of around 8 knots settled in. With a course across the runout tide from Obelisk Bay to Watsons Bay, it was a challenge for all, both upwind and down. Do you go right or left, do you gybe early or late? Many decided that up and down the middle was the way to go, tacking and gybing on the shifts. In the end it was the Martin Hill and Tom Slingsby combination on top. On behalf of the MHYC volunteer start team, it’s a joy to be able to work with the Farr40s. The class administration, especially Jen Hughes looks after the sailors with great dock parties after racing. The competitors give us the opportunity to watch some of the world’s best at work.

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For something a little different I’m off to BYRA this Sunday and my old stomping ground on Pittwater. A lot has changed  over the last 45 years since I sailed there in Fireballs and 505s.

And with all of the race management over the last few weeks, something I’ve been thinking about for a while. This week I’ve stepped down as Middle Harbour Principal Race Officer.  I’ll still be available for important regattas at the club, like the Farr40s, Sydney Harbour Regatta and the Rolex Sydney Hobart start. However after thirteen seasons of running Saturday and Winter sailing, it’s time out and time to go back to sailing itself and enjoying the sport I’ve grown up in. A huge thanks go to the other volunteer members of the start team over the years, hard work at times, frustrating too but they are an enjoyable bunch to spend a day or two on the water with and there’s been plenty of laughs along the way.



Farr40s round two

This weekend saw round two for the Farr40 calendar for season 2017-2018 at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. The weather forecast didn’t look good, both ways, too windy and not enough.

Saturday we went offshore to what is referred to as the Manly Circle. We have two known offshore course areas off Sydney, one is off the southern part of the northern beaches known as the Manly Circle.  The other area is south of Sydney Heads and known as the Macquarie Circle due to the proximity of Macquarie Lighthouse. The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron had their turn in running the offshore IRC boats and as it was a southerly breeze they went south. To avoid any confusion in marks, we went north to Manly an area I much prefer, as the water is shallower making it easier to lay and move marks and it’s usually a better seaway. So with a small but keen fleet we were off the northern beaches for the day.

We set up a course in a nice southerly of 15-18knots and this pretty much held for the majority of the time we were out there.  What we did have however was plenty of spectacular broaches, unfortunately a little too far away for any photos. These created all sorts of issues and after several withdrawals in the two races and a few chats via VHF to the remaining competitors, we adjourned to have another race inshore. That was the first AP for the weekend. Whilst not quite the space in a crowded Sydney Harbour, it was good close racing to watch and at least I could go stand on the bow and watch.

Sunday however was a different story and was always going to be looking at the weather models. We got one race away going from the western side of the harbour heading east into Watsons Bay. Then came a range of postponements due to the shifting conditions for the next two. One of the hardest days as an RO and as PhilC my timekeeper said ‘you are out of AP cards!’. We’d go into sequence and Mark one of the other volunteers was monitoring the wind he once again would call a 30-40° shift, AP up – again, with GiffC on the Halyards trying to keep up. The graph showing the shifts was something else, I don’t think I’ve seen it that bad. We got in two more races, certainly not the best but did our best given the options. It was made worse by the afternoon rains arriving during the last leg of race three killing the breeze and adding yet another shift.

Not one of the better weekends on the water, but certainly made easier by having a great team to assist, both on the start boat with me and in the mark laying. I’m looking forward to a breather next weekend in the garden.

Back into boat watching on the water

Two weeks ago was the first day out on the harbour for the 2017-8 Summer sailing season on Sydney Harbour. It commenced with a good southerly for the McConaghy38s regatta. We got in one race out on The Sound, before the conditions got a little too rough. We then moved down the harbour and around the same time the conditions eased to make it a nice day. Four races were run and Leslie Greens Team Ginger came out on top winning three of the four. Good racing.

On Sunday morning and looking to get in another three races, it was the usual ‘Hurry up and wait’ call. There was nothing on the harbour, just millpond. We were in the middle and it was great having a chat with those north at Manly16s and also with the CYCA start team who were running a match racing event down the harbour, talking about when and how much it was going to blow. After nearly two hours postponement a similar breeze to the day before came in, a nice 8-10knot sea breeze. Once again Ginger lead. Not by much, but enough.

So it was a similar track to the day before, Sydney Harbour busy as usual now that the weather is pleasant. All the normal dodgems like other fleets racing, the Manly Ferries. Sydney Harbour, it was great to be out on the water again. It was also great spending the weekend with the Clinton brothers, Phil and Giff and getting the job done.

After a weekend off the water but still talking sailing at the Sydney Clubs Conference, it was out on the water again this past weekend. First up I had to do a couple of safety audits on two Farr40s before they went offshore, not a major issue other than the early start. Saturday’s racing was the usual point score however for only two divisions. The Open’s were racing offshore and the Adams10s were down in Melbourne to defend the Waitangi Cup, the annual interstate class challenge. The other inshore divisions were greeted with a typical building summer Nor’easter, just nice. It was great to be anchored back off Quarantine at the finish line, just watching the boats go by.


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Out on the water again on Sunday with the Farr40s this time, a small fleet of five as some crews were off doing other events internationally. Close racing though, with all finishing in around a minute. The old Transfusion is now Outlaw, sailed by the Quick family and came away with the series win after the offshore on Saturday and the three inshore races on Sunday. The Melbourne crew on Double Black ended up second, enjoying their weekend in Sydney as racing was cancelled in Melbourne on Sunday due to extreme conditions.


We set up the course on Sunday to the prevailing Westerlies and whilst it shifted right during the day and the gusts came and went, it was good racing and entertaining to watch. The start team did a great job assisting me, two had never been out before and two were out helping for only the second time, it all ran pretty smoothly. All also enjoyed the experience and the chance to watch some good racing and tactics.

There’s more Farr40 events to come over the summer, they are a great bunch to work with and I enjoy the rapport at the end of the day back on the dock and in the clubhouse.

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.

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.



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.


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.


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.

Indulgence 1.jpg


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.


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.


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.