Newcastle

Some time ago I was contacted by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club to be the Race Officer for the NSW Country Offshore Championships held out of their home base at Newcastle. Whilst I’d sailed past quite a few times, I’d only ever entered the harbour once under sail and that was at night, so I was up for the challenge. Something new and different.

Despite the forecast, it was a lovely northerly seabreeze that greeted us as we went outside and turned left up Stockton Beach for a mile or so. Clear skies and a relatively flat sea also made it pretty easy for race management and the mark layers in their RIBs. The breeze however shifted throughout the day over the course of the three races, especially for the last race  when I decided against another course change.

Nine Dragons leading Kahleesi

Gate rounding at Newcastle

With a fleet of over 25 boats competing in three divisions, many had their opposition panned out. In Division One Middle Harbour Yacht Clubs Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons took overall honours from club sistership Kahleesi with another MHYC club entrant Cookson12 Philosopher third in PHS whilst NCYC’s Farr40 Good Form was third on IRC. It was a good mixed bag of boats including a TP52, Sydney46,  J122 and  Farr400, gate roundings were always close. In Division Two it was all about the little Farr31, SoFarr skippered by Lake Macquarie’s Mark Long who lead from the start and around every mark of the course, leaving her larger competition struggling in her wake. Division Three was all about the mixed local cruisers who were surprisingly competitive on the startline.

Division One Race One start

Nine Dragons mid line leader

So after getting in the three races, it was back to the club and only just in time for some as the afternoon forecast rain arrived. We missed the hail of Wangi Wangi a little south of Newcastle but the precipitation was well received by all due to the current drought.

Sunday dawned with calm overcast skies. Heading back offshore it was more of the same. There was a nice little land breeze and we set up a course heading in to the beach. However just as we went in to sequence it dropped out and shifted all over the place. Only one thing to do – AP up. Unfortunately that’s the way it stayed for the next two hours! Hurry up and wait as we say. With little sign of any change and many Lake Macquarie and Sydney boats looking to get home, that was it for the day and the results of Saturdays racing stood for the overall. Disappointing for those who came up from Sydney, a big effort and thanks for your patience on Sunday. The highlight on Sunday was the arrival of a coffee run to Joe De Kocks Farr40, everyone else was impressed but wondering on the cost of the delivery boats fuel bill.

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Hopefully I’ll be back next year as it’s a great event for those who don’t venture north to Queensland. A huge thanks to all the rest of the NCYC team on and off the water who made for a well-run regatta.

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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

Back on the bike

Back on the bike as they say, or back out on the water.

Over the Easter weekend I spent a little time up at Bayview Yacht Racing Association, BYRA with the NS14s State titles. Having grown up over the road it was amazing the changes to the area and to Pittwater itself. I spent a day out on the start boat assisting the Race Officer and the changes were immense. What was really noticed having not been on Pittwater for a while is the amount of moorings that have encroached on to the sailing area, areas where we used to race are now covered by moored boats. BYRA for example used to have a channel that they could sail in and out through the moorings, nope, now filled with more moorings. It was enjoyable however to be out on ‘old waters’ again and just spectating.

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The white roof in the middle of the photo is where I spent my teenage years growing up, my parents built this house in the mid 70s.

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Last weekend I drove down to Batemans Bay for their annual regatta. It’s been a while since I’ve been out on the water running a few races and here was the classic example of why I’ve enjoyed doing yacht racing race management. Whilst BBSC is predominantly a yacht club, this regatta which has been running for several decades is catering for trailerables and off the beach classes. As a result the yacht owners and crews man the support and race management boats with a little extra RIB support from Canberra, so there’s plenty of experience and enthusiasm.

This year there were nine divisions with 57 entries across two courses, Divisions 1-6 ‘outside’ and the smaller including Sailablity, 7,8 & 9 inside Snapper Island. I had multiple divisions outside with classes like Flying Dutchmans, 505 and Lightweight Sharpies. With others like Lasers and Spirals and several multihull types like Hobies, Prindles and Wetas. Unfortunately the trailer yachts/sports boats were missing this year, pity as they missed some great sailing conditions.

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On Saturday the breeze was mainly out of the south as was the 2m swell giving plenty of volunteers issues bobbing around. The odd shower didn’t help but we managed to avoid the greater majority of precipitation. However the breeze was between 5-10knots so we got two races finished, although I shortened both by a lap. Sunday was far better, the swell had gone down and the breeze was up just a little to around 12knots. Couldn’t have asked for better conditions with the Sun out and I know many had fun on the reaching legs. Capsizes were very few, I only saw a couple and even those were of the Oops variety.

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 The forecast rain even held off till it was time to go home and then did it come down! There was plenty of localised roadside flooding. I don’t think I’ve driven in conditions like that for a while, the last time was coming south near Taree several years ago. The lightning show was pretty spectacular and as I drove north I was happy to leave it behind.

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 As always in these country events, the odd well known sailor will ‘pop up’ in a borrowed something or other. Tasar sailors like Rob Douglass and Rick Longbottom sailed a FD and a Laser respectively, well known skiff crew Cam McDonald was on a multihull this time and Nowra sailmaker Adrian Mills sailed his Hobie 14 to a division win.

The regatta is held around the ANZAC holiday weekend and it should be on everyone’s must do list. The years that I have been involved have had great sailing in great conditions and there’s pretty much a division for everyone. See you next year?

Already planning for next season has started with one club being in touch for their annual regatta in next February. Gosh, that’ll be 2019! Next up though is the 50th Keepit Kool Regatta in June and that is one that should be on the list of entering, I know I’ll be there. Hopefully there’ll be plenty of water like in the photo below.

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Wallagoot Lake

Last weekend I drove down to Wallagoot Lake for their annual five race regatta and to act as the Principal Race Officer. As in past visits, there’s an array of classes and divisions and this year the NSW Sabre Dinghy sailors joined to have their State Championships run as part of the event. Each year sailors come from a range of places and this year was no exception, there were Maricat sailors from Wagga Wagga and Sabre sailors from Sydney and Newcastle. There were of course the usual travellers from Jindabyne, Canberra and Batemans Bay, the event attracts a wide spread.

 

2018-03-09 19.50.48Evenings at Wallagoot Lake

In consultation with the club officials, we decided on the following starting order, Sabres, Catamarans, Lasers and then a mixed fleet that included a Lightweight Sharpie, a Finn, a Waszp, RS Dinghies and a larger group of NS14s. Missing this year were the trailer-sailers, they were probably away at the overnight Marlay Point Race in North Eastern Victoria which had a huge fleet this year.

2018-03-10 06.31.15Mornings at Wallagoot Lake

Saturday greeted us in the usual Wallagoot way, a nice land breeze of about 8knots and clear skies. Having been there plenty of times before I knew what to expect later, Seabreezes. When the wind came in from the Noreast, it really came in, we had gusts to 18knots and the afternoon average was around 14-15knots. Great for sailing and everyone enjoyed the reaches, except for those unexpected capsizes. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was finished off with a candlelight dinner at the clubhouse. Being in a National Park, there’s no mains power, so the only generated light powers a couple of spots in the kitchen. It makes for a great atmosphere for sailors talking about their day on the water.

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Sunday dawned just like usual, nice land breeze again and then nothing till the seabreeze came in around 1100. This time however and thankfully for those licking their wounds from capsizing the day before, it was a nice easterly of around 8knots. Two races finished the regatta off and for those coming for the first time, there was plenty of talk about returning next year. I’ll be back too! So will the Sabres who liked it so much that they’ll have their States there again next year. Maybe a few Victorians might make the trek too.

Of course it couldn’t happen without a few volunteers behind the scenes, those in the kitchen serving great lunches and an all you can eat dinner and Rob Morton who sailed then unrigged before sitting down and entering all the results. The mark laying teams did a great job and my role was made all the easier by the knowledgeable assistance of Bob Harris and Mervyn Dorrough on the start boat. Another great weekend at Wallagoot Lake.

The seasons not over yet, I’ll have the DeckHardware regatta support van at BYRA on Pittwater for the NS14 states. Having grown up over the road, it’s familiar territory. Following that I’ll be back to Batemans Bay, once again acting as the Principal Race Officer. It’ll be good to see my mates from down south again.

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.

 

 

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.