What a week and a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Back on the 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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Nor-West for a day

Now and again I get the opportunity to teach a little about the art of being a Race Officer. Last June when at the Keepit Kool regatta near Gunnedah, I mentioned to some of the members that I was available to provide a session on race management.  Australian Sailing coordinated with the Club and I went up to the Lake on Saturday, about a 5 1/2 hr drive from Sydney to impart some of my knowledge and experiences. It was fantastic to see the effort taken as everyone present had quite a drive to the club, most over an hour from places like Gunnedah, Tamworth and Quirindi. The dam level is still pretty high at 63% but they were talking about those downstream needing water for farming, I hope that when the club hosts the 50th running of the Keepit Kool next June, there’s still plenty there.

 

I had a full room, pretty much every member of Lake Keepit Sailing Club attended and we went through the art of being a race officer. After nearly four hours of me talking, with a tea break in the middle, we finished up with a session on the clubs start boat running through a start sequence. The three members on the boat had an issue when I pointed out that we had a couple on the pontoon that were standing in front of the Orange flag. Hah, they were OCS and the Individual flag was called for, meaning a bit of a scurry to find it with a minute to go. Everyone enjoyed that part of the session especially, pushing each other, making sure it was done correctly.

 

For me the highlight of the day was meeting up with my first Manly Junior skipper. I had crewed for a little while at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club before Dad built my first Manly Junior when I was about 9. It was great to catch up with Keith Garrett after all this time, however he has now confirmed that his sail number was 268 and the name was Dragonfly, not the 245 as I had thought. It was funny answering his questions, ‘Did you or your father sail at RPAYC – Yes’. ‘Did you crew on a MJ – Yes’, ‘My name is…Wow!’. We had only a little time to chat, no doubt, the next time I go to Keepit we’ll talk some more.

 

After nearly all day at Keepit, it was time to head home again. The priority was to be home in time to sit in front of the TV and watch a car race on Sunday. And what a race it was at Mount Panorama, this year had a bit of everything. Rain and wet tyres, no safety car for something like 80 laps then a few, cars diving off at the end of Conrod heading out of the track to Bathurst City and of course the dramas at the end with dry slick tyres and having to conserve fuel. Great to watch and good for the sport to have the ‘little team that could’ win.

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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