Keepit at Copeton

There’s two essential things that make for a good regatta, they are water and wind.  There is a distinct lack of water in inland Australia and the 51st Keepit Kool Regatta at Lake Keepit was a victim. I’ve been there when there’s been over 70% and as little as 9 or 10%, however this year its empty or as close as 1% can be.  Certainly not enough to go sailing with anything but a remote controlled yacht.  As a result the Keepit locals decided that to sail they had to take their boats elsewhere and in this case it was to Copeton Dam several hours away. Copeton when full certainly covers a huge area, however with 9.3% there’s just enough to go sailing. Several of us there for the first time are waiting for it to be near full to go back and have a look. There’s a huge amount of space and those not staying in the powered section of the park, preferring to be off the grid, had plenty of room to themselves. The only issue was a lack of phone reception in the area which created the usual technological issues of today’s world. There were those of course who loved not being distracted by emails, text messages and phone calls.

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A few of the Copeton locals in the early morning. That’s the water down there!

Thirty hardy crews arrived for the weekends racing, some from Keepit surrounds, others travelling from Newcastle and Sydney. Understandably the numbers were halved, with a combination of factors. The second element in sailing is the wind and apart from one brief instance whilst the briefing was being held, the flags drooped all weekend, struggling at best to get to 5knots.

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Gust of the weekend, I had to take a photo whilst the briefing was being held.

As is the norm for country events, there’s a mixture of boats, from sportsboats and smaller trailerable yachts, a range of multihulls and the usual fleet of Lasers and mixed monohulls. A rather intrepid young fellow even tried his sailboard, unfortunately having to paddle or get assisted back to shore in the glassouts mid race. Only one race was completed on Saturday, with three on Sunday and a ‘passage’ race on Monday morning. The on water race management team did their best given the conditions.

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Pretty much the weekends conditions.

Keepit is known for it’s evening social life with organised ‘home cooked’ dinners on Saturday and Sunday. The yabby races and the trivia followed. As runners up in the trivia, our table thought we did pretty well, maybe next year we can go one better. Hopefully inland Australia will receive some much needed rain and we can return to Keepit for the 52nd Keepit Kool.

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Mondays passage race. You can see by the opposite side, just how much the water level is down. Where I’m standing would be under water when full.

 

Wallagoot Lake 2019

Last weekend saw my now annual trip south to Wallagoot Lake for their annual regatta. This was my 4th time they’ve asked me to be the Race Officer and this year saw the NSW Sabre class include this event as their State Titles for the second time. The class have indeed made the decision to make this event at Wallagoot a fixture on their calendar. This year also saw an influx of Sabre sailors from Victoria for the first time and the locals are hoping that some of their knowledge will be passed on after the first six placings were held by those who came north.

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Sunset view from the clubhouse of a lone pelican

It’s normally a six hour drive south, however as is the norm these days there’s always someone to stuff the road system getting out of Sydney and it took me nearly ninety minutes longer due to an incident in one of the tunnels heading down the Hume Highway. This backed everything up to the harbour tunnel making it a crawl, something I’d hate to do on a daily basis. Instead I took the coast road and it made the trip just that bit easier once past Botany Bay. I came home via the inland and had a good run especially up Brown Mountain, part of the Great Dividing Range.

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Sabre fleet working to windward

Saturday morning was more of the same that I’ve experienced before at Wallagoot, the land breeze fades out, giving in to the seabreeze, this time with a bit of south in it. We got in the first race an hour late, then a break for lunch and at 1500 got in two more races in a nice 5-8knot seabreeze. A good day on the water for all.

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Saturday afternoon

Sunday morning saw more of the same with a dying land breeze and the seabreeze struggling to come in and even though we only had two races to run, the seabreeze only allowed one for the rest of the divisions.  We just got in the fifth race for the Sabres shortening them after the first triangle.

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Hurry up and wait, we had a bit of this. The Pacific Ocean is just over the hill and you can hear the surf at night.

In checking the weather up and down the coast, it was interesting to note that the Farr40s on Sydney Harbour were also postponed due to lack of wind over the weekend.

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With over fifty entries this was the largest fleet at Wallagoot for quite some time and those coming for the first time all expressed that they’ll be back. With the candlelight dinner on Saturday evening and live music from a local NS14 sailor, why wouldn’t you put this on your calendar.

Jindabyne moved

In previous years the annual Snowy Mountains Regatta was held in late February, however Lake Jindabyne Sailing Club had several clashes at that time of year, so a move was on. Bringing it forward to pre-Christmas was the go, I was able to fit it in then too.  Returning again for another stint as the regatta race officer is always a joy, I thoroughly enjoy the country hospitality too.

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Coming ashore Friday evening

 

Again as in previous years, I’ve left Sydney around lunchtime and headed south, although this time I had a quick stop at Woolwich Dock to drop off some PROtect Tape for the 100’er Infotrack. Luckily once out of the horror metropolitan city traffic it was a good run and whilst I missed the start of the Friday evening race, I was there in time for the team to come and pick me up off the beach for the finish. They had a great evening sail with just enough to make it pleasant. The club locals then put on the usual great spread for dinner, finishing with a couple of rather large pavlovas!

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Whilst we programmed for 4 divisions, Multi’s, trailerable, dinghies and Lasers, we only had the one competitive trailer yacht, an Elliot7 who we put in with the mixed dinghies. I’d been talking about this regatta to a couple of close friends, James and Marita who talked a couple of their friends Steve and Paul in to coming to Jindabyne. I know it’s a long haul from Sydney but it’s a great country regatta and hopefully we can attract more again next year. We’ve had all sort of mixed trailerables from VX1’s to Flying Fifteens in the past.

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Good fleet of Multihulls

 

 

Saturday dawned with a typical local glassout but the forecast looked good and it was, for one race. Again it was good to have boat driver and Sabre sailor Ross and the Lake Jindabyne Sailing Club RO John with me on the start boat, the three of us have done this for a few years now. We shortened up the Multihulls so we could get another race away, however with only Brett White’s 20′ carbon flyer remotely looking like finishing it was time to abandon and go ashore. Hurry up and wait was the order of the day and in the end it was ‘beeroclock’. Given that the temperature was in the 30’s, everyone was quite happy on that call. One thing about sailing in Jindabyne, the water is fresh and drinkable.

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Laser start

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Saturday afternoon glassout

 

Sunday started as a followup to the day before until the breeze arrived out of the east. It was fantastic to get two good races in, around 10-15 knots of wind. Plenty of laughter as the tail finished the second race screaming downhill in a huge squirt. The 14 strong fleet of Lasers especially made it hard work for Ross and John to keep up with the pencilling, luckily I had my tape running and John was able to work off that, forward – rewind – forward – rewind..

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Sundays breeze 

 

 

And then as they say, it all happened. A large nasty black cloud appeared and then dumped some heavy rain on us, the breeze rotated right 90degrees and upped the ante to over 20knots. Many sailors sheltered in a little cove on the side of the lake, smart, better than sailing around. In the end I decided that it was AP over A, too hard for some of the younger sailors to stay upright and the older ones too enjoyed a little relief. Typically as Ross pointed out, the front went through and the wind died completely resulting in us becoming a towboat, towing competitors home.

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The breeze however stayed calm as the Sun came out, so at least it was nice for the regatta presentations. One of the lighter comments that afternoon was from MG/NS14 sailor Tony Hastings from Wallagoot Lake, I asked him why he was taking so long to unrig preferring a beer instead. His reply? “Hey, the boat’s got a good wash, waiting for it to dry!’ Thoughts of a saltwater sailing in fresh, brilliant. Another competitor hadn’t sailed there for a few decades, he said he’d be back next year not leaving it too long. I hopefully will be back too, unlike some dams like Keepit there’s plenty of fresh water for sailing.

And this appeared on the club notice board, courtesy of John Byrne. I’m yet to work out what I have.

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Just a quick trip south

Last week I spent a few days south. First up on Saturday morning, was a quick stop in Canberra then across to the coast where I stopped by Wallagoot Lake Boat Club. They were just finishing their days racing and a few of them were pleasantly surprised to see me. One thought I was an apparition! It was good to see them again as many have become good friends in my time officiating their annual regatta. They were quite pleased to show me their new start/rescue/mark laying boat, a new alloy runabout with more room in the bow for buoys. They were yet to set it up fully and were keen on my input. I’ll be back again for their annual regatta later in the season which again incorporates the NSW State Sabre titles.

Wallagoot Lake

Heading further south down the coast, the next stop was Paynesville, where again I surprised a few at the club by turning up. It was the first race of the season for them and I enjoyed wandering around chatting with those who remembered my DeckHardware product talk last season. After a couple of hours break, it was back on the road and heading to Port Phillip Bay.

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I spent the next couple of days driving anti-clockwise around Port Phillip, starting at Sorrento and finishing off at Geelong and Queenscliff before heading home. It’s always good to catch up and have dinner with friends and in this case it was Marty and Sue Sly, legends for their boatwork in Melbourne. It’s nice to catch up on all the gossip around the traps after hours when you have a bit more time on your hands. Whilst I didn’t have the time to see every one this time around, hopefully I’ll make it up on the next trip.

Again it was nice to see Vicroads updating the rest areas and the facilities on the Hume, however like NSW Roads and Maritime, there’s a great expanse of new tar and concrete but no shelter from the Sun or rain. Like the Pacific Highway in northern NSW, all the trees that provided some sort of relief in the past have been removed. I guess those that those who design these rest areas don’t use them.

Clear start

This weekend past, I spent another couple of days officiating the local Farr40 fleet for their monthly regatta, only six boats this time but again the racing was close. Tom Quick’s Outlaw was the eventual winner with tactician David Chapman bringing his father Richard and uncle Bob Wilmot out of hiding to assist. It’s always enjoyable working with the Farr40s, they are a great bunch of very keen and experienced sailors and those who volunteer to assist me on the start boat always go away having learnt something.  We had a great day offshore on Saturday with a 10-12knot NorEaster and a reasonably flat sea and on Sunday in the harbour despite the forecasts, we had another great 12-14knots from the South East. Sunday was the shiftiest breeze inshore I’ve seen for a while, there was no pattern to it, but the shifts were all over the place from 150* to 200*, those that worked them made the most. Very testing.

 

Delivery South

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

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

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

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

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

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