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

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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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.

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.