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

I went for a sail

First though, I went for a drive. I spent over a week in Queensland seeing old and new DeckHardware customers, retail outlets, sailmakers and maintenance facilities. I had a nice drive up the New England Highway as my first stop was out west of Toowoomba. The first time I saw Matt I arrived in the dark driving up the hill so I didn’t see much other than his shed, this time arriving in the morning I had the chance to see his view over the country side. There’s probably no more than 20 houses, but wow I can see why he chose that spot. Next stop was Bundaberg. Yes, home of Bundy rum and ginger beer, both different businesses on the east side of town. I had done the Bundy Rum factory tour on a previous trip, so didn’t stop this time. I did notice however that they’ve opened a new visitor centre. If you haven’t been and done the Rum tour and if you have the chance, it’s one to tick off.

 

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It was the beginning of a full week, starting at Bundaberg and working south. What was also good was the chance to catch up with a few friends and relatives overnight. Craig and Tracee surprised me with the fact that after many years being together, they were getting married that weekend. They’ve bought a new property just west of the Bruce Highway on the Sunshine Coast. Being in ‘the sticks’ they have a fire risk as well as requiring somewhere to store boats, with 10 acres there’s plenty of room. As I left the following morning, Tracee and I were on the veranda counting the kangaroos, apparently this was the largest number they had seen, over 10 and it looked like two were big alpha males, so a couple of families? Unfortunately neither of us had a chance to take a photo, I’m sure in times to come she will, as they are certainly a lot bigger than our bandicoots to get in to a vegetable garden.

 

Working my way south, the next person I caught up with overnight was former Brookvale sailmaker Tony Hannan. Tony’s retired to the northern suburbs of Brisbane and is pretty much out of the ‘rat race’, enjoying walking the dog and sailing his Laser. We could of chatted for a lot longer, but there’s always the next trip Hanno. I also stayed with my Aunt and Uncle on the Gold Coast for a couple of nights. Aside from the general banter of what are we all up to, I also try to get snippets of family history when talking with Cynthia, there’s always something that hasn’t come up in past conversations. I had always thought that PA [Percy] Yeomans of Keyline Plowing was my grandfathers brother, however I learnt that he was in fact the son of, making him my grandfathers nephew instead. As a child I can remember going to NevAllan and YeoBarney, the properties on Yeomans Road at Kurmond at the base of the Blue Mountains with all the cousins and ‘mucking’ around on the farm, sleeping in the barn at night with all the animal noises and smells rather than the sound of the sea.

 

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One slipway I visited is where Defiance, the Dibble family old S&S 1/2 tonner is being rebuilt. Craig, the new owner has kept me up to date over the last few years as work progressed. It’s a testament to Doug Brookers craft and now Peter Kerr’s workmanship that she’ll be around for another 45years. When finished Craig is taking her south to Tasmania with hopefully a stopover at MHYC and maybe a match up with the old foe Plum Crazy. She’s now back to being the light blue and with a new mast to come, the trip south should be a good one. One boat that Peter does have to work on is a 19th century Logan from Auckland, it was my first time to his shed so it’ll be interesting watching the progress of this one too.

 

It was a busy week and the return trip south was made even better by the recent opening of the Pacific Highway bypass around Macksville and Nambucca Heads. Unfortunately, I drove at night so didn’t get a good look. It was certainly quicker, however the new rest stops that have been built offer no shade. Good facilities for a quick stop but not a good rest. It’ll be interesting to see if trees are planted or shades provided to park under like the ones in northern Victoria on the Hume. Another 3400 kms on the odometer and a lot of different businesses seen.

 

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The late Benny Nossiter on the helm of Sirius.

Ohh yeah and I went for a sail last Saturday. Garth Riley is the new owner of the A10 Sirius at MHYC and gave me a call. It was the last of the winter sprint series with two races on the Sound. Race one and we were buried at the start so couldn’t get right which was the favoured side. It was a good sail however with a crew I hadn’t met before. Race two and the fleet went left and we went right so a bit off at the top, my bad that one but we caught them back on the downhill for Sirius to record a third and a third overall for the series. Well done Team Sirius, it was great to have the chance to sail again especially on a Adams10 that I’d sailed before under the previous ownership, hopefully not the last. It was a nice day at least, at typical winters day with a land breeze to start and a sea breeze to finish, one of those good not to be the RO for.

 

As the year marches on, it’s not that far away to the start of the Summer sailing season in Sydney, about 6 weeks for many clubs. The Gold Coast race starts soon too for those heading north

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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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.

Saturday on the harbour, Sunday on the road

Every so often it rains in Sydney, well it is needed to fill the dams and water the gardens.. Saturday a week ago was no different with a light drizzle to kick the day off on Hugh George running the MHYC pointscore races. One of the delights of being out on the harbour is seeing what comes and goes. In this case on Saturday it was the 67m [220′] Super Yacht Hetairos heading out. Driving over the harbour bridge you could see the twin masts sticking above everything else, too big to go under. Racing wise for MHYC it was a standard southerly course, nothing special.

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After sailing I headed down to Lake Illawarra to take in some Flying Eleven sailing on Sunday, camping with many of the parents and competitors. Sunday was the annual Sydney to the ‘Gong’ bike ride, so it made sense to avoid the traffic. Once again it was great to catch up with many of the sailors, talking boats and gear and with their parents reminiscing as you do.

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Last Saturday brought a nice easterly, took a while to come in and there was a fair bit of toing and froing with a couple of course options. Would the breeze keep going left or stay out of the east. Finally we set an east course with the finish line up in Quarantine. In the end the breeze did go left so it was a good work to finish, but the runs were a little one sided. What was great to see was a near full entry turnout on the line, it’s been pretty barren of late, with some owners retiring and others selling and still boatless. Lovely day all the same.

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Yesterday I headed up to Lake Macquarie, stopping by the O’pen Bics at Mannering Park before heading on to South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club to catch up with a DeckHardware Ambassador.  Jed Fatches has been a long time ambassador from his days in Sabots, then Flying Elevens and now skippering a NACRA15 sailing with Karma deKock. These two are both keen sailors, sailing as much and as often as they can. Jed has made the odd appearance on Mad Max [nee Animus] the Adams10 out of Wangi and Karma I last saw sailing with her father Joe a few weeks back on his Farr40 Good Form. With both sailing a multitude of classes. It’s all about time on water and exposure to different conditions the sport of Sailing can produce. Adam Beashel was running a two day session for the NACRA15s and it was interesting to sit in on his onshore briefing on rig setups for the conditions. I took a note of what was on the board and Adam said he’d better do the same, as we grinned at each other. It was great to spend a little time with him too, talking about his parents and boats.

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Then it was home to spend sometime in the garden and some 4.5hours later, it needed attention. Next week it’s off to yet another club, over the harbour bridge 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.