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.

I visited the West Coast for the week

This time it was off to Perth and the DeckHardware van stayed home. The nice bit was the hire car company ‘upgrading’ me from the compact booked to a newer Commodore SV6. Robyn has an older model, so it wasn’t an issue to drive. What was nice though, was the newer features now on offer. Things like the lane changing warnings on the side mirrors, the intermittent wiper controls but more so was the number of lights when driving at night. Day one, drive one was from the airport down to Bunbury. Pleasant on the new freeway south and I was out of Perth before the afternoon peak too.

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Bunbury is a few hours drive south and I was able to catch up with a few stockists and show off some of the new DeckHardware products. As is the case a lot of times, they see the updates on products on our website and in emails but it’s not until they touch and feel that they understand what the product is all about.  They also asked me to stay a little longer but the following day I had to be at Royal Perth Yacht Club at 0900 so it wasn’t an option. I’ve often said how great the country sailors are and this was no exception even though I only see them probably once a year.

Saturday morning was an early start at RPYC, this time I was attending my third Australian Sailing Club Conference. Again there was an excellent turn up including some who had travelled from Albany and Walpole down on the south coast. These talks have been an excellent information package and each time I go away with something new about the management of our sport. Sydney’s is in a few weeks’ time, so again that’ll be interesting to see who’s there. On Sunday, I spent the day catching up with a few mates including Justin Kelleher who introduced me to the Lost at See Blind Sailing team as they were about to head off to the USA for their championships. JK as a sighted crew can’t touch anything on the boat, instead relaying what’s happening both on the boat and to the all-female crew. They gave me the honour of drawing their fund raising raffle and I hope that the winners were all happy.

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The next three and a half days were spent between Mandurah down south and Mindarie in the north seeing as many stockists as possible showing off some of the new product range. One of the bigger issues that I had driving around, is that I had to remember where I was. Having been to Southern Queensland and Victoria in the last month or so, a focus on who was next was required. Yes, I do use the GPS but only now and then for just a few off the beaten track. WA like the rest of the country is in a building stage and new roads are opened and older closed especially around the airport which threw me out a bit.

On Wednesday night I held a talk at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club discussing a few of the maintenance topics that some have with their boats. A good crowd were receptive and we discussed all things on boats and sailing. It was also great to catch up and have dinner with Colin Harrison the Australian Gold medal winning Sonar skipper in Rio. Unfortunately Sailing is no longer a Paralympic sport so we don’t get to see these guys much any more. The Sonar team coach Grant Alderson also joined us and we discussed ‘worldly issues’ over a meal.

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As always, these interstate trip can’t be done without the support of a few people and this time once again, Paul, Sarah, Murray and Grant helped out. Thanks as always especially to my hosts.

 

Bypassing the snow

I headed south for the first time in a while, Canberra was the first stop at the Yacht Club to see their manager Matt Owen and show him a few things. Matt was joined by a couple of club sailors as well, peeking in the various bins as I showed some of the new products. There’s always plenty of banter with Matt, we get on well and this of course was added to with his fellow members. Whilst only a short stop, it was then off to have a look at a new sportsboat about to hit the water. I’d seen it being finished off at Innovation Composites in Nowra and now with only a week or so prior to launching, there’s always a few last minute items that are required. It’s always good of course to sit down with the owners and think about the choices of products before launching.

Canberra

After a few hours in Canberra, my next stop was to Paynesville, normally a reasonable drive till the road comes down the mountain to the coast. What I’d heard most of the day however was warnings about the crook conditions, wind snow and ice. Given the option, I headed east to the coast at Batemans Bay then the rest of the way down the coast road. This added nearly 4hrs to the overall drive, but it was a little warmer and I had plenty of time.

Just a little cool leaving Canberra

Gippsland Lakes Sailing Club was the plan for the day. They were holding a winter race and a small but keen group assembled for the briefing before heading out on the water. A variety of boats from Minnows through to Flying Fifteens greeted the day but by the time they reached the course area around the corner of Raymond Island the forecast wind had picked up and it was blowing high20/early 30s and the start team called it a day, abandoning the racing.

We had planned a product and maintenance talk at the club after sailing, something that we’d been working on for a while. Most of the sailors hung around and a few went home and returned and a few others who didn’t sail also joined in.  I had a variety of DeckHardware products on display and spoke about a range of topics from rope and plumbing to maintaining spinnaker pole ends and sails. Feedback from those attending was great with some excellent questions that all listened to. Everyone came away having learnt something.

Paynesville

Monday morning was spent seeing a range of DeckHardware customers around Paynesville before a drive in to Melbourne. In recent years I’ve been lucky enough to stay with my old mate Eylsey  and his partner Sharon, however they have decided to move south to Safety Beach so I was fortunate to call on Peter and Leonie Coleman. Pete’s a long time Etchells sailor so plenty to chin wag about.

I spent the rest of the week seeing various customers both old and new anti-clockwise around Port Phillip from Sorrento to Queenscliff showing off the range of DeckHardware products, both old and new. I didn’t have the time to wander around the marinas to see what’s new although one boat I did sail on back in the 70s is still at Paynesville  where I saw her last. Casablanca was designed and built by John Biddlecombe at Mona Vale  and I did my first Montague Island Race on her before the addition of the cabin top. Another found was Sir James Hardys Olympic Tempest Traminer, now fitted with a cabin top and being set up as a sportsboat, interesting.

Traminer

On Saturday I attended the Victorian Club Conference held by Australian Sailing [YA/AYF] but there were slight changes. These talks I found beneficial and it’ll be interesting to see how the Perth talk next week and the Sydney one not long after are attended.

So after a pretty full week it was home on Sunday, up the Hume an uneventful drive under 10hrs door to door and just under 3000kms.