That’s the year done

Calendar year for 2017, that is with the last event being the Hobart race. The sailing and regatta season continues at full pace through January 2018.  We’ve all been doing the Rolex Sydney Hobart start for a while now, so it’s pretty much another event albeit with a little more media. Some of the MHYC team do the check in on the pin boat, the rest and a couple of extras are on the start boat. The photo below is of us out early before the start, getting everything in order. Thanks to Michael Hogan for the photo from one of the spectator boats.

Hugh George RSHYR2017

 

It’s been a fun year, again getting around to a few regattas out in the country and away from Sydney, it’s always good to get away from the ‘local pond’. I’ll be hanging around a few regattas in the coming weeks before stepping back on the start boat towards the end of January. Then, I’ll have a weekend of looking after the Farr40s followed by 3 days of the Adams10s and then followed by yet another weekend of the Farr40s. It’s always good to watch these guys, both are great fleets with good sportsmanship, that is few if any protests.

 

It was sad to hear of the virtual destruction of the Big River Sailing Club clubhouse in a recent weather event on the north coast of NSW. At Maclean nearby the local pub lost its roof along with plenty of other damage. I’ve always enjoyed going to their events and hopefully next season, I’ll have the chance. Knowing the committee will do their best to rebuild, they need competitors support of their regattas, I hope everyone will help by entering.

 

I’ll be sitting down over the coming weeks and planning the year ahead, what’s on when and which regatta to either attend or officiate and planning the work trips, both around New South Wales and interstate. I’m already heading to Wallagoot Lake in March, the weekend after the MHYC Sydney Harbour Regatta. Another in the pipeline is the 50th Keepit Kool mid year.

One finishes and another starts

Well that’s the Winter done and dusted for Sydney and Middle Harbour Yacht Club. Tomorrow is the season opener for 2016/2017 Summer season. No radical changes to the format, so more of the same, hopefully with typical summer Nor’easters under clear skies.

We also have Bart’s Bash coming up in a couple of weeks and Mel has borrowed Sirius and rounded up some of her old gang and a few others to give the A10 fleet a run for their money. It’ll be fun to watch. So those at MHYC on the 17th make sure you sign up for Bart’s Bash!

Of course we’ve also seen the Australian Sailing Team again take out the honours at the Rio Olympics, being the most successful team with 7 of the sailors from 11 coming home with either a Gold or Silver Medal. Congratulations to all involved out on the water, it’s a huge effort from all the sailors and their support team. It goes without saying that we like to think we’ve played a little part in their success when they come to visit us in the warehouse at DeckHardware. I’ve watched closely the last few years the NACRA team of Jason and Lisa. First up as a member of the start team at Sail Melbourne/ISAF World Cup at Sandringham, watching how they communicate on and off the water, Jason’s body positioning on board, kneeling first before going out on the wire. Lisa has been a regular visitor working out what they needed where and it’s been great to be a part their program. Another frequent visitor was our Laser Gold Medallist Tom Burton, as I had sailed and built Lasers back in the 1970s it was always another lesson from Tom talking how he went about things. I was also able to watch him up close one day a couple of years ago doing some coaching and I came away impressed with his skills, even I learnt how to Gybe like the top guys. I thought the main issue was always keeping the mainsheet off the corner of the transom, but there’s a lot more to it these days.

As part of the Olympic period, a few of us had an early start at MHYC with the Channel7 Sunrise Weather team. Unfortunately racing that day was abandoned in Rio but we were able to show Sam Mac around our club, even getting him out on the water on a Laser with DeckHardware Ambassador Lauren Gallaway for one live cross to the studio.

Soon we’ll see our Paralympic Sailing Team have their turn in Rio. These 6 sailors and their coaches have also been in and out over the years discussing their boats and requirements, it’s always good to see them and assist their program. Skud18 sailor Leisl Tesch has become a close friend, joining my start team the last couple of years for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. Mel and Teschy have got together regularly over the last few years, going through the Racing Rules of Sailing utilising Mel’s knowledge as an umpire, so that she and Dan are fully prepared for anything that may rise. It also helps that at one stage Leisl’s partner Mark was Melissa’s mainsheet hand on Animus.

So one finishes and another starts, both here and in Rio. Again I’ll be watching all competitors closely.

Classic

Really there is only one way to describe some of the boats that I saw the other day at Darling Harbour, Classic. The Wooden Boat Show held in conjunction with the Maritime Museum had a range of Classic boats, both power and sail and whilst mostly timber, there were a few fibreglass production yachts from the 1960s and 70s.

There was a range of the old Halvorsen cruisers and it was interesting to note that whilst they were pretty much production, none are the same. Something I didn’t know. It was good to see some of the older yachts as well, from a timber 30′ Daydream through to the rebuilt 12m Gretel2 in immaculate condition. There was also a few fibreglass production yachts, Compass28 and Contessa25. I grew up racing with my father on his little JOG boat and the Peter Cole designed  Contessa when it came out really put the ‘cat amongst the pidgeons’ with it’s speed and manoeuvrability. Most of the others at the time were still long keeled designed in the 50 and 60s, the exception being Dads Temeraire and a couple of Primaat ply boats.

Wandering about some of the older racing yachts, it’s interesting to see how far they’ve come. Yachts such as Caprice Of Huon, for years one of Australia’s top Offshore yachts, Fidelis, which came across from New Zealand and won Line Honours in the Hobart Race and then there was Ruthless a Peterson One Tonner whose freeboard struck me as being quite high. I don’t remember other One Tonners I’ve sailed being so high wooded. And there was plenty more, each with a memory or thought of a time or race.

On the new side, there was SjoRo a new 8m fitted with Liros Classic rope, keeping the style classic. Rather than having the colourful ropes of today, she has the modern rope construction with the Liros Hemp colour, it all fitted the style.

I also went to see Lyn Pardey in the museum theatre doing a talk on her decades on the water with husband Larry. The pair are well known in cruising and timber boat circles and I remember going to a previous talk of theirs last century. It was a bit of history with the boats they owned and also built or repaired. Lyn had quite a range of photos on the screen whilst she talked and it was great to hear snippets about each. I had the chance to mention to her later that I may have been one of the few who saw the Pardeys earlier visit to Sydney. She appreciated that.

Wandering around talking boats, doesn’t get any better.

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So that was 2015

The Christmas and New Year hectic period has been and gone. Not that the coming weeks are any different.

Christmas always means the Rolex Sydney Hobart race and on Christmas Eve it starts with the mandatory race briefing at the CYCA followed by a shorter Race Management one. My MHYC [middle line] team has been together for a few years now so there’s a settled pattern. The CYCA [front] and RSYS [rear] are also pretty steady so it usually all goes to plan. With the size and number of big boats and the addition of the Clipper boats a 3 line system was the go again. It’s almost becoming a regular over the last few years. Boxing Day gave us a work out of the harbour and there were several incidents that have been well documented. Speaking with Sir Robyn Knox-Johnston after the briefing, he’d advised all of his Clipper crews that the race is not won in the harbour and to just get out clean. We had a clear start on our line and that’s a great feeling and relief as it also gives us a chance to head offshore after the start to watch the fleet head south.

The following day heralded the start of the International Cadet Dinghy National Championships to be held at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This event had been the effort of quite a few enthusiastic parents and the head of the clubs Junior program, Locky Pryor. They had held a training session prior to Christmas measuring all the local boats. It was great to hear from the National measurer that in his near decade in the class this was the smoothest registration day. Well done to all the MHYC volunteers.

Sailing wise, we had all hoped for a steady Noreaster each day. Unfortunately the weather didn’t quite go to plan, providing only the one typical Sydney Summers day. The rest were held in East to South East sea breezes varying from 10-18knots. The seaway was a challenge for most as was the tidal flow. Some read it right most of the time whilst others struggled with the swell and chop. One thing was was outstanding and that was the effort of the winning crew on the Victorian boat Samaran. In one start, they were boxed in and went the other way to the rest of the fleet in an effort to escape. No one covered and suddenly they were in the top pack at the first mark.

One of the things that I do enjoy when running sailing events, is watching the top of any class at the best of their game. Be it the Olympians like Jason and Lisa on the NACRA or young Cadet sailors like Julian and Micha, it’s purely a joy to watch and like most you learn something new from each of them.

Middle Harbour ran a great regatta and we were able to get in two races a day over the 6 days on the water. Huge effort from all of the volunteers, ashore, on ferry watch and of course the mark layers and start team.

Next up? I’m off to Melbourne with the DeckHardware van showing some of the new 2016 releases from our suppliers and immediately following, I’m back on the water officiating at the Farr40 State and National championships. These two events are a prelude to their 2016 World Championships being held later in Sydney.

2016 has only just begun..

Bit different

I spent Saturday down at Middle Harbour Yacht Club, but this time instead of going out on the water with the Sydney Short Offshore Racing Series, I was ashore with the Cadet dinghies.

I’m running their National Championships in a months time and this was an opportunity to meet some of the parents and sailors locally. The day was put aside to measure all the local boats and give the local parents a heads up as to what’s happening soon. The national measurer was also in town from Melbourne, answering all the questions that are often asked. It was a great opportunity too for all to have a closer look at their boats and fix what’s required now rather than later. Nothing worse than breaking something halfway or sooner through a big regatta. Something I’m more than familiar with. Boat prep, boat prep, boat prep.

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In the foreground is the alloy jig for measuring the spars and on the table behind is the template for the sails. One lesson learned, use three templates so that a set can be done together. More helpers are needed but there’s a lot of boats to be checked off.

Sunday I headed to Woolwich Dock hoping that I may catch up with the guys from Perth on Indian. Instead they were just off ‘Humbug’ hoisting and checking the mainsail reefing system before heading off for the first sail since the boat arrived by road.

What was there and unknown to most was Wild OatsXI. Only arriving hours earlier from major surgery at the boat builders. I did have the chance to have a quick chat with both Sandy Oatley and Mark Richards [owner and skipper] and was given a quick update. They hope to be sailing this Saturday, so those in Sydney will have the first look prior to this years Rolex Sydney Hobart race. http://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com. It’s well known that they cut off the bow and replaced with another pre fabricated one by McConaghys Mona Vale. Only the keen eye will spot anything different.

Boxing Day isn’t that far away.

Canberra time

Friday afternoon I headed to Canberra to officiate at the ACT Dinghy Championships held over the weekend. As many would know, the traffic heading out of Sydney on a Friday afternoon is simply the pits for want of a word. I left at 3pm thinking ‘yep should be fine’. Instead I entered the worst traffic snarl ever encountered. The city was experiencing the typical afternoon storm for this time of year, so it was semi expected to be busy – but first gear in the Harbour Tunnel? It’s an 80kph road! The traffic was like this for the next 30kms, taking over double the time getting out of Sydney, so instead of being on the road for 3 1/2hrs it was 6. I’d hate to do this commute daily.

Saturday morning dawned in the nations capital with a little drizzle which thankfully cleared mid morning. More importantly there was wind! Those who have sailed there before will know of the frustrations competing, it’s worse as the Principal Race Officer with two courses and 10 divisions on Lake Burley Griffin. Conditions in Canberra are either blowing or nothing. To have 4-5 knot wind out of the east [well, south east to north east] is fantastic!

Race one got away with 7 divisions on my course, then the wind dropped out for a time. As there was only one common mark with a 50 minute time limit, abandon was the only option and start all over again. We got two races in straight after that and everyone was happy. Well at least those who won the lottery, otherwise known as the shifts.

Sunday morning was the same but a little more wind 5-8 knots in the gusts, same direction but no rain, Hooray. Again we got in two races, however with the time difference between the faster boats and the stragglers, there really wasn’t the time to run another. With a few who had also joined me from Sydney wanting to hit the road home, it was a four race series. As usual, there were plenty who sailed with their head out of the boat and those who didn’t. Canberra is one heck of a fluky place to sail, it certainly benefits those who watch the conditions. It’s not one of those places where you go left or right and one tack on the layline to the top mark.

The NS14 had the largest fleet with many non locals getting some time in on the water where their Championships will be in the coming months. One of the class builders, Mark Thorpe came out on top with two firsts and two seconds. In the last race he was OCS [started early and had to come back]. When I asked him later, he said “he went the opposite way to those on the first leg, might as well do something different”. He won by nearly a leg! Got lucky on that one. Another crew who were recipients of a trophy were DeckHardware ambassadors Michael and Amanda Pfeffer, Good to see them sailing as it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to watch them. There were others who we saw in the top few the first time around and the second time they were literally out the back door. Just keep sailing, in Canberra you aren’t out of it till you have finished.

The volunteer team down there were just great, helping laying and moving marks as required and they looked after the “out of towner” race officer with smiles and words of thanks. It was another great event with over 80 entrants and hopefully all came away happy with the experience. Okay, I know some didn’t but that’s sailing.

With six weeks or so to Christmas, it’s almost Rolex Sydney Hobart time. Following that it’s the International Cadet Championships. That’ll be into 2016. Where has the year gone?

Another summer over

Yes, that’s another Australian Summer over and with it another season of sailing and race management for me. In the last nine months or so I’ve been to every state either as a race management volunteer or driving the DeckHardware van to regattas for support or to visit the various outlets Australia wide.  I’ve seen some great racing, from Dinghies and Multihulls through to the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race and the spectacle of the five 100’ers on Sydney Harbour.

I’m often asked which are the good events to attend by some of the off the beach sailors we see. There’s a couple that I keep going back to. These are the smaller volunteer run/family run events like the Big River Sailing Club regatta at Harwood in northern New South Wales and the Snowy Mountains Regatta at Jindabyne. Both of these attract a range of entries,monos, multis and trailerables. The conditions for both are completely different to most other venues around the country. At Harwood everyone camps next to the club and their boats, even the locals to save the drive home. Competitors come down from Queensland and up from as far south as Lake Macquarie to sail on the river with all it’s tidal issues.

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On the other hand is the open expanse of the freshwater Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains of southern New South Wales. Here we sail on a lake almost the size of Lake Macquarie, no need to take bottled water out with you. Just lean over the side and gulp, that’s where the town water comes from too. Again the camaraderie between those down from Sydney, Canberra and the locals is fantastic. Each time I’ve been to both clubs, I keep running in to sailors I haven’t seen in a couple of decades and as you could imagine the stories get broader. If you have the chance to go to either next season, I hope to see you there.

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I also had the opportunity to see the Bi-Annual Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart. Hobart really knows how to put it on for the visitors, those who are at Constitution Dock for the end of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race will know what I mean. This was no different with all the boats, market places and entertainment. Again, if you have the chance..On the ferry to Devonport from Melbourne I kept running in to all sorts of people heading to the event.

Recently we had the Sydney Sailboat Expo at North Head / Manly. This inaugural  two day event organised by my daughter Melissa with assistance from my wife Robyn was fantastic. The weather co-operated on both days with clear skies for the over 50 exhibitors. There was a range of boating products, not only from DeckHardware, but also names like Harken, Ronstan, Musto and sailmakers Norths and Doyles to compliment the classes on display. I know of one builder who took a deposit for a new boat and there were plenty of other sales as well. There were classes / tutorials also on a range of topics like splicing, tuning, first aid and even media for clubs and I noticed some of the visitors to the Expo from as far as Geelong and Brisbane. Many there said they’ll be back and bringing their friends as well, so hopefully we’ll see it grow even bigger for 2016. As you will see in the photos, the range of boats from the Etchells down and even the all conquering 18′ skiff Gotta Love It 7 , there was something for everyone in the small boat market place.

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The next couple of months will see me heading north to Queensland [I prefer palm trees over snow],  doing the rounds showing off yet more new products available from DeckHardware, before heading west to South Australia and then back east through Victoria. I’ll also be getting out and about locally as well. Then there’s more races to run and more race officer courses as well, hopefully bringing more volunteers to the administration side of the sport of Sailing.

If you want to have the DeckHardware van at your event as support for the sailors or if you need help in running an event, drop me a line. I’m sure there’s more to see and do in the Australian Sailing Scene and if we can assist let us know.