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.

 

Back on the road 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about being on the road or on the water. The Summer sailing season in Sydney finished up, so now I’m on the road interstate.

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Aussie wildlife in suburbia – country style

First up was a trip north to Southern Queensland. However with a couple of detours inland, Casino I’d not been to before and as the first stop, really didn’t have the time to have a look around. My second stop was west of Toowoomba, visiting a customer I’d seen a couple of times before. Luckily for me he works from home, really the rather large tin shed out the front so I’m able to connect after hours and on weekends. Given that it’s several hours drive away from anyone else, this works.

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From there it was on to the Sunshine Coast where Craig and Tracee look after me, all too well as Tracee likes to cook, feeding another gives her the opportunity to experiment too. They’re out on acreage 20minutes from Mooloolaba gradually making improvements in the garden and surrounds. Tracee also has a thriving vegetable garden with plenty of fruit trees that also has a fence around however not to the stage I’ve done at home but showing my photos, I think Craig has another job ahead. They have an issue now and again with the local wildlife, it’s nothing to be sitting on their deck having a staring competition with a Kangaroo family. But it is nice and peaceful and a joy to watch at times, just not when they are in the garden having a munch!

Monday was spent seeing customers old and new locally. With most areas of Australia, I have it pretty much sorted who I see where and when to minimise the time in between stops, but now and again I get caught out. I then spent a few days working my way around the suburbs of Brisbane, it’s certainly nice to see the roadworks heading in and out north of the city finished, although that doesn’t stop the evening peak parking lot in a section that should be doing 100kph. The highway south to the Gold Coast is 4 lanes either way and you can do the sign posted speeds, however the greater section to the Sunshine Coast is still 2 lanes and nowhere to pull over in a breakdown, the same bit of road that I drove on in the mid 70s when first driving to Mooloolaba in my teenage years with a Laser on top.

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From the other side all you see is the CBD of Brisbane

The next couple of nights were hosted by an old Middle Harbour mate who’s retired to the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Tony Hannan. I can’t count the number of boats we sailed together or against, but each time I stay the evening stories are never the same. It’s always good being able to fill him in on what’s happening down south, despite his occasional visit for a regatta or two over a season.

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Once this was the style of yacht design, known as plank on edge

 

My last two days north of the border were spent on the Gold Coast, one doing the rounds and the other visiting the annual Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. The show has evolved over the years with more focus on power and especially this year, Jetskis and similar high speed personal watercraft.

My last evening north of the border was spent with grey nomads James and Marita, sitting in their caravan watching football on an Ipad! Unfortunately our Manly Sea Eagles were beaten by the Gold Coast team at home so it was a good excuse for an early night given where we were.

As always it’s good to catch up with a lot of customers, many who have become friends as well over the years. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to see everyone and to those who I haven’t caught up with, we’ll try for next time. Others like Tony have left Sydney for warmer climes, it’s just a little hard to fit everything in.

Having gone up the inland route, I headed back down the more familiar coastal road. All I can say about the NSW section of the Pacific Highway is that it’ll be fantastic when the roadworks are finished. How long that will be, it’s been how long they’ve been promising? At the moment the northern third from Sydney is all over the place with speeds from 60 to 100kph and back every couple of kilometres.  I don’t think it’ll be before my next trip north, but here’s to hoping as my windscreen is evidence of the current state.

 

 

Sometimes a boat returns

Sometimes a boat returns in to your life many years after last being aboard. Many boats I’ve sailed over the years have disappeared only to pop up somewhere along the line when I’m on the road.

In this case it’s Defiance, the original IOR MK3 1/2 tonner built in timber by Doug Brooker back in 1972. After she was sold by Robyn’s father John, I saw her once up at Church Point just a few years later. Then back in May of 2015, there she was on the hard at Scarborough in Queensland looking rather neglected. I tried to source the owner through the yard and local chandlery without success. Then a few years ago, I received a call from a Brisbane yachtie asking about her and a bit of history.  It turned out that Craig had saved her from being broken up as the previous owner hadn’t paid any yard fees. Craig bought her and set about rebuilding with a view of taking Defiance to Tasmania.

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On a following road trip north seeing DeckHardware customers, I had a look at what was being done by the shipwrights at RQYS, cutting out the rot from various additions for example. As she was now accessible, it’s amazing how small these 1/2 tonners were as these days everyone sails something a bit larger especially offshore. Then on another trip north Craig had moved her to another yard for finishing off and respraying. Time for another check-up. He’s certainly taken his time to do the renovation properly, she’ll last another 50 years hopefully.

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So this past week Defiance made an appearance at Middle Harbour Yacht Club enroute to Hobart to live and to be shown at the Wooden Boat Show in February. Plenty came down for a good look, including sons of another previous owner, who also had stories to tell.

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They say that boats like these have custodians, not owners and full credit must go to Craig and the team of shipwrights for bringing her back to new, including the colour scheme. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed watching the progress, hopefully one day I can have another sail.

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.

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

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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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.