The early offshore years and trailer yachts
Author: Phil Yeomans Date Posted:26 October 2016
I started offshore sailing on Temeraire, my Dads JOG boat that he built on the front lawn at Newport during the mid 60s.
I was still just in my early teens and an overnighter to Bird Island out of Pittwater was a regular occurrence. We also did a few trips down to the harbour where Dad sailed with his mates in events there. Several times, it was my responsibility to bring her back to the mooring at the Alfreds. I was able to 'borrow' Temeraire and go away for a weekend with my mates 'up the creek', overnighting at Halletts Beach, Refuge Cove and down Jerusalem. These were in the days prior to having a drivers licence and we all enjoyed the freedom as well as the responsibility. Two of us even took her to Lake Macquarie, joining in with the RSYS Squadron Cruise.
This would be the first of many Squadron cruises. The first racing was with Ash Gay on his Endeavour26 'Emma Chisit'. Ash was a seasoned racer and his crew consisted of three young blokes, Richard 'Bluey' Chapman, Ian Sanderson and myself. The following year it was aboard Tawarri a Swanson42 with the Lewis family. The next one was with Max Tunbridge and his family on 'Amazing Grace' a Bonbridge27 that he built alongside his panel beating works at Pymble.
The next Squaddie cruise was sometime later, Kevin Brightwells Farr6000 Blue Bayou. Heaps of fun that one, especially the spinnaker run up the coast surfing the wake of the larger boats. When asked if we would sail back in a southerly, I said "no, we'll go back and get the trailer". In the end we motored the whole way back to Pittwater as there was no wind.
I did my first 'serious' offshore regatta the SCOR at Mooloolaba on Bacardi a Cole43. This was my first real big boat experience and I learnt heaps as a 19year old. During my short period living in Queensland in the mid 70s, most of my time was sailing my boss's Triton24 on the Brisbane River with the occasional foray out to the bay and Tangalooma.
Returning to Sydney after 18 months up north and back into building Lasers again, from there I went to work at Sydney Sailboat Centre with Geoff Pearson and David Bray retailing a range of off the beach boats, multihulls and trailer yachts. It was during this period that I met Robyn and we settled down as a couple. Her Father John had bought Defiance, the original IOR Mk3 S&S30 built by Doug Brooker, updating from a Compass30 . Needless to say sailing on Defiance was a given. We sailed 3-4 days a week almost year round split between Defiance and the many Trailer Yacht events of the time like the Sea Spray Magazine Pittwater Islands Race.
In January 1980, we sailed Defiance in the Australian JOG titles. We didn't place but had a great break in the week before our wedding. I sailed Defiance in many events, the RSYS Squadron Cruise was one. I broke the boom pulling the vang on coming down Pittwater, it was a race that afternoon to replace it as the following day was the Lady skippers day. John (Robyn's father) and I worked flat out but we were sailing the next day with Robyn steering. We also started in a MHYC South Solitary Race, however due to electrical problems and being unable to do a radio sched, we retired to Pittwater.
We campaigned the Farr6000 with Marita Wilmot before Marita and James as well as Robyn and myself started families. These were great times, towing the boat up to Lake Macquarie and down to St Georges Basin. We created a bit of a stir as a crew and there were many competitive sailors who didn't like being beaten by the girls. One overnight race, I was asleep below and they overtook the opposition and won the race! In another, with the wind blowing hard enough to put a reef in the mainsail, we set the spinnaker for the downhill ride. One of the opposition saw us under control and set theirs and immediately broached whilst we sailed away.
Robyn and I went to New Zealand to compete in their TY Nationals at Napier in 1979. Sea Nymph gave us a brand new Farr6000 and we set it up on the figures from Sydney. Our third crew was one of Tony Bouzaids daughters and in the invitation race we were leading the fleet by a distance. Being the invited Aussie sailors and not wanting to finish the race in first place [an Aussie sailors Hoodoo], we pulled out and went ashore for a rum. Needless to say, the Kiwis were all over our boat to see what we’d done to it but we'd de-tuned the rig. We finally finished in third place from around one hundred competitors. The opposition included many World champions and a Gold Medallist, we were ecstatic with the result.
We sailed a Status580 one year in the Pittwater series, but the Farr6000 was our favourite. I was also asked to campaign a Blazer23 when they were first launched, however as both my crew were now mothers I had to get a new crew. Robyns' younger siblings Jaime and Shelly on a few occasions. In one race down at Lake Illawarra, Shelly stepped on to the keel when we put the mast in the water. Being a dinghy sailor she thought that was what you did! We raced hard.
Around the same time MHYC ran a Two Handed series in which we competed in Defiance. John Dibble and I the first few years and then Jaime Dibble and I sailed together. These events saw many top boats of the day compete including other Half Tonners Beach Inspector, Newspaper Taxi and Industries, One Tonners like Diamond Cutter and Salamander11 and in one year the entire Admirals Cup team of Ragamuffin, Police Car and Impetuous. Top flight racing at its best although two handed and didn't we have some fun. Worst was having to pack up at the end of the day - absolutely exhausted.
When John decided to sell Defiance and buy a Farr1104, FarrOut, Jaime and I continued the two handed sailing and like before, good fun but hard work, especially given the competition at that time in the IOR One Ton class. Somehow we got around the track without any issues. One of the things about being shorthanded is that you have to plan ahead for the next leg. There was generally no time to sit on the side and have a breather.