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Brisbane to Gladstone- the Legendary Laurabada lines up for race number 49

by Ian Grant on 7 Feb 2001
Sailing an approximate 29,568 nautical miles over the Brisbane - Gladstone - Brisbane rhumbline off Queensland's central coast in a wide range of wind and sea conditions was officially recorded when the majestic Raby Bay ketch Laurabada returned home from her 48th consecutive race last year.

No other yacht in the history of the sport can equal this amazing feat which started out as a fathers dream to become a devoted son's legacy.

There are no parallels to this legendary story born from a determined mariners will to build a yacht from a 'shoe string budget' and sail on almost half a century later with a record of continuous racing which is perhaps unequalled in the world of ocean yacht racing

The remarkable vision and personal passion of Laurabada's creator the late Ivan 'Skipper' Holm which later became an obsession of unique strength, ability, and patience, first became a seafarers 'dream boat' as he skippered a patrol boat in the Pacific Islands during World War 11.

When the war ended 'Skipper' Holm turned his dream into a six year labour of love starting with the line drawings then laying a Grey Ironbark keel in 1947 on the building site in the backyard of his Brisbane suburban home on the bank of Sandgate's Cabbage Tree Creek.

Financial restraints and his commitment to trade teaching at Brisbane's Central Technical College failed to restrict the personal enthusiasm to stand watch at the helm of his own yacht.

As expected Holm was driven by a personal passion and amazing endurance which overcame huge odds including hand digging and searching for specific shaped Tea Tree roots from marsh swamps to shaping them to fix the deck beams to the main hull.

Holm's innovative skills always focused towards the projected launch day, he had two rail wagons of timber logged from a relatives property in tropical North Queensland and freighted 2000 miles to the site where he then hand selected the Yellow Wood, Silver Ash, Spotted Gum and Queensland Maple which were meticulously crafted into the building of his yacht.

He also recovered some weathered teak from the scuttled wreck of the Government Survey vessel Lucinda which rested on Bishop Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River.

The teak was meticulously sanded and sawn, then crafted into a magnificent steering wheel which to this day remains as a memorial to the skills of a remarkable seaman.

The six year creation of Laurabada encompasses many amazing stories, every feature of her configuration were realised from a single persons will to build a boat which would last and weather the elements beyond his lifetime.

He understood every roved nail and every Tea Tree Root knee fixed into place became a step closer to the launch day and the valued experience of proudly standing watch as she raced into history.

There were some special memories when Holm overcome the problem of suitable timber to build the two masts required to support the ketch rig.

The masts were hand crafted from massive 22 inch Douglas Fir poles that were previously used to mount radio beacons while the two brass cleats fixed on the stern were salvaged from a Japanese barge captured at Wewak (Papua New Guinea) in World War 11.

Following Laurabada's launching in February 1953, Ivan Holm snr skippered her in 43 consecutive Gladstone races.

His highlight in a long career at the helm was achieved in 1967 when Laurabada survived a 308 n/ml match race to score her only line honours with a 41 second victory over the Peter Docker skippered Sydney yacht Syonara.

Since Easter 1999 when Laurabada sailed her 47 th consecutive Gladstone Race the clanging of jib pulleys, tension squeals from hoist sheaves and the noise from deck winches have remained silent.

In fact Laurababa had gathered marine growth on her hull while she had rested motionless at her mooring in Cleveland's Raby Bay for 11 months.

There was a special reason behind the enforced rest for the majestic ketch which has sailed over 200, 000 nautical miles.

She had an extensive re-fit including a new engine, new masts, sails and rigging to ensure her future commitment to racing against the more modern yachts will be carried on into the new millenium by running the south to north 308 n/ml rhumbline in Queensland's major blue water classic on Good Friday each year.

Laurabada represents the real spirit of a family who are devoted to an unmatched love of the sport, first father Ivan who remained as her skipper for 43 races sailed her simply for the fellowship associated with being at sea with a crew of good mates.

Son Ivan has respected that tradition and when the immaculately prepared Laurabada set sail there was a special toddy of ships rum safely stowed in liquor locker to toast another major milestone in a remarkable racing career.

This became a special celebration for her proud second generation skipper Ivan Holm Jnr who experienced his first ocean race on Laurabada 26 years ago.

He carries on the tradition with wife Anne, daughter Dominque and son Joshua standing watch in the crew.

They too have learnt the value which this magnificent old yacht has played in bonding the special friendships between her husband and their father and his father and many friends.

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