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Decloaking Klingon Bird of Prey to Port

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 23 Aug 23:00 BST
Christmas fleet takes off from Portsea and marches off to Port Phillip Heads, but where to after that in 2020? © John Curnow

In the elephant in the room we had a peek into the proverbial crystal ball. What could the Christmas ocean racing period look like? Tasmania has already cancelled the Taste of Tasmania that runs at the same time as all the boats arrive into Hobart. Possibly even more importantly, the famous and highly regarded Wooden Boat Festival has also announced that no matter what version they investigated, they simply could not run their well-attended event. Hhhmmmmm...

Now maybe, just maybe, the enforced lockdown Victorians are currently enduring has provided some clarity, so I went to speak with Ocean Racing Club of Victoria's Commodore, Martin Vaughan. Their annual flagship event is the Westcoaster. The Melbourne to Hobart is gunning in on being 50 years old, and it's currently described in its tagline as, 'A race of wilderness, and long rolling waves.' This reflects on the dramatic coast it goes down, which does not really have suitable deepwater refuges to escape to should it all go a little awry on the way. On the plus side, once you turn the corner and head for Maatsuyker Island the big sets of corduroy of the Roaring Forties come into play, and do surfing takes pride of place.

Vaughan commented, "We'll do what we can inside the approved framework of the time. So for now that means we are not locking anything in, really. We have not been racing since March, so you can take it that we are pretty keen!"

Now traditionally over the Melbourne Cup weekend at the beginning of November (Derby Day - and BTW there's another event that would appear to have to face up to the harsh realities of the new order at some point) the ORCV run their qualifying race to Stanley on the magnificent North West Coast of Tasmania, where they make scallop pies, amongst other treats.

"The ORCV has recognised that we will not be able to race to Hobart. With border restrictions in place (just this week Tasmania went to December 1 at the earliest), and the cancellation of many major events in Hobart recently, we understand the reality of the situation. Our amazing partners at Mersey Yacht Club and the Derwent Sailing Squadron were not surprised."

"We are currently confirming that there are no concerns with us racing through Tasmanian waters. Our intention is to run down to and around Councillor Island, which is a nature reserve off the East coast of King Island, before heading back. We have a number of interesting coastal courses and formats in Victorian waters to opt for, should they have concerns."

What it shows is that the ORCV is looking to be creative, and at the same time find safe, deep, no-brick locations to round. In the meantime they continue to work with the Tasmanian authorities that administer the Bass Strait islands regarding passage through their waters.

"We are probably more realistic. We'll be happy to just have a yacht race, as we are coming from a different reality. We are missing our sport, friends and the fresh air. In some ways we are further down the curve. Because of this adversity there is an opportunity to get creative and innovative. We have done a lot of online training this last six months, and our recent Intermediate to Advanced Nav course with Will Oxley had attendees from all around Australia."

It is true that States like Tasmania will want to ensure they keep themselves 'free', as such. In all likelihood, someone will always need assistance of some description during an ocean race. That then has impacts on first responders and so forth. There is talk that the Sydney to Hobart race is in discussions with the Tasmanian Government over some sort of bubble for that race. How the Customs House Hotel, flying in the delivery crew, and exiting the race crew is all going to work remains to be seen...

In the meantime, the ORCV continues to plan for a longer Christmas race, like around King Island. However, this scribe feels going around the beautiful Deal Island, up to a turning mark off Wilson Promontory, and then back to the infamous Heads of Port Phillip could be a blazing trail, and interesting tale with many sail changes to look at. Good thing is, nothing is off the table just yet...

"Fortunately we already promote and support double handed, as well as four plus autohelm racing. If social distancing restrictions are still in place we will look at what we can do within the restrictions, given those formats are available. Hopefully we will be able to run fully crewed racing, and so wont need to restrict ourselves."

"Sadly, combining social events as part of any racing series will be difficult, but we will work to whatever is possible at the time, and now just await the State Government's permission to get back into it."

"Victorians have been hit particularly hard, and we all need something to look forward to. Yacht racing is more than just a pastime. It is a key component of social and physical well-being", said Vaughan in closing.

Indeed the club, its sailors and all interested parties can take some solace in knowing that the future is bright. There will be a Pacific race in 2022. Not the 1885nm to Vanuatu, but probably 1560nm to Noumea. 2022 will also mark the 50th running of the Westcoaster, and the 50th bash across 'The Paddock' to King Island is coming up as well. Never before has 'bring it on' meant so much.

On the other side of the globe

Our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, has been very actively involved in the great participation debate for many, many years, including a great number of webinars. More recently he has looked closely at the resurgence of local, club sailing, and things like dragging the windsurfer out, which he too has done himself.

Quite possibly one of the greatest masterstrokes, however, was purchasing the recyclable (roto-moulded polyproplyene) RS Feva that he and son Sean have been using this (Northern) Summer. Sean has been buzzing after finishing in fifth place in a high quality, 16-boat fleet.

It's been fantastically warm in the UK of late, but it did include some inclement weather, including a named storm. None the less, Sean (who is helming) has been buzzing, with a 4, 4, 3, 2 making the final day his best day. On what would become the last day of racing he was certainly one of the most vocal, calling for two more races in a busy day's schedule of racing.

As for Sean himself, well he really summed it up brilliantly. "I had a blast. That's all that matters. I liked the whole thing - the racing and the mucking around. I jumped in the water when waiting to get a (social distancing) space on the launch ramp, and Dad went off single-handed with the kite up. I tried to get to John and Evie's boat to get a lift, as they had capsized and were just swimming around..."

There are plenty of positives around in the new order. You just need to make sure you're looking...

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the group's sites for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, thank you for keeping a weather eye on Sail-World. Your increased patronage and sensational, heartfelt comments have made our crew work even harder to bring you the best from all over the globe...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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