The Australian Sharpie is a highly competitive yet social class with a long history of attracting and developing champion sailors

Friday, February 3, 2012

An average sailor looks at sailing the sharpie nationals…

When the opportunity came up to sail the nationals with Pete Cuthbert on Suicide Blonde I was
quite excited and thought it was a great opportunity to sail on a good boat in a national fleet
competition. I had never sailed in Queensland before so was looking forward to the warm winds and
waters. We have family living in NSW so my wife and kids came over and stayed in Ballina whilst the
sailing was on and I met up with them after the titles.

Whilst I was in Ballina I was stoked when we went down to the river for a swim to see a heavy
weight sharpie sailing up the river. I later got to meet the owner and was going to go for a sail with
him but the weather turned. Anyhow I stole the brother in laws 20 year old non air conditioned Hilux
and headed up the coast towards Brisbane, getting hopelessly lost but finally arriving - making a 2
hour trip a 4 hour trip.

The boat was completely set up and ready to go, but of course I did pick a few rigging mistakes. Our
normal sheethand Pete Browne could not make it due to family commitments and so we took on
Derrick Milligan - his knowledge on sharpie sailing was unbelievable. The first invitation was started
in around 20 knots of breeze, gusting to up around 37 knots with a growing swell. We had a bad
start but slowly moved up through the fleet getting into 13th place and holding that place until the
finish - capsizing so many times I lost count!! Due to the wind the second heat was postponed to
be sailed at a later date. Back on the rigging area it became obvious that we had in fact finished last
- over half of the fleet had retired. There was a lot of damage done to boats; but it was really great
the way the sharpie crews all chipped in with advice, sails, mast, general gear and labour to get
boats back on the water.

The rest of the sailing went on in good breezes, the courses had been set well and the race
organisation was very good. It was very close sailing and we always seemed to have the same boats
racing against us. Off the water the club was sensational - I didn’t get to see the chugalug comp but
did hear quite a few stories of a well-run event, and maybe a late evening rescue boat run!!

I could go into the sailing - heat by heat - as I see it - but we all know who won and who didn’t.

I did have a sensational time sailing the Nationals, meeting such great people and memories that will
last forever… especially that invitation race!!! I would highly recommend it to anybody thinking of
doing the South Australian titles next year.

Looking forward to the states…

Craig Francis

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