Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sydney Scramble

The first time I visited Sydney I took a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, as many tourists do. Coming back through Sydney Harbour on the Sunday afternoon I was amazed at the sight I saw. Sailor's heaven. Sailboats of every type you can imagine as far as the eye could see. Seemed like there were dozens of clubs running races all over the harbour, not to mention all kinds of cruising yachts out for a blast.

US Laser Olympic entry Andrew Campbell is currently racing in the Sydney International Regatta. I could relate to what he saw on the first day of racing...

A typical Saturday in December on Sydney Harbor can be quite a scene. Add a few hundred Olympic one designs to the mix and you’ve got one of the most crowded sailing areas in the world. Local clubs around the harbor are running their own races for classic 18-footers, Etchells, and hundreds of PHRF style classes. Those are added to super-maxis and other grand prix boats in final tune up stages for the Sydney-Hobart Race that starts next week. Beyond that is the normal ferry-boat and seaplane tour traffic, augmented by the standard anglers and pleasure sailors. If it weren’t enough already, add puffy 12-18 knot breezes and you’ve got yourself a sunny summer day in Sydney. Adding two forty-boat Laser fleets to the middle of the channel already chock full of 49ers, radial, finns, and 470s is a recipe for disaster.

The Sailing Instructions for the regatta recognize the need for racing sailors to keep out of the way of those damn ferry-boats.

Local Rules require sail craft to keep out of the way of ferries displaying the orange diamond. Pass the ferry clear at least 200m ahead and 30m either side and astern.

Apparently one of the Laser fleets did have a close encounter of almost the worst kind with a ferry. As Andrew tells it...

While you are racing you have to stay on your game or else you might find a two hundred foot ferry doing 11 knots bearing down on you, horns blasting. I happened to be in the other fleet when that incident occurred yesterday, but with the fleet rolling out left, into the channel and more favorable current, the ferry had nowhere to go but on his horn and in full reverse. Quite a scene, I’ll tell you.

Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby from Australia was disqualified as a result of the ferry incident, a major disappointment as he had won the race. He failed in his obligation to pass the ferry clear of 200m ahead and admitted so to the regatta's International Jury. Tough way to start a regatta.

In case anyone is in any doubt that those ferries mean business, check out this video of a famous ferry vs sailboat incident some time ago...

Good luck to Andrew who has won one race and is currently in third place overall, only two points out of first.


Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

I grew up sailing Sydney Harbour, specifically the Manly end of the Harbour. Sensational. And yes, you've just gotta keep an eye open for those pesky ferries!

We used to have a photo in our old sailing club (Manly 16-ft Skiff sailing Club) of a 16-ft skiff literally impailed on the bow of a Sydney ferry!!!

The crew dived overboard... the ferry captain stopped his props from churning... [no reverse]... and one of the sailors went under water on one side of the ferry and came up on the other side! Thank gawd the engines were stopped!!!

And yes, it took him a few years to 'get back on the horse' and go out sailing again too.

Just part of the joys of sailing Sydney harbour. But yes yes yes, it's a sailor's paradise! When there's a glorious nor-easter, or a nice fresh sou-easter... wOOt!

Mal :)

JP said...

Wow - thats a good incentive to keep a good lookout for those ferries.

I've only sailed boats over 30 foot in Sydney Harbour but even they might have come off 2nd best against a ferry doing 11 knots.

Given its freeezzzing here in London I'd risk it though!

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