From the exotic Central Coast of NSW, Chris Leyland remembers his start in sailing and his first forays on an Australian Sailfish. Read on . . . .
Before entering High School, I crewed on a Manly Junior, sailing in the crowded Manly Harbour, bobbing between Hydrofoils and Manly Ferries. In my first season, we won the B division series. During that same year, Dad purchased a Flying 11, which we raced at Narrabeen on a Sunday. It was an old boat, a glass hull, before any official glass F11 hulls and although we had fun, it wasn’t a fast boat. It wasn’t long before Dad was crewing for me! His . . . . eh-hmm “weight” was a distinct advantage in heavy air and we had lots of great father/son times, but it wasn’t long before I yearned to be more competitive.
The hot shot class at Narrabeen, full of excitement, speed and seemingly endless enjoyment, was the Sailfish. To a thirteen year old, this was something that had all the aspects that I was looking for, but sadly I didn’t have the money to get one; thirteen year olds are usually pretty broke, but there were a couple of second hand boats available. There was a FAST proven boat, sailed by Jim Sayers, whose boat “Fury”, sail number 1257, became available and it took no convincing to take it for a test sail. Jim had done well in Club, State and National racing and it was a good looking light blue and white boat, with matching light blue and white mainsail.
It was suggested that I race it one Sunday, although I had only previously had a 10 minute test sail on it, in very calm conditions. That first race Fury lived up to all its glory, but sailing it took some getting used to. I started counting how many times I capsized and was up to 35 times before giving up on counting. That was in the FIRST LAP! Only 3 more laps to go. . . but I did finish and was the last boat in, much to the starter boat crew’s dismay! At least a skinny teenager could easily right this boat, even time after time. . . after time, after time. BUT I was well and truly “hooked”!
It took a little while, but I eventually acquired Fury, partially via a birthday present and an agreement to find a part time job and pay off the balance (a delivery boy at a chemist only made 75 cents for an entire afternoons work! Talk about slavery).It didn’t take long to get the hang of sailing Fury and not long before I was starting to move up the the fleet and learning how to gain some advantages over rivals. Because I was light, I was fast in light and drifter conditions and from time to time turned a few heads and by the end of my first season I was starting to become competitive. I had some idols in the class, some of who are still around now!
Sailfish became very important to me, Brian Carroll actually helped me to consider a career path in sail making (after making a model yacht sail, during a BBQ at our place one Narrabeen nationals). I became the last apprentice at the Miller and Whitworth Sail loft and I ended up doing a lot of research into tuning and getting Fury and my future boats to also go quickly.
Once again, I would like to thank Messrs Barwick, Cleary and Milton, for their efforts in getting not only this site up and running, but for the establishment of a “focal point” in the resurgence of the Sailfish class.
Apart from reading the newly posted Blogs, articles and news items, along with the odd new photo or video that surfaces and with your stories, (hint, hint) I look forward to the day when the site announces a “newly formed racing division” is once again regularly racing at a sailing club.
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Chris’s last point is well made – dredge through your memory while you still can and send in your own experiences in getting started in Sailfish for us all to enjoy. I would very much like to make this an ongoing series but that means I need input.