October 15 - 21, 2017: Issue 333

Couta Boat Australian Championship And Wattle Cup 2017: On Pittwater  

Hosted by Avalon Sailing Club

Couta Boat poetry on Pittwater in 2017 - photo by Bob Fowler

Couta Week Returns To Pittwater

The third ever Couta Week, the precursor to the 2017 Couta Boat class Nationals, began on Sydney Harbour last Friday and this weekend’s Wattle Cup is the culmination of a timetable of racing and social occasions organised by the national association’s NSW chapter.

State president Larry Eastwood says Couta Week is a way of connecting the Pittwater and Sydney Harbour fleets and represents the collaboration of three Sydney clubs banding together to support the key series.

Last year some of the Sorrento crews trucked their boats from the class’ spiritual home on the Mornington Peninsula to Sydney and this year they have returned, swelling the numbers to record levels as the Avalon Sailing Club hosts the first Couta Boat Australian Championship to be staged outside of Victoria.

The two-day Nationals and Wattle Cup this weekend, hosted by the ASC are the final class events and Eastwood says, “It’s all to play for. The interesting thing is despite the boats being quite different they are closer this year than they’ve ever been. 

“Despite being big and cumbersome and with so much diversity in boat ages and crew expertise, there’s no one way out left or way out right. Everyone has a chance to win, and every second counts.”

Larry also highlights the eclectic class attracts men and women sailors from all walks of life - from Sutherland Shire based firies who travel to Pittwater on weekends to sail, to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Couta boat, Rob Roy.

The fleet sailed back from Sydney harbour to Pittwater during the week in time to take part in the  first of Woody Point Yacht Club's Summer series races on Pittwater on Wednesday. The Twilight race showed off the Coutas and the estuary with brilliant blue skies and yards of white canvas.

On Friday a practice race was one Windward / leeward course and a second short race around Scotland Island to give all our visitors a chance to familiarise themselves with the ‘dead’ side of the Island.

On Saturday the Nationals were held. Participants stating it was a bit chilly and wet but excellent sailing conditions for the Nationals off Avalon sailing club. Today, Sunday October 15th, the Passage race will be run.

Organisers state Saturday's southerlies would suit the heavy air Coutas while Sunday's two island race in forecasted light airs is shaping up to be a lottery.

Residents have reported they really enjoyed watching Saturday's races so well worth a look from your favourite perch alongside the Pittwater estuary shores.

Results from day one of the Couta Nationals are up here
And here:

Photos of the Coutas in the Twilight race, courtesy of Bob Fowler (who sails in a Couta while taking these snaps!) and Saturday's action, courtesy of Jane Lizzy Evans photography run below.

Also included are Lisa Ratcliff's reports and that wonderful video Mr. Fowler has put together after the first races on the harbour. 
We'll update this page as more results from Sunday's races are received.

Designed over 100 years ago as a fishing boat for Port Phillip, the Coutas were superseded and out of business by the 1930s. Tim Phillips from The Wooden Boatshop at Sorrento resurrected Couta Boat building back in the late 1970s and has turned out hundreds from his own design, as well as carefully restoring originals. On the water the gaff-rigged Coutas carry 600 square feet of sail and weigh in at over five tons.

A Couta boat is a gaffed rig sailing boat originating and sailed in Victoria around Sorrento - Queenscliff and Victoria’s west coast. The Couta boat was developed for fishing between 1870 until the 1930s, diminishing until the 1950s. Inspired by the English fishing smacks but redesigned to be smaller without a cutter rig for more speed, agility and a retractable centreboard. Most Coutas are 26ft (7.8m) and usually built with Huon pine or imported teak, taking 1500 hours to build. Performance wise they are as fast as most 26-30 foot 5 ton modern yachts even though they were designed over 100 years ago.

First Non-Victorian Australian Couta Boat Champions – Tenacity

15 October 2017
Event: Wattle Cup/Couta Boat Nationals on Pittwater October 14-15, 2017 sailed out of Avalon Sailing Club
The name says it all. Don Telford’s Tenacity became the first non-Victorian crew to claim an Australian title in the historic Couta Boat class when the Sydney team wrapped up the four race series on a tricky Pittwater on Sunday October 15, 2017.

A second NSW team and Tenacity’s Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club clubmates, Larry Eastwood’s Sylvia, finished runner-up by two points and the Sorrento crew of Margarita, skippered by Australian class president James Mighell, completed the podium results.

“We had no idea if we’d won overall after today’s race,” said Telford. “It’s a wonderful win; to take it to the Victorians was absolutely magnificent.” Long-time mate and tactician John ‘Steamer’ Stanley - who’s very pleased to knock off an Australian championship at the age of 70 - added: “after the Sydney regatta we worked out you had to be in the top ten in every race”. 

Tenacity finished tenth from an outstanding multi-state line up of 22 Coutas in the final passage race around Scotland Island and then north to Mackerel Beach and back south to the area known as ‘the pond’, in 8-10 knot east sou’easters. 

Following one general recall and a re-jig of the line by race officer Elaine Fowler and her all-female race management team, Stanley opted to play it clean at the start and from there Tenacity’s crew of six left nothing behind, knowing the championship result rested on their final score.

Speaking on the class in general Telford commented: “Steamer was saying for old guys this is the only class left; everything else is sailing on the water not in the water. These are beautiful and very hard boats to sail.”

The likes of professional yachtsman Steve McConaghy, coach Rod Hagebols and Moth sailor Josh McKnight raised the bar at what was already a very serious class meet. Serious enough for 10 Victorian owners to transport their Coutas on B-double trucks from the Mornington Peninsula and one to send his boat the length of the continent from Perth, for which the co-owner of Eclipse, Jim Wilshire, was awarded a special trophy for the furthest travelled. 

At the closing awards presentation held at the host Avalon Sailing Club, James Mighell acknowledged the hospitality and work of the volunteers, chiefly NSW president Larry Eastwood and his band of helpers. “They not only organised the sailing but also the interstate boats to be lifted off the trucks and set up in perfect condition, the hospitality and did all sorts of other things, particularly for me. I ran out of fuel twice in 24 hours!

“Bringing the boats to Sydney was a crazy idea borne of people with foresight. But for it we’d all be sitting around our own little clubs. It’s people like Larry and Couta boat builder Tim Phillips who have the vision to drive ideas like this one,” Mighell added.

On combined scratch (over the line) results it was a Victorian whitewash with the top six racing for the Sorrento Sailing and Couta Boat Club, led by Nick Williams’ Wagtail.

In the Wattle Cup, reserved in 2017 for the classic Coutas given the nationals ran alongside the annual Sydney series, Kelly Holder’s syndicate-owned Kathleen Mary (built 1988) from the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay collected the main trophy while Tim Phillips’ century-old Muriel (SSCBC) finished second and Jeff Richardson’s Georgia (SSCBC) placed third.

Check the Facebook page for videos and live feeds of the passage race.

Scratch results Australian championship winner Nick Williams and some of his Wagtail crew who represented the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club  - photo by Lisa Ratcliff - Couta media

More information Couta Boat website

By Lisa Ratcliff
Tenacity with Don Telford holding the Australian championship trophy  - photo by Lisa Ratcliff - Couta media

Woody Point Yacht Club Twilight Races

Photos by Bob Fowler

Day 1 Couta Boat Nationals 2017

Photos by Jane Lizzy Evans photography

Day 2 Couta Boat Nationals 2017

Wagtail C86 leading the fleet in Saturdays blow scratch Australian champion - photo by JaneLizzyEvans photography
Don Telford's Tenancity 2017 Couta Boat national champion- photo by JaneLizzyEvans photography
C1999 RHAPSODY  Leading the fleet in windward--leeward racing - photo by JaneLizzyEvans photography
Bella (foreground) against the national park - photo by Bob Fowler
Southerley (foreground) and Rhapsody (green hull) in Sunday passage race on Pittwater - photo by Bob Fowler
Photos by Jane Lizzy Evans photography and Bob Fowler 

Eclipsed Rudder Replaced In Time For Couta Boat Nationals

Event: Couta Week 2017, October 6-15 involving three NSW yacht clubs and incorporating three Sydney Harbour events plus the Wattle Cup/Couta Boat Nationals on Pittwater on the final weekend

When Jim Wilshire’s rudder came loose and went missing off his Couta Boat Eclipse, which was travelling east from Perth atop a delivery truck between Bordertown in South Australia and Horsham in Victoria, the owner’s shot at Couta Week and the class’ national championship hit a snag.

The Sorrento and Sydney fleets rallied to help Wilshire and Eclipse’s co-owner Allister Inglis, two other owners offering spare rudders and Couta Boat builder Tim Phillips supplying a standard blank rudder to be faired and shaped to suit, the option they went with.

“As soon as the trucking company realised the rudder had shaken loose they sent someone to drive back three hours and found the spot on the road where it came off, but couldn’t find it,” Wilshire said, adding, “the goodwill from the class has been fantastic.”

Coutas head to Sydney - photo by Tim Phillips

Wilshire is very much back in the game with a state-of-the-art rudder for his 1999 built Couta and on  Wednesday October 4 the last of the 10-strong Victorian fleet arrived into Sydney on B-double-trucks, completing the fleet in time for a fully packed 10 day program.

Twenty-two Couta Boats from the traditional and modern-built eras will race on Sydney Harbour in the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club’s two-race Thistle Cup on Friday October 6 then on Saturday in the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club’s Muriel Trophy.

Sunday’s biennial Gaffer’s Day, another SASC event, will boast a 90-strong line up of sparkling mostly white hulls, timber decks and tillers, gleaming varnish and glorious gaff-rigs. The harbour race will feature a bolstered Couta class in town for next week’s national title on Pittwater plus special international guest Dorade, the Olin Stephens 1929 designed 52-footer from the USA. There may even be an Australian Prime Minister sailing his Couta Boat called Rob Roy.

Monday is a rest day then the Coutas will cruise in company past the impressive sandstone cliffs of North Head and onto Broken Bay for a relaxed Wednesday twilight organised by the Woody Point Yacht Club, mixed in with various midweek social gatherings.

Frivolities will end to some extent when the Couta Boat Association Nationals in conjunction with the Wattle Cup begin on Saturday October 14 from the Avalon Sailing Club, the first time the national title has been held outside the birthplace of the Couta Boat, Victoria and in particular the Mornington Peninsula.

NSW class president Larry Eastwood says: “The nationals will follow the traditional Wattle Cup format which includes windward/leewards on Saturday then Sunday’s very tricky passage race around both Lion Island and Scotland Island. The latter is a lottery and can throw the average punter way off if they aren’t paying attention.

“We’ve amended the sailing instructions this year so the Wattle Cup trophy will go to the handicap winner of the traditional Coutas, the original fishing boats or those built as replicas, rather than the five modern-built Coutas among the fleet.”

On the host club Eastwood added: “Avalon Sailing Club has been terrific with lots of good volunteer help, energy and enthusiasm, which makes or breaks these types of regattas.”

Separate to the Wattle Cup trophy is the CBA Nationals trophy sent up from the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club for the occasion. In all the years of the Australian title only Victorians teams have made it onto the trophy, providing plenty of motivation for the NSW fleet and two WA entries to play their hardest game.

Key dates:
Sydney Harbour Couta Trophy Series
Friday 6 October               Thistle Cup, RPEYC, format 2 races 
Saturday 7 October           Muriel Trophy, SASC, format 1 race 
Sunday 8 October             Couta division of Gaffers Day, SASC, biennial event

Saturday 14 October        CBA Nationals / Wattle Cup. ASC, format 3 windward/ leeward races 
Sunday 15 October           CBA Nationals / Wattle Cup. ASC, format 2 island passage races

Follow Couta Week and the Australian Championship via Facebook

More information Couta Boat website

by Lisa Ratcliff
Tenacity on Sydney Harbour - photo by Bob Fowler

Southern Class At Couta Week

October 10, 2017
Event: Couta Week 2017, October 6-15, 2017 involving three NSW yacht clubs and incorporating three Sydney Harbour events plus the Wattle Cup/Couta Boat Nationals on Pittwater on the final weekend
NSW Couta Boats are among the placegetters in individual races, but it’s the Sorrento crews at the top of the tree in the Sydney Harbour Couta Boat Series combined results from the Thistle Cup, Muriel Trophy and Sunday’s spectacular 95-strong Gaffer’s Day fleet.

Four races into Couta Week 2017 and the Victorians are oiled up and flexing as the class prepares for the first Australian title to be held outside their state this weekend, October 14-15. Seems they have no intention of letting the NSW drought of national champions be broken, even though the Sorrento crews find themselves in less familiar waters.

This is Mitchell’s fifth trip to Sydney in six years and speaking on the impending CBA Nationals he reckons “we’ll be up there, though you never really know with Pittwater. We’ve come up from Melbourne to take every line honours in every race and if the handicap results go our way that’s a bonus. Rhapsody is probably rated tenth in the fleet in terms of speed but we sail it well, to beat the lighter, faster and more expensive boats.”

Second in the Gaffer’s Day race and the best-placed NSW boat in the series in fourth, Maurice Drent’s Emily, is one of the Coutas built from the original fishing boat design. Helm and tactician Bob Fowler said “Sunday’s building NNE breeze and washing machine” conditions suited the heavier boat, the extra weight providing stability in the choppy waters. “There’s a huge difference in how weight is distributed between the heritage Coutas and those built purely for racing.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was aboard the Couta Boat Rob Roy he co-owns, and back at the host Sydney Amateur Sailing Club he agreed to present the Gaffer’s Day trophies.

According to SASC Rear Commodore and chairman of the organising committee, Peter Scott, the Kelpie Trophy is awarded for “gracing and racing”, and following the Gaffer’s Day race luminaries of the classic boat world, including Bill Gale, Sir James Hardy and Merrin Maple-Brown, selected Matt Brooks’ stunning S&S 52 Dorade.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and trophy winners Dorade (Bermudian 1 PurHC Division) from the New York Yacht Club at the host club SASC - photo by Bob Fowler

Dorade, designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens, on Sydney Harbour last weekend - from Dorade facebook page (Before taking on the 628-nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in December, the “Dorade Down Under” team will head to New South Wales in October for the Bass Island Race and to Sydney in November for the Bird Island Race. )

A new Gaffer’s Day trophy called the Classic Cup was awarded to Rana’s young skipper Peter Langman, the shipwright given the task of completing the restoration of the 1913-built AC Barber design during his final apprenticeship year. It was also his 21st birthday present, gifted by another classic boat tragic, dad Sean Langman.

Peter Langman with Classic Cup trophy and Australia's PM,The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull- photo by John Jeremy SASC

The Couta fleet is making its way north to Pittwater for the second half of the itinerary with a series of informal races and soirees put together by the NSW chapter before the pinnacle, the CBA Nationals and Wattle Cup October this weekend out of the Avalon Sailing Club.

Muriel Trophy results thanks to the Sydney Amateurs Sailing Club, congratulations to the placegetters Couta-Tah (Andrew McMillan), Sylvia (Larry Eastwood) and Georgia (Jeffrey Richardson).

Thistle Cup, RPEYC

Check the Facebook page for more videos and images of the Sydney Harbour events.

Key dates - Pittwater 
Saturday 14 October CBA Nationals / Wattle Cup. ASC, format 3 windward/ leeward races 
Sunday 15 October CBA Nationals / Wattle Cup. ASC, format 2 island passage races

By Lisa Ratcliff
Couta delivery from Pittwater to the harbour - photo by Bob Fowler
Couta div of Gaffers Day start off Kirribilli - photo by John Jeremy SASC
Tenacity & Barra Gaffers Day 2017 - photo by John Jeremy SASC

COUTA Boat 2017 PART 1

Published on 9 Oct 2017 by Bob Fowler
Bob sails on Emily