Sponsored by Parks Victoria and Queenscliff Harbour P/L
Regattas had been held at Queenscliff in the 1850s between the crews of the Customs, Pilots and Health Officer’s boats.The year 1862 marked the first regatta when the fishermen joined in.In 1865 it was the fishermen themselves who organised their first regatta, and these Fishermen’s Regattas became an annual event, held either at New Year or at Easter time.
Queenscliff fishermen successfully sailed their working boats against boats built for pleasure in races up the Bay.In 1888 Ben Chidgey won the Hundred Pound Cup at Hobson’s Bay, and in 1890 Walter Shapter won the Mordialloc Regatta.This did not sit well with the city folk, and in 1890 the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, and the Yacht Clubs at Hobson’s Bay, Brighton and St Kilda excluded fishermen from their races on the grounds ‘that they were professionals.’
These days, the Couta Boat Association is very pleased with its association with the Classic Yacht Association of Australia and has again invited the Williamstown-based classic yachts to join in the Queenscliff Regatta 2010.
The Queenscliff Couta Boat Regatta was held on Saturday, 6 February 2010.This historic Regatta, which commemorates the Queenscliff Fishermen’s Regattas of the mid-1860’s, is organised by the Couta Boat Association and is an aggregate race which counts towards the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club season championship.
The newly completed Queenscliff Harbour provided a most suitable venue for this gathering of couta boats from around Port Phillip and, due to the efforts of the Queenscliff Harbour staff and with the cooperation of existing berth holders, adequate raft-up and mooring space was cleared to accommodate not only the visiting couta boats, but also wooden motor launches now owned by many previous couta boat skippers, and some of the majestic classic yachts from Williamstown.This event has all the makings of growing into a boat festival celebrating the beauty and endurance of wooden boats.
The weather forecast was as usual a bit up in the air, making decisions on whether to bring boats to Queenscliff a bit of a challenge for skippers from afar.Isn’t it amazing that we cannot get reliable forecasts just a few days out from a sailing event, yet we are told with absolute certainty by the meteorologists and climatologists what will happen to us in the year 2100?Full marks go to the classic yachts Mercedes III, Boambillee andVentura, but in particular to couta boat Ella C129, who made the trip from Williamstown (and Geelong) on Friday in fairly rough conditions in order to be at QueenscliffHarbour in time for the Regatta.
As Mornington Peninsula boats arrived from onward on Saturday, they gathered in the central basin of the QueenscliffHarbour and skippers and crew made their way to the Harbour Shed to collect regatta T-shirts and fish & chips, and to attend the race briefing.Everyone enjoyed being on or near their boats, and the sense of camaraderie was palpable. The planned start was a blessing as the wind started to build and race management was keen to get the race underway.Blissfully, Division 1 couta boats had a good start without general recall, followed by Division 2 and then the classic yachts.
Naturally sailors always pay close attention to the wind, but when sailing in Queenscliff waters, it is a bit like sailing on a conveyor belt as the tides run very hard in this area close to the Rip; and on Saturday, there was an ebb tide of 6.4 knots ... Boats which tossed onto port tack early lost valuable ground, but those which seemingly went too far on their initial starboard course, did very well indeed.I watched the race along with a good number of people from QueenscliffHarbour’s observation tower platform.It is a heart-warming feeling to see a flock of some 35 couta boats in the waters where they originated.
Trophy presentation was at the newly opened harbour restaurant 360Q, followed by a sold out Regatta Dinner there.Vin Rigby, a retired St. Leonard’s fisherman, told us about his life on the sea, and Dugga Beazley and his family came all the way from Port Melbourne to hear him speak.Naturally, the Queenscliff Couta Boat Regatta would not be complete without the ‘Harbour Master’ Lewis Ferrier, who not only thanked Vin on behalf of all of us for his talk, but also marked the turning buoy with his fishing boat Rosebud on Sunday during the Sailpast.
Handicap Results for the Queenscliff Regatta 2010 are (full list can be viewed on www.sscbc.com.au – Couta Boat Aggregate 09/10):
Couta Boat Division 1:
1stMurielC17built 1917 by Mitch Lacco Skipper: Tim Phillips
2ndDarneyC03built 2003 by the Wooden Boatshop Skipper: Wayne Parr
3rdC97C97built 1997 by Jeffrey Richardson Skipper: Jeffrey Richardson
Couta Boat Division 2:
1stDuchessC21built 1952 by Alex Lacco Skipper: Andrew Creek
2ndReginaC34built 1934 by Peter Locke Skipper: Janette Ellis
3rdEllaC129built 2001 by Brett Almond Skipper: Michael MacTavish
1stMercedes IIIR450built 1966 by Cec Quilkey Skipper: Martin Ryan
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL ...
This event could not have been a success without the sponsorship from Parks Victoria and Queenscliff Harbour P/L and the attendance of so many boats. Lew Ferrier farewelled the departing fleet on Sunday with the words "Hope to see you again next year, if YOU are alive" ( - he is 87!)