Friday, December 21, 2012

Not a Private Millpond

Some heavy hitters are weighing in over the State Government's extraordinary decision to approve a helipad in the middle of Sydney Harbour. The line up includes Malcom Turnbull Liberal frontbencher and pollsters favourite to be Australia’s next prime minister, Dick Smith entrepreneur and former CASA chairman, Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee, Ian Kiernan Clean Up Australia, local state members of parliament and local mayors.

The story was  flagged in July 2012  in the Sydney Morning Herald which reported that The Federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson had granted Harbourside Helicopters Pty Ltd $65,000 to part-fund a study on the best location from which to operate tourism flights over the harbour and to other tourist locations. Tourist organisations have been lobbying for harbour based heliport for some time.

Then in late November the NSW Government's Roads and Maritime Services Agencies approved Newcastle Helicopters to run a floating heliport on a moveable barge in the harbour. The SMH reported that it had obtained documents that showed the NSW government had approved the controversial floating heliport in Sydney Harbour before it had asked about air safety or air traffic control regulations.

Protests started to happening in the affluent suburbs on the harbour. Local members claimed to have known nothing about the decision. The federal Liberal front bencher Malcolm Turnbull labelled the decision ''reckless and undemocratic'' and called for it to be rescinded.

 'The nightmare I've got in my mind is a combination of a summer's afternoon, many hundreds of boats out on the harbour, most of them sailing skiffs, a strong nor-easter, sailing races under way, and these helicopters landing. Seaplanes have to find somewhere with no boats. The problem for the helicopter is he has to land on the barge,'' says Turnbull. ''Who's going to be responsible the first time there is an accident ?''

Naturally, one of the concerns is noise. Newcastle Helicopters commissioned a consultant to test and report the noise levels of helicopters. The report was posted on their website but later taken down perhaps as a result of the SHM which reported that their consultant had admitted he was not an acoustic engineer and had never previously produced a report on helicopter noise. The consultant, a director of the noise testing company, Airport Friendly Solutions, also conceded that he had been wrong to describe himself as a member of the Australian Acoustics [sic] Society. The peak body, which is actually called the Australian Acoustical Society, told Fairfax Media Mr Holden has never been a member, although he used to subscribe to its magazine. A principal of another acoustic consultancy  who examined the initial noise assessment, said ''it has so many errors in it that it says they can't be acoustic consultants''.

Wild Oats near the helipad location

Ian Kiernan, the founder of Clean Up Australia, is quoted in the SMH as saying

 'Wild Oats has got a 40-metre mast,'' ‘'We'll be putting yachts right around it, I tell you. Vertical spears - that will make it pretty hard for them.''

Dick Smith, helicopter pilot and former chair of Chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has taken the other side he is quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying
"There was no problem with downdraft  People in other boats would just move a bit away, let the helicopter land or take-off, then move back again."

Perhaps the silliest quote is from Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee, who proposed the floating heliport as part of The Daily Telegraph's People's Plan, said it was still a working harbour "not a private millpond".

I give the last quote to a sailor, the Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Malcolm Levy.
''The area I see designated on a plan shows quite a large part of the harbour … used continuously in yacht races and by recreational users. If there's going to be a barge stuck in the harbour, does that mean we are to stop what we've been doing?''

The SMH says for now, the government seems determined to tough out the backlash against the project.

 photo - helicopter hovering over dinghies kindly referred by Doug (Improper Course)

Update 23/12/12
Newcastle Helicopters PR agency  issued a press statement yesterday.

''Effective immediately, Newcastle Helicopters has put the project of the Sydney Harbour Floating Heliport on hold until further notice, in order to consider the feasibility of the operation going forward,'' ''It is Newcastle Helicopters' intention to address the relevant concerns … with thoroughly considered and accurate information, and is taking the appropriate steps to do so.''

Asked what he thought about the heliport announcement, Mr Turnbull said: ''I am not sure what this announcement really means. But our position remains that the government should revoke the licence and if Newcastle Helicopters want to have a floating heliport in the harbour they should make an application that goes through proper planning processes.''

Read more:

In the meantime Sydney Ports has issued a Notice to Mariners effective 26 December, coincidently the start of the Sydney to Horbart yacht race.

Notice is hereby given that areas that can be used for vessel based 

helicopter operations have been established within Sydney Harbour, and 

will become available to operators on Monday 26  December 2012. 


Area 1  Seaplane area in Rose Bay 

Area 2  Between Shark Island and an arc of a circle radius 250m centred on 

position 33º51.374’S 151º15.496’E 

Area 3  Within a circle radius 250m centred on position 33º 51.068'S 151º 

14.327'E off Athol No 4 Buoy 

Area 4  Within the area bounded by 33º 51.2407'S 151º 13.7208’E, 33º 51.2792'S 

151º 14.3650’E, 33º51.3486'S 151º 13.7115’E, 33º51.3872'S 151º 

14.3557’E – between Fort Denison and Bradley’s Head 

Vessel based helicopter operations involve helicopters landing onto, or 
taking off from, a vessel underway.   Such vessels will indicate that 
helicopter operations are underway by displaying a high intensity 
flashing magenta light. 

By direction of the Harbour Master, helicopter operations will be 
suspended whilst there are vessels within 100m of a vessel engaged in 
helicopter operations. 

A notification on which area is in use will be included in the hourly 
information message broadcast by Sydney Ports VTS on VHF Channel 13. 

Philip Holliday                    30 November 2012                                        
Harbour Master                             
Sydney Ports Corporation

Read more:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

End of Year Report

I started this blog in 2012 as an easy way of storing and retrieving web based stuff about how to sail a Laser. I left the blog settings on public because I knew no better. Anyway, there were no visitors other than some weird web trawlers from strange parts of the world. I made some early posts and for a while kept a diary in one of the tabs. The collection grew, albeit randomly, being mostly web based material. Then the Tillerman kindly put me on his blog roll and there are now a modest 1000 hits a month. So I have have to keep the blog tidy and think about a post every now and then.

The back story is that at age 60 I decided to take up single person dinghy sailing after a 40 year break. But this is not a new thing, all over the world baby boomers are finding ways to keep active and rediscover interests. So there is no point banging on about it .

Here is an end of year report on 100 Races attempts to learn how to sail a laser. I am adopting Wikipedia’s ‘Minimum Information Standards and Reporting Guidelines’.

It has been 9 months since I purchased Laser 176894  a lifestyle changing event.

race days - 12
regattas - 1
failed to finish - once
failed to start - twice
races won - 1
usual fleet position mid to rear
practice days  - 64
weight loss - 6 kilos
club handicap - 5 minutes on club champions

Good Times
camping in the Budgewoi caravan park for the Coast regatta.
first over the line on club fun race mini marathon around the harbour
watching the AUS sailing team train out of Middle Harbour
being able to sail my Laser all year round
weight loss - 6 kilos

Funny Events
breaking a mast and walking the boat home along rocky shore line
heading out in 25 knots checking out the start line and heading straight back to the club (twice)

Looking forward to
14 remaining race days this season
masters regatta in February

Thanks to
my club for the regular training sessions by Rob and Sean, the well organised race days and the encouraging  environment.

Monday, December 3, 2012

TracTrac Coverage of Sail Melbourne

The first round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup is now on at Sail Melbourne and the Sandringham Yacht Club,  2-8 December.

I have been following the Men's Laser races with TracTrac. The Australian Olympic Laser Squad, Ryan Palk, Jared West, Matthew Wearn, Tom Burton and Ash Brunning are competing and at the top of the fleet with only three points separating them after day one.  Palk currently in the lead. Ash Brunning has an account of the racing on his blog. 

I see these guys most days of the week out on the water as they train out of Middle Harbour Yacht Club Olympic Sailing Team HQ. My second hand Laser is currently sporting a couple of Ryan Palk’s used regatta  sails. One for practice and the other club racing. Maybe I will get a replacement soon.

The TracTrac system is great for reviewing the race, watch at normal or up to 10 times speed, zoom in and out, pause, replay.  There is no sound so you have to make your own commentary.

You can pick up the link at

This is Sail Melbourne results page

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Race Commentary and Coverage

Watching sport on television can be very frustrating when the director chooses camera angles that miss the important action and the commentary is shallow and ill informed . Sadly this was often the case with the Olympic sailing coverage and the early Americas Cup coverage which often missed important moments such as the boats crossing. And there is the inevitable on air tension between the  golden tonsils of the professional announcer with little knowledge of the sport and the guest expert. The experts are regularly cut off and the director fails to back them up with the right shots.

When it comes to covering sailing, in particular match racing, there is a simple alternative which is to put the commentary and the camera on the umpires boat and hook into the actual commentary by the umpires. This way you cover the action right up close and you see and hear exactly what the judges see and think.

MatchRaceVideoDotCom’s channel on YouTube has done just this with their coverage of the 2008 and 2009 Knickerbocker Cup match races.

Each boat has its own judge who calls the racing rules as it applies to their situation.  “I am port give and tacking” ;”I am entitled to room”. For club racing sailors its a non stop lesson and refresher on the racing rules of sailing especially at the start and mark roundings. It is also a great insight into match racing which for many of us, sailors and non sailors, was the highlight sailing event at the London Olympics. What a shame it has been dropped. .

Here is one of the videos and you can see them all as part of a play list off this link.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mandatory Helmet Laws - The Consequences.

Laser sailing and riding bikes go together. Cycling is a great way to develop leg and hiking strength, endurance and aerobic fitness. It seems to be the best form of training other than actually getting on your Laser.  Riding a bike is also a really good form of transport especially for short distances around your suburb.

But in  Australia we have compulsory helmet laws. Here you can’t just put on a sun hat, 
grab a towel, hop on your bike and go to the beach. If you get caught without a helmet there is a fine, if you don't pay the fine they take away your drivers licence and then send the bailiff to seize your possessions.

At first glance our helmet laws might seem right.  Seat belts save lives, they are compulsory and no one objects to them.  

But there has been an unintended consequence.  According to
the enforced cycle helmet laws resulted in much less cycling. In Australia falls in cycle use averaged more than 30% and in Canada 28% to 40%.  Much higher levels of abandoning cycling have been recorded among teenagers.

In European countries, cycling is one of the forms of physical exercise most frequently undertaken by children out of school and any reduction in cycling can impact significantly on children's fitness. In all the countries with enforced helmet laws, there is a high level of childhood obesity. On the other hand, in countries with high levels of cycling and low levels of helmet use, childhood obesity is much less of a problem.

Everyday cycling, like walking, is a low-risk activity, and one where the health benefits outweigh the risk of injury by 20:1 or more. The bottom line is that people who cycle regularly live longer, on average, than people who do not, with healthier lives and less illness. (health impacts of mandatory bicycle helmet laws)

Good evidence of the safety of cycling comes from city bike hire schemes worldwide. Up to 2011, the popular schemes in London and Dublin had generated over 8 million cycle journeys with no serious casualties of any kind. This is a very low level of risk and few riders wear helmets.

Helmet laws also kill city hire bikes. Schemes in Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland have all failed to attract much use due to the need to wear a helmet and schemes in Mexico City and Tel Aviv were not allowed to go ahead until their laws had been rescinded or reduced in scope. Other helmet law towns are campaigning for law changes before they will invest in bike hire.

You may be lucky to live in a country with a strong everyday cycling culture and no helmet laws, take care to avoid the mistakes we have made here in Australia.

To know more about the issue check out these advocacy organisations

You can also sign a petition here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Joy of Sailing at Sailability Middle Harbour

Sally O'Neill Sailing Coordinator
Twice a month on Sunday mornings,  winter, spring, summer, autumn, in sun or drizzle, a group of volunteers and sailors take over the dock outside the Australian Olympic Sailing Team HQ at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This is where they launch their Access 303 dinghies.  

Sailability Middle Harbour is right next to MHASC laser club, we share the same entrance to  the harbour. The Sailability sailors are usually coming in from their last sail as we rig for our afternoon Laser races. 

Last Sunday I took my camera onto the dock to capture some shots of the sailors and volunteers and to learn more about it.

Volunteers are trained to help sailors with the greatest care and respect
Sailability Middle Harbour has been going for five years and is supported by Northbridge and North Sydney Rotary Clubs. They have five boats stored at the MHYC with another boat soon to be donated.

At Middle Harbour they sail the Access 303. It is safe and easy to sail by one or two adults.  10 ft long ,4 ft wide with a 3.5 ft draft, the boat is steered with a manual joystick.

Some sailors come in groups which include Sunshine Homes, which provide adult care for those with Downs Syndrom, CROWL a home for intellectually disabled adults and the Celebral Palsey Alliance. DARTS provides transport for wheelchair restricted people.
Lachie Clear

Sailability Middle Harbour costs only $5 per sail or $40 a year. The club welcomes new sailors and volunteers.

The lone sailor is  Lachie Clear. Lachie sails regularly by himself and competed at the Access World Championships in England in 2010

There are 350 local Sailability clubs around the world. Sailability was introduced to Australia in 1991 and there are over fifty groups on the continent.  
President John Taylor (JT) supervises a crane assisted boarding

To find out more about these extraordinary sailing clubs click on these links.

The joy of sailing
Off for another adventure on Sydney Harbour

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cue the ominous music, this is about to go bad

The Gopro waterproof camera has spawned a new sub sub sub genre on youtube - the ‘Gopro laser sailing video.’ There is vision from  mast tops, bows, overhanging sterns, hats and my favourite - off the boom.  Many of these  youtube videos are just raw footage, short and unsatisfying, but every now and again then one turns up that is entertaining, educational, and funny.   

That is not to say that raw footage cannot worthwhile. There is an exceptional four part series of hat-cam videos by Doug Peckover competing in the 2012 Australian Nationals
See them and Brett Beyer’s analysis at

You have to be a Laser sailing tragic to get into them, but hey thats the life we choose.

One of my favourite laser videos is the ‘The Comeback That Wasn’t’ by Fleet Co Club Captain Stuart Streuli. It has music, commentary, drama, comedy or perhaps pathos, all in 6 minutes.

Described as A roller coaster ride of a Laser Fleet 413 frostbite race that looks great, then bad, then OK, then good, then ultimately ends in disappointment.

There is drama at the top mark - ‘cue the ominous music, this is about to go bad’. The breeze is only 8 knots so no one dies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Two Types of Roll Gybes with Andrew Scrivan

I found the way to unblock the embedding function on this roll gybes video. Yesterday I posted their roll tack video, try this one.

Andrew Scrivan's Laser  demonstrates the two types of roll gybe   Andrew is  a former member of the US sailing team alphagraphics.  

The key points

-flatten the boat before the boom hits the water
-oversheet the main (gybe 2)
-put some vang on (gybe 2)
-use your weight to steer the boat
-smooth fluid movements 

Video produced by Laser XD Sailing 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some New Instructional VIdeos

Laser XD Sailing have recently published some short instructional videos on YouTube  and on their web site.  They are well produced with real time and slow motion video.  There is another good one on roll gybes, but unfortunately they have blocked the embedding function so you will have to find it via their YouTube account.  Here is one that they have let me publish on roll tacks in light air.

Their web site  looks like it is  still  under construction, but they have some some good beginner/intermediate  information.

This is a sample from their rigging guide.

In medium air, the goal is maximum power. The vang should be tensioned just enough so that it isn't sagging while block to block. Having the mainsheet block to block will create maximum leech tension and power in the sail. As the boat becomes overpowered, begin to tension the vang to reduce power in the sail. 

The draft of the sail should be set just under a full sail, about a hands length at the boom cleat or 15 cm (~6 in). The cunningham should be on just enough to take out the large diagonal creases. As the wind increases, depower the rig with cunningham and vang. The cunningham will pull the draft of the sail forward and reduce the draft slightly. It is important to set the outhaul and cunningham so that the draft isn't less than 10 cm (~4 in).

The traveler must be tight in order to avoid the boom from moving towards the center of the boat. If the boom is still moving towards the center of the boat, tension the vang just enough to help the boom to stay in the correct position.

Laser XD Sailing

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ten things that have changed in Forty Two years

It has been an eventful week. I had my first dinghy race in 42 years and the Tillerman put this blog on his list 3 Best Laser Sailing Blogs on the Planet, in the ‘relative beginner’ category.  

So I’ll stay in character for this post.  

Although  I am racing in the same place, Middle Harbour just off Balmoral Beach,  a lot has changed in 42 years.  This is my Australian Moth rigged at Balmoral circa 1969 note the high tech walking stick mast, pocket-luff sail and hand crafted bamboo battens.

This is what has changed in forty two years.

The shorts have got longer - say no more

The web and google gives us all the unorganised information we could hope for

Boats come from factories  -  my Moth was built in a friends garage with plywood, glue and clamps - note the beautiful, rare and depleted rain forest wood veneer deck

The Laser was invented 40 years ago  - it has taken that long for me to get on one

Moths got foils - next the foiling  Laser

Kids get sailing coaching - even a relative beginner GM can hook into some coaching thanks to the NSW Laser Association 

Weather forecasts are now reliable, you can plan the weeks practice sail around the wind you want - in my case 8 to 12 knots is a lot of fun

Dinghies have dollies

The power boat wash has gone from 10 cm high to 1 metre high - all the more reason not to hit the lay-line early so you have space to chip one in ahead of the inevitable giant wash

Capped teeth - it was always stupid to hold the main-sheet in your mouth when tacking

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scientists Give Aussie Sailors Tactical Advantage

This item was posted on CSIRO's blog on the 16 August.

CSIRO’s detailed wind forecasts have helped the Australian Olympic Sailing Team win gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
Scientists from CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Sport worked together to apply CSIRO’s expertise in fine-resolution atmospheric simulation to provide very detailed wind forecasts for the Australian Olympic Sailing Team.
Success in competitive sailing is a combination of tactics, skill, practice, best boat technology and accurate wind forecasts. The Australian Olympic sailing team possess all of these traits, but scientists at CSIRO gave them a significant tactical advantage through their application of the Conformal Cubic Atmospheric Model (CCAM) to provide high-resolution, near time forecasts of conditions expected on the sailing course.
Dr Jack Katzfey, from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, says CCAM was originally developed to generate regional climate simulations using high-resolution space and time technology.  It can be adapted to accurately provide detailed wind forecasts anywhere in the world.
“The weather simulator is based on a projection of the world onto a cube, which through its unique formulation can be ‘stretched’ in order to provide high spatial resolution over any portion of the globe,” he says.
The Australian Olympic Sailing Team’s meteorologist, Dr Bruce Buckley, interprets these forecasts, along with other sources of meteorological information, and presents them to the sailing team and their coaches prior to a race in order to give them the best possible chance of success.

Three dimensional plot of surface topography at 220 m resolution with an example of the forecasted wind streamlines (white lines) and speeds (colour, blue lighter winds, yellow/reds stronger winds) over water. Figure demonstrates the detail in the 220 m grid and forecasts. Circle indicates a race area.
The technology had been used in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and leading wind forecast website ‘PredictWind’, as well as contributing to the success of the Swiss sailing team, Alinghi, at the America’s Cup in 2003 and 2007, as well as helping Australia win gold in London.
“Most forecasting systems enforce artificial boundaries that can make their wind forecasts less accurate,” says Dr Katzfey.
“Our forecasting model uses innovative technology that gives us the advantage of creating a ‘stretched grid’ that provides a highly detailed wind forecasts at spatial scales of 220 meters. Being able to use this technology gave Australian sailors a unique advantage in the London 2012 Olympics.”
The SCIRO also crashes dummy cows, our strategy for gold in 2016.

For the real story on the crash cow click here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic Sailors Come Home

The home of the  Australian Olympic team is the MHYC, my local yacht club at the Spit in Middle Harbour. We sail on Wednesdays, the day the team returned home. The media was also there.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Four Months, Thirty Sails And Two Misadventures

Laser 176894 and I have been sailing now for  four months and good progress has been made. Thirty practice sails have done. I have joined the local laser club and met some of the winter sailing  members. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful for this newbie laser sailor.

My old road bike and the wife’s stationary bike are now in regularly use and I have increased my weekly swim to 3km. I have lost a few kilos, but still have lots to lose to get to an ideal weight.

I sail a lot by myself and some misadventures are inevitable.  I have had two in four months.  I was caught in a storm in April, my fault for not checking the weather forecast properly, lesson learnt.

Last week the top section of my mast broke and I had to walk the boat along a long difficult and rocky shore line and then hand paddle across Middle Harbour at the Spit. My boat is10 years old so the original spars were going to break sometime, it is good that it has happened now and not during a race.  In the process of converting from radial to full rig and replacing the top section, I now have a set of new full rig spars, which should reduce the risk. When the new and more reliable carbon fibre top section is approved I will buy one just to have peace of mind on lone sails. For now I will take a paddle with me every time I sail alone.  

Sydney Harbour is a long and complex waterway and I can go a long way from home when chasing the waves down wind. One day I am going to get caught on the wrong side of the harbour too far from home, so I might also put a cab fare in my life jacket pocket.

The  weather here is starting to improve, the days are getting longer and warmer. I can't complain, by picking the good days, I have sailed a couple of times a week over autumn and winter, just in a wetsuit, boots, sailing shirt, and life jacket and yet to get cold.

A difficult walk along the shore from Castle Rock to Clontarf

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice and the shortest day have just passed and Sydney is entering the coldest part of the year. We complain a lot here about the cold, even though we get no frost or snow. It is because our houses are not built for temperatures below 20c , they are built for the sub tropics with lots of glazing and with poor insulation. The winds are now mostly westerly and unstable. Some of of our days are cold, raining and dark but we still get a fair share of wonderful mild, sunny, sailing days. The good news, we get a mini spring in early August which brings out native flowers on the headlands and sailors on the harbour.

Here is time lapse video of Sydney Harbour on Saturday 23 June a few days after the winter solstice.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Roll Tacks - eight steps plus the tiller exchange

I was recently  searching around on YouTube for tips on roll tacks. I am also interested in  the tiller exchange which is a move that I need to refresh since I last raced a dinghy in the 1970's. This video by Ian Eliot and friends does a great job of breaking down of light air roll tacks into eight steps and right at the end gives us with one extra step - the tiller exchange  They use video from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club Race Team.   The Salientian channel also has other videos including one on light wind jibing, using the tiller extension to get hold of the main sheet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Transit of Venus and the Unknown Southern Land

On June 6 we  will have the opportunity to witness the transit of Venus when the planet passes between the Earth and the Sun.  There have been only six Transits of Venus since first predicted by the German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in the 17th Century.

This is a bit of history for those us who sail Sydney Harbour. James Cook, crew and scientists were the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia, They made landfall at Botany Bay just south of Sydney Harbour in April 1770. Eighteen years later the British established a penal colony at Sydney Cove.

Cook sailed to the south Pacific ocean on HMS Endeavour,  to observe the 1769 Transit of Venus across the Sun and to seek evidence of the postulated Terra Australis Incognita the "unknown southern land".

Route of the first voyage of James Cook 1768 to 1771
Staring at the brilliant disk of the Sun with the unprotected eye can quickly cause serious and often permanent eye damage.The safest way to observe a transit is to project the image of the Sun through a telescopebinoculars, or pinhole.

Friday, May 18, 2012

50 km Around Sydney Harbour

Over breakfast this morning I read in the local paper (SMH) about Murray Cox who has been swimming a 50 km circuit around Sydney Harbour, taking photographs with his waterproof camera and writing a little bit about the history of coves, bays and beaches along the way.  The last leg  was today from North Head to Sound Head.

My Saturday bike ride takes me on a circuit to the forts at Middle Head, Georges Heights lookout and  Bradley's Head which all have great views of the harbour.  I usually spend more time looking at the view and studying the wind patterns than riding.
Murray Cox

First stop today on the bike, the forts at the end of Middle Head.  The views are extraordinary and way in the distance with the sun rising behind them were three support boats, some kayaks and  half a dozen  swimmers heading for South Head, the light shining through their splashes. And just to make it spooky, coming up the harbour a huge oil tanker. But they had it worked out  and were safely near South Head when the tanker steamed out to sea. The rule on Sydney Harbour is you must stay 500 metres from the bow of tankers, not easy for vessels/swimmers doing 1.5 knots.

You can read about Murray Cox's adventures on his blog.

My own modest quest proceeds well. I am sticking to the exercise plan most weeks, sailed three times this week to make up for last week single effort. It is harder to find the ideal practice winds with our winter patterns being either 5 knots or 20 knots West to South winds, with not many ideal days in between.  Made contact with the local Laser club to get my membership process started. Still looking for a second hand full rig sail.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

One Month In

So far my blog has been about the first Australians, British naval map makers and  a recent squall and misadventure on Sydney Harbour.  Time to report on Laser training.

It has been one month since I purchased my first club racing standard Laser and I am almost a quarter of my way towards the goal  to be ready to race in September 2012.
Regular web trawling  for advice about Laser racing is filling the blog tabs with notes and quotes. Proper Course, Improper Course, How to Sail a Laser, Reaching Broadly, Butterfly Course, Centre of Effort and the many other are all fantastic.  If you are on the same journey, I hope some of the notes, quotes and links are helpful.

I recently found a free Laser Training Manual on the Web which I am still reading it and filling  more gaps in my knowledge.  Other reading includes Frank Bethwaite's book High Performance Sailing has changed the way I look at the wind and I am now actively sailing with my head out of the boat looking for the best wind on the course.  Bethwaite  is a  hard read but its worth persevering.. Michael Blackburn's book 'Sailing Fitness and Training' has given me confidence to set my own training and fitness program.

I am still thinking of a  name for Laser 176894.  I know its is meant to bad luck to change boat names but there is no name on the  hull so I feel I have some naming rights.   I found a name written on the sail bag 'Smell My Speed", yo Bart Simpson. The quest goes on for a new name.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Expect major and unpredictable changes in speed and direction. Assume no prediction possible"

It has been more than two weeks since I had a sail.  The forecast - a sunny day  8 to 10 knots gradient Westerly wind  Sea water temp 23 C. Air temp  lower for most of the day.  20 knot expected around 5 pm.  I plan to go at about 12.30 and get in well before the 20 knots..  I worked out the stability index before going. The stability index is a creation of Frank Bethwaite, explained in his book "High Performance Sailing", as a way of try to predict the kind of winds we sail in. So before going out I made this calculation.

Stability index 
  • low dominant   1 pt
  • colder wind over warm water 1pt
  • gradient wind 1 pt
score 3 pts

For the lowest possible score of three points, Bethwaite  says "Expect major and unpredictable changes in speed and direction. Assume no prediction possible".  In other words highly unstable.

I launched at Sirius Cove and sailed out into the harbour  in 5 knots ready to do some practice. But before I could settle into it,  a huge black thunder cloud started forming in the NW,  lighting was flashing inside the cloud, dark rain streaming out, high in the sky.  I needed to get to a beach. The nearest, Syringe Cove the one next to the zoo was about 500 metres away. I was about 40 metres off the beach when the storm approached. The trees on the high hill above the beach just went crazy. The squalls arrived 15 seconds later, the gusts swinging side to side. When the boom went in the water there was no hope and the boat went over.I never stood a chance.  It seemed unwise to try to get back up again, so I swam pulling the bow of the laser on its side towards the shore. If I had been out in the main harbour, I would have sat on the upturned hull, turtle style hoping the commercial vessels would dodge me.

It was slow going and took about 10 minutes to do the 30 metres to get my feet  touching the ground,  thinking all the while about bull sharks.

This is the Seabreeze record, gust peaking at 30 knots at Fort Denison, 35 in the main harbour.

It was a lucky escape. The harbour was a white out, the wind gale force. So I held the boat in the shallows on its side for 20 minutes or so, wet but safe -  ate an apple from my pocket.

With the storm passed I went back out to do some practice. I was a little shaken  but determined to make the best of the day. After only  20 minutes of practice  another storm cloud starts developing in the NW. Not again -  and so reluctantly we (me and Laser 176894) head back to Sirius Cove. I made it up the bay as the next squall came through. The trees went crazy again along the shore, I kept the boom very loose, ducking lots and keeping the boat level. We inched the last 20 metres and  got to beach unscathed. That's the second peak on the chart.

In my experience this is quite unusual weather I have only been caught in this kind of squall half a dozen times in 50 years of sailing on Sydney Harbour. Any way that's what I am telling myself. The boat is safe, I am not hurt and I got home for a hot shower and cup of tea by 3.00pm.

The Frank Bethwaite told me before I went out, "Expect major and unpredictable changes in speed and direction. Assume no prediction possible". 5 knots to 35 knot squalls, that's major and unpredictable.

There is more information on the stability index in the wind tab.

Time lapse video

Monday, April 9, 2012

The First Map of Sydney Harbour

Within days of the first fleet entering Sydney Harbour in 1788, Captain John Hunter and First Lieutenant William Bradley of the Sirius started mapping Sydney Harbour.  This is an extract of the eastern portion of their map.  The map in full is in the Maps Tab along with links to modern day maritime maps.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Post - Acknowledgement of Country

We sail on the beautiful and complex Sydney Harbour.  The harbour was created after the last ice age 10,000 years ago when the sea rose,  advancing fifteen km inland to fill the valleys that now form Sydney Harbour. 
The traditional owners of the land and water are the  Eora  people  of the Sydney area, south to the Georges River, north to the Hawkesbury River, and west to Parramatta. The indigenous people used this word to describe where they came from to the British. "Eora" was then used by the British to refer to those Aboriginal people. The Eora people are made up of separate family groups or clans. 
The Cadigal clan lived to the south west of the Balmain peninsula, the Wanegal to the northwest, and the Cammeraygal on the present-day lower North Shore.
Radio carbon dating indicates that the Sydney region has been inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 30,000 years.
(source wikipedia April 2012)