I jumped onto the computer to see what the upcoming race at MYC would be; Williamstown to Mornington. Okay, this could be good if the predicted weather prevailed. It was a similar bearing to the finish as the Devonport. Yes, we are on! I entered the race and started to put the crew together; myself, Dad (Tony Donnellan), Mick Daddo, Shaun Miles, Tristan Batey and Samual Savage.
Next step, lock in a driver to bring the car and trailer back from Williamstown. It was all starting to fall into place by Wednesday afternoon and with 20-25 knots from the west it was going to be a ripper ride.
I studied the weather models and course bearings, made my notes and was ready for the ride to come. We had a crew meeting at the yacht club post Thursday night race, we had been two minutes late to the start of that race, so I had to get my A game on!
We decided if the weather was going to be fair Friday morning we would sail to Williamstown.
Friday morning at MYC, it was blowing 35 knots from the North West and the seaway rolling into Mornington Harbour was straight out of the Northwest. ‘Goldfinger’ was on the rocks. This was a bad idea…Feeling sad for Simon, I offered as much help as I could.
The decision was quickly made to drop the rig and drive the boat to Williamstown. We got halfway through the process – boom and sheets were taken off and put aside in the yard. The boat was packed and now all we needed to do was to lower the rig. It was still blowing 30knots. It didn't feel like a good idea, so called Dad for his help and thoughts on how to lower the rig safely – after all, we didn’t need to damage another boat today. The silence on the phone answered my question, it wasn’t going to happen today.
We changed plans and started doing a few maintenance jobs, then the rain came down; heavier and heavier by the minute. We conceded to the weather thinking it's just not going to happen. Do we pull the pin on the race? We just haven't had a thing go our way this week. Maybe it was a sign, the question was, do I listen? So on that thought we went to the bar. It was Friday afternoon and what better place to watch the weather roll in than the MYC bar.
We decided to meet at the club at 5 am and have another crack at lowering the mast. After all, the rest of the boat was packed up. But the battle to get to the start line was far from over! That night, Dad wanted to pull the pin, Mick wasn't sure he could sail – it was all seeming too difficult. I was shattered. All I wanted to do was sail a fast yacht race. It seemed to be over until Mick confirmed his crew position. Dad then committed and we were on! Happy days! I went to bed early. I wanted to be prepared.
At 4 am Saturday morning I jumped out of bed, determined to make it to the start line. I didn’t even care how we went in the race, I just wanted to go fast. We arrived at the yacht club at 5 am. Dad was still in bed, it was Shaun, Sam, myself and 22 knots from the west. This is going to be risky, we moved the boat into the lee of the club room and took our care to lower the rig. Success! No damage. We can still go sailing. We loaded the rest of the gear into the boat and picked up Dad. We were Williamstown bound.
Arriving slightly before seven, we had re-rigged and run sheets. We were almost ready to go…until Shaun asked ‘Tim, where is the boom?’ I thought it was all over…again! My heart sank, I knew exactly where it was. The same place it was taken off the boat before the rain – in the yard near the etchells.
I couldn’t bear the thought of Dad's disappointment, so I unhitched the trailer and headed for MYC as fast as I could.
I called friends, yacht club members, anyone that could help. Laurie to the rescue! He dropped everything he was doing and went straight to the club. He found our misplaced boom and organised a boom delivery man aka Pieter Vermeer. I was to meet them halfway at Dandenong Rd and had 40 minutes to get back to the boat and make the start line. We were back on again. I love it when a plan comes together.
The boys put the boat in the water with another car. Teamwork makes the dream work. By the time I got back it was boom on and off to the start line. We hoisted the sails and started on a reach! Dad said ‘this is going to be a slow ride, we were doing 12 knots out of the channel and hadn't pulled the sails on yet! The joy was just starting to set in. After two postponed starts we were off. A great decision by Mick and Dad to start at the pin end away from the rest of the fleet had us in control.
With each gust, we accelerated away from the competition, boat length by boat length. I couldn’t believe how fast this boat was! It was completely unexpected given the size of the other boats. We were in the lead, headed for R2 with 20 knots of wind still building, thinking ‘this is going to be a good ride’!
As we rounded R2, headed for the Spoil Ground mark we were nearly beating upwind. I thought ‘this is going to be uncomfortable’. As we composed ourselves and prepared the boat for some upwind work, the rest of the fleet kept sailing on towards Mornington. Tristan piped up and asked if I knew about the new change of course in the sailing instructions, to which I replied ‘What new mark?!!’ So we beared away and started navigating from the front, trying to maintain the lead while figuring out where the next mark was based on the angle of the boats behind us.
Navionics and a quick check of the sailing instructions gave us a new bearing. Time to send it again! As the squalls came through and the seaway built we started surfing wave after wave, planing all the way to Mornington. We were averaging 13-14 knots of boat speed, even hitting 16.7 knots, and jumping off the back of waves.
The boat was a beast! Dad was reading out speed numbers and I was chasing the next wave but the boat was comfortable and in control. We had Mornington in our sights and in no time we were there.
We had done it! Line honours and a handicap win – I was ecstatic! The boys couldn't wait to get to the bar and start the stories. Adrenaline still pumping, I sat on the boat for a moment to reflect. It was worth all the hard work and tears. It was our determination to get to the start line that won us the race.
Thanks to Mornington Yacht Club and Royal Yacht Club of Victoria race officials, Laurie, boom delivery man Pieter Vemeer, Dad, Mick, Shaun and Sam.