Spinnakers flying along the Perth metropolitan beaches

Spinnakers flying along the Perth metropolitan beaches

Cover image by John Chapman, Sails On Swan

Western Australia’s most impressive race yachts are often competing offshore in the summer sailing season, but their course takes them out to sea and out of view from the local community. In a new initiative for Ocean Racing WA, the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club weekend event, the Rockingham Race Regatta, brought the fleet within view of the shore giving spectators an up-close view of the modern racing machines in action.

Starting off Leighton Beach near Fremantle, the yachts set spinnakers and hugged the shoreline to North Cottesloe creating a glorious spectacle from the popular Perth beaches. In a partnership with Barchetta beachfront café in North Cottesloe, many supporters of offshore racing gathered there to watch the display. Phil and Jane King from Barchetta were delighted to promote the event to their customers and the sailing community. It was a nice addition to Saturday morning brunch at the café with race information and details about the fleet of yachts and classic power boats shared with the onlookers.    

The Division 2 fleet started five minutes ahead of Division 1 but by the time they reached Cottesloe the Carkeek 47 Indian, owned by Craig Carter, had stretched out in to the lead. Hot on her tail were the two 42 footers, Gary McNally’s Black Betty and Alan Stein’s Dirty Deeds. Launched in March this year, the JPK 10.80 Atomic Blonde was the first of Division 2 to arrive at the North Cottesloe turning marker. Simon Torvaldsen and his team sailing very well to be so close behind these three larger yachts and sailing in to the Rockingham finish within the Division 1 pack taking first overall on IRC corrected time in his own Division 2 fleet. Second in Division 2 went to Laurie Flynne’s Dynamic then Dennis Vincent with Wyuna.


For the Division 1 yachts, there was drama for the team on Indian when they were entangled in one of the markers of the course when heading south to the Cockburn Sound Channel. They suffered damage to their yachts’ rigging and Code Zero sail causing them to retire from the race, unharmed but disappointed as they had been doing very well in the race at this point.

The two 42 footers came flying in to the bay as the Perth seabreeze freshened. McNally’s optimised Bottin Carkeek Black Betty in first over the line and Stein’s GP 42 Dirty Deeds following six minutes later. Slightly further back and having a close race with only two minutes between them was the Sydney 47CR, Endorfin (Michael Giles) then John Rayner’s BW36 Al Fresco followed by the Fred Barrett 35 owned by Mark Nagle, Weapon of Choice. Al Fresco’s team comments “a cracking kite reach into James Point, breeze on, sunshine, doing 15 knots, what else do you need in life?” Overall on IRC corrected time, Chris Higham’s Argo won the day, Black Betty in second then Ian Clyne’s J122 Joss in third. 


The yachts joined the power fleet who were already moored up in the bay and social activities followed at The Cruising Yacht Club, Rockingham. Competitors woke to a beautiful morning with the fleet of classic power yachts setting a wonderful contrast to the modern race yachts scattered through the bay.

A windward-leeward race was contested by the offshore yachts, a good warm up for the crews prior to the passage race back to Fremantle. Included in the event is the IRC Youth Cup Series to encourage youth and young adult sailors in to offshore and keelboat racing. On Black Betty there were five 25 and under sailors in the crew who displayed excellent skills and enthusiasm to race this exciting race yacht and bring her in for another win on IRC corrected time and line honours in the shorter course racing.  The spectacular green spinnaker of Joss with three young adults in the crew came in second on corrected time. On YAH it was French Kiss, a Beneteau First 44.7 helmed by lady skipper Clodagh Irwin with two young sailors on-board who took a win. 

Close racing again in Division 2 between the two Beneteau First 34.7’s, Dynamic in first place then Wyuna thirty two seconds later. Next were the two S&S 34’s with Phil Somerville-Ryan and his team on Huckleberry leading Michael Thorpe’s Soon. Placings did not change on IRC.

As the yachts were preparing for the passage race back to Fremantle, the classic and modern power yachts sailed past in convoy on their journey to Garden Island. There were fourteen of them, the oldest Kiewa, a 40’ auxiliary lugger. Her backbone and floors are of jarrah, bent ribs of green karri and her strakes are New Zealand kauri. Launched in 1913 and restored in 2013. Also in the fleet the majestic Halvorsen designs of Mischief , Hiawatha, Sierra and Karrawa. Along with Winnilya, during WW2 most of these boats were seconded in to the Naval Auxiliary Patrol and based at RFBYC which was also seconded by the Navy for the duration of the war and known as HMAS Leeuwin II. They were painted grey, carried a depth charge in their transoms and machine mounts on their foredecks but thankfully these slow-going girls avoided any conflict are still around.

A common theme between the sail and power fleets is the range of old and new. In the offshore fleet there are a couple of S&S 34’s enjoying a good race together and the S&S 39 Perie Banou II. Fantastic to see her well known blue hull racing with Jon Sanders and his crew enjoying the weekend. Jon was thrilled to be involved in the event, he loves being able to see the beach. For a man that has completed ten circumnavigations of the world it was great to see him racing locally.  

For the fast run back to Fremantle, Commodore Gary McNally from RFBYC commented on his race “It was quick and exciting, we must have stayed above 20 knots of boat speed the whole way and certainly hit 25 knots”. He was very pleased with the weekend, especially the feature in North Cottesloe and having the offshore race yachts so close to the beaches. Commodore McNally thanks Barchetta beachfront café for their involvement in promoting the event.


Stein and his team from Dirty Deeds chased Black Betty all the way but could not catch her. He reports that his team thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and racing with a closely matched competitor. They came in first and second over the line and on corrected time followed by Weapon of Choice. Hugh Warner’s Ocean Ranger (Infiniti 36) had a better race back and the Beneteau 44.7 Twitch, owned by Barry and Betty Walsh was the last boat in.

Again, no change in the results across the line and on corrected time for Division 2, Atomic Blonde, Dynamic, Wyuna, Huckleberry and Perie Banou II ahead of Soon.

Overall results for the Rockingham Race Regatta and IRC Youth Cup Series will be announced on Thursday at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club.

Follow the Western Australian inshore event on social media with Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and Ocean Racing WA (@OffshoreWA).


Event website – http://www.rfbyc.asn.au/content/on-water/fleets/2018-rockingham-race-regatta.php

Susan Ghent

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