Official opening of season in Hobart celebrated by 290 boat fleet

The half tonner Kaiulana was fulled dressed for the Official Opening of the Yachting Season.
The largest fleet in years, 290 recreational vessels of all ages, shapes and sizes, today celebrated the Official Opening of the Yachting Season on Hobart’s River Derwent with a colourful parade of sail in historic Sullivans Cove.

Despite lowering skies and a light but chilly sou’easter, the 131st Official Opening attracted a huge fleet that ranged from a doughtnut-shaped inflatable boats being paddled by two young men, fishing 'tinnies' and runabouts, though to Laser dinghies and Sharpies, former fishing boats, luxury motor cruisers, historic yachts and prominent ocean racers.

The oldest yacht taking part was the Knight family’s gaff-topsail yawl Gypsy, built in 1914 and owned by the family since 1919, her crew looking splendid in white uniforms. The newest yacht was an SB20 sportsboat launched just over a year ago.

The 98 year old yawl Gypsy was the oldest yacht out on Opening Day.

His Excellent the Honourable Peter Underwood AC, took the salute from aboard the ML Masterpiece, accompanied by the Commodore Graham Taplin of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and flag officers from other participating clubs.

'It has been a tremendous response from boat owners in Hobart, with every major club on the Derwent represented here today…a perfect day considering the river was being swept by a 50 knot gale just two days ago,' Commodore Graham Taplin said.

'His Excellency has chosen Birngana, skippered by Ernest Targett, as the winner of the RYCT Beauty Prize on the day,' he added.

Club officials agreed it was the biggest Opening Day fleet in many years, with yachts from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Bellerive Yacht Club, Derwent Sailing Squadron, Geilston Bay Boat Club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania joined by cruisers from the Motor Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Sea Scouts were also sailing their clinker training dinghies, one foiler Moth sailor was looking for more breeze to lift a hull, and a sea plane taxied around the fleet to its berth in Sullivans Cover after landing on the river.

With Hobart’s maximum temperature just 13°, crews were well rugged up against the wind chill factor which was reducing it to about 11°/

The Commodore of the Motor Yacht Club, Commodore John Hebbink in Defiant, led the fleet in the sail past which took more than an hour to complete.

Commodore Taplin said the size of the fleet augured well for a huge boating season in southern Tasmania this summer, in inshore and offshore yacht racing, organised cruises, nine Australian and one world championship for off-the-beach classes and major regattas on the Derwent.

Following the Sail Past, most of the fleet headed for Nutgrove Beach to anchor or raft-up and continue the festivities of the opening of the 131st season of organised yacht racing on the River Derwent. Then it was back to their various clubs to wind up a great day to start a great season of summer sailing.

The racing starts tomorrow morning with the RYCT’s Channel Race down the Derwent and into the winding reaches of the D’Entrecasteax Channel.

The race starts from Castray Esplanade from 9.15am, with the fleet returning to finish back there late on Sunday afternoon.

The Channel Race is also the first race in the Combined Clubs Long Race Series, with the first day of the Combined Clubs Harbour Series scheduled for next Saturday, 13 October.

Paddlers in an 'doughtnut' inflatable and the sea scouts joined big yachts and motor cruisers.

Tasmanian State Governor Peter Underwood takes the salute from ML Masterpiece.