Sydney Amateurs classics head south for Hobart Wooden Boat Festival

SASC start of Bob Brown Trophy Race 2010 - Mister Christian
It began as a casual dockside conversation late last year between two Sydney Amateur Sailing Club skippers. Now it’s grown into a major project that should see at least eight classic yachts on the club register cruise 'in company' to Hobart for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in February 2013.

Initially, only Mike Warner (Lahara, 1951) and David Salter (Mister Christian, 1965) intended to make the passage South together. But once their loose plan became known, they were quickly joined by Maurie Evans (Malohi, 1956) and Philip Brown (Anitra V, 1956). All of these classic wooden yachts have strong connections with Tasmania.

Lahara was built by the legendary Jock Muir at Battery Point, and has raced to Hobart five times. Malohi, an Arthur Robb design, also competed in five Sydney-Hobart races. Mister Christian (co-owned by Ben Gray), was the late Peter Kurts’ first ocean racer and has also done five Hobarts. Anitra was one of the Halvorsen brothers’ most successful offshore yachts and won the race in 1957. Between them the four yachts have competed in 28 Sydney-Hobarts, most during the ‘golden era’ of the event between 1950 and 1970.

In true SASC style, the group began to meet unofficially over lunch at the club on the shores of Mosman Bay to swap experiences and ideas for the trip. Before long, word of the cruise spread and the fleet has now doubled to eight. Three of the new participants also have strong connections with Tasmania.

The famous Alan Payne-designed Maris was built in Hobart by Jock Muir in 1958. Originally owned by the late marine artist Jack Earl, the 37-foot Tasman Seabird classer is now skippered by his grand-daughter, Tiare Tomaszewski.

Fidelis is well known to Tasmanians, having won line honours in the 1966 Sydney-Hobart race in record time. Built in New Zealand to a Knud Reimers design, the powerful 61-foot sloop is now owned by Sydney businessman Nigel Stoke.

The oldest active classic yacht on the Sydney Amateurs register to join the long sail to the 2013 festival is Martin van der Wal’s Hoana, built in 1925. The 30-foot gaffer should take the trip in her stride, having completed a world circumnavigation, including a stay in Tasmania, during the 1960s.

Reverie will turn plenty of heads in Hobart. Built in 1965, the tough little 28-foot raised-decker is co-owned by Sydney sailors Nigel Berlyn and John Barclay. A modified Maurice Griffiths design, she’s won many regattas and club championships on Sydney Harbour.

The cruise has no formal structure and is not an official activity of the SASC, but these eight yachts should make a unique sight together at the festival, all flying the distinctive ‘Amateurs’ burgee.

Picture shows: The well-performed 1965 sloop Mister Christian (David Salter & Ben Gray) will be making the trip to Hobart again after a 44-year gap.