Submerged tree stump starts a tradition
A sail boat race between a group of friends to lake Connewarre, 34 years ago, is commemorated by the Barwon Heads Sailing Association.
BACK in 1963, a group of sail boat owners in Barwon Heads decided to organize themselves into a club and organize a race to Tate's Point on Lake Connewarre from the Ozone jetty. The Barwon Heads Sailing Association was formed and the race went ahead.
Some of the founding members who took part in that first race were John Robertson, Herbert Lees, James Campbell and Frank Steuart.
Today, Frank Steuart remembers back in those days Mirrors were the popular sailing boats and that first race, 34 years ago, nearly ended in disaster for James Campbell.
"What makes that first race memorable was (or so the story goes) James Campbell, sailing his boat on the return trip from Lake Connewarre struck a submerged tee-tree stump or fence post and holed his boat. Apparently James sawed off the piece of wood sticking through the hull of his boat despite taking in water managed to sail all the way back to Ozone jetty."
Each year the annual Safari Sail to Connewarre takes place in January and each year the winning boats are awarded trophies made from ti- tree timber.
"The Safari is an annual tradition of the Association and we also award each boat that sails in the race with a medal. Our members decorate their boats with these little medals and some boats have got quite a few." Frank said.
Frank Steuart at 75 is still a keen sailor and yes he spells his name that way. He says it goes back to French ancestry when someone substituted a 'u' for a 'w'. Frank has had a couple of years as club commodore and this year he is Club Captain and responsible for laying courses for sailing regattas on the Barwon Estuary. During January he sailed his 14 foot Hobie Cat in the Safari to Lake Connewarre.
Long time member and past commodore Hamish Lonsdale said sailing the river was very different from sailing in the Bay
"Success is very dependant on local knowledge and quick reactions between the river bends. Not only does the river become quite narrow in parts but it is also very shallow which is the reason why the club only sails on a high tide." Hamish said.
There are about 40 members, mostly families, of the Association and Hamish said the club encourages family membership. About half the members are from Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove and the rest are regular visitors to Barwon Heads. The 1950s classic sailing boat the Mirror is still sailed by many members while lasers and the faster catamarans are favoured by the more experienced sailors. The sailing season runs from Boxing Day until Easter and during January races are scheduled almost every day during the high tide. The season finale, at Easter, is the race up river to the Sheepwash.
The Steuart house, overlooking the river in Talbot Avenue is also the clubhouse and is equipped with a ship to shore radio in contact with the club rescue boat. Club membership represents male and female and the youngest sailor is about 12.
Most weekends between now and Easter keep a look out for the flotilla of sails adding a splash of colour to the Barwon River estuary, at high tide.