My Sailing Story

The story is often told of how I was born early so Dad could do an Ocean Race. So just a few days into life I was taken to Middle Harbour Yacht Club to wave Dad off and visit what would be my club growing up.

At the time my grandfather John Dibble [Pa] owned Defiance which was the first boat I got to sail on, strapped to the back of the boat in a car seat. I don’t remember learning to sail. By the time Pa had bought Farr Out I was sitting on the side of the boat calling the breeze and occasionally skirting the headsail when allowed. I remember Dad once having to explain to a guest on board why I was annoyed, I was a few seconds out on the breeze call and not impressed with myself. I gradually moved my way back in the boat and was of course allowed the odd drive sitting on someone’s lap. At 11 I was eventually allowed to do mainsheet during a Botany Bay and back race on Indulgence which was a big milestone.

Pa had a variety of racing yachts as I grew up that I got to sail. While my other grandfather Peter had the Timber sloop from 1923 called Thistle which was perfect to go away on.  As Dad did not work afternoons, during school holidays I got to go Wednesday Sailing, often on The Carpenter with Pat Carroll who taught me how to drive in and out of the old marina at an early age. School Holidays were often family trips away on either the racing or cruising boat with weekends also often spent in Upper Middle Harbour. My 11th Birthday was spent onboard with friends for a weekend away at Sugarloaf.

When I was able to prove I could swim across the pool without needing a breath my parents decided at 5 I was old enough to crew in a Manly Junior for Nathan Wilmot. As his mum had crewed with my parents it was now time for us to sail together.  We started out on Narrabeen Lake before being taken to MHYC for our first few Sundays. However as we were both just 5 and 6 , we were a little small. One race I was pulled out and replaced by James Wilmot, I can remember Nath telling me that even his Dad had to hike as it was “really windy”. We also had one capsize and turtle in the marina where I discovered the cubby hole much to Mum and Marita’s concern. Nath advised them I was chatting through the hull and telling him how cool it was underneath! Needless to say it was eventually decided we were too small and we did not sail an MJ again together for several years instead sailing with others. We teamed up just the one more time in the MJ for the Club Picnic where we set the Tip Top Bread sponsored 420 sized Spinnaker that had been used in the TV Commercials. It was a little big and of course the MJ had no kicker so Nath had to sit on the bow.

My first boat was a timber dinghy designed and built by my Grandfathers it had a VERY colourful sail thanks to Ian Brown. This was followed by an MJ called Bonecrusher 2642 for racing.  I then moved onto the Flying 11 and my parents put together 1167 which was built at the same time as Sarah Wilmot’s 1168.  This was when I learnt how to put together a boat and do gelcoat repairs as I opted for a 50/50 mix of Dove Grey and White. So to do a repair I would have to match the colour as I only had a small jar of the mix. The Flying 11 years made a huge impact on who I am as a person and sailor. I also still have so many friends from this era and it is the reason we ended up being an Official Supplier to the Australian Sailing Team.

In my teenage years I had many opportunities which I am thankful for. For a few years Dad and I sailed with Bruce Ritchie on his Etchells on Saturday’s whilst I sailed Flying 11’s on the Sunday initially at MHYC before moving to Manly 16’s. Bruce would treat the sail home each day as a master class giving me the helm and talking constantly about the days sailing and my helming.  During this time I also did Twilights on the Etchells usually with Dad and good mate Michael Rynan aka Beaver.

I was also lucky enough to have Pat Carroll sign a leave form for my school to allow me to do the Wednesday race instead of school sport. Pat did this for a number of years and what I learnt sailing his Adams 10 would teach me so much about sailing and life. Pat taught me some of the most important skills including how to strip a winch.  I also had the opportunity to meet Rob Reynolds when he came out with us one day.  On a future Wednesday when Pat was not sailing Rob asked me to join him and we sailed the J44 just 5 up. I went on to sail some Saturdays with Rob and eventually did my first long offshore with him. I also met one of my main crew on board Phoenix.

During my teenage years I managed to go sailing with my Uncles’ on 11 Metre’s and 16 foot skiffs along with a number of other types of boats. Sailing was the focus and despite playing Netball as a kid, sailing eventually took over.

Then came the phone call that would change my path. Dad was sailing with the crew of SSV, one of the competitive Adams 10’s when fleets were hitting 30 at Nationals. They were short of crew and I had approx an hour to get to the boat during the Nationals to do pit. This was a huge opportunity and I remember being stunned at being asked as a teenage girl, these guys had sailed together on and off my entire life. I went on to sail with SSV for a number of years and in 2002 we won the Nationals with our regular crew.

At the age of 22 and just over a year after winning the Nationals I bought SSV and renamed her Animus. Which is a name I found thanks to looking up the name of Pa’s boat from when I was born, Defiance. Pa had been a big supporter of my Sailing and at the time I was working for the Disney Store in Australia, who decided to pull out of the country leaving me a payout which was enough to purchase her. I debated other boats but when Ken White found out he said make an offer, and the rest is history.

We went on to sail Animus as often as we could and in the first season I tied for the gunboat trophy with legend Ben Nossiter. Sailing Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in Summer and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday in Winter.  After purchasing DeckHardware in 2006 the time came to sell Animus, a few years later to focus funds and time on the business. Animus moved to the flatter water of Wangi where she has remained, recently gaining new owners who happen to include a Mate which is great news.  During the Animus years I did a number of 2-handed races with my crew Kate and Kristen. As well as many trips between the Lake and back for the Nationals and the HCW 24hr races. What an amazing time it was and how lucky I was to have such great crew and great boat.

As the female skipper racing at the club I was given the opportunity of instead of putting a female crew together on board the Sydney 38 Estate Master. We had some great fun competing at MHYC, CYCA and Manly over the years with whoever of my friends were around. It was nice to be able to get my old Flying 11 friends like the Wilmot’s, Nicky Souter and Katie Spithill involved as well as my Animus crew. When Martin and Lisa stepped up to the Farr 40 we too did the jump up and I remember the first time we sailed it I looked at Nicky and asked how I was meant to tack this tiller , learning that you had to walk over the top rather than in front. My two-handed crew / bow chick Kate one year did it on Animus with our crew whilst I was on board Estate Master to increase the numbers and have a drive.

In 2006 I took a part of this group of sailors to Melbourne for the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta which was on board an Adams 10 which meant taking down my good gear (thanks mum and dad).  I then did it again with a team from Tassie which was great fun as the Skipper Di had come to Sydney to sail with us on Estate Master. There are so many stories I could tell of these days and I am so grateful for the trust Martin and Lisa placed in us. A big thanks also goes to Morgan White for helping us prep the boat and pack it up each time and often heading out with Martin to watch us.

Since selling Animus I have had the opportunity to borrow Sirius on a number of occasions for Twilights or Ladies days thanks to the support of legend Ben Nossiter. It was nice to keep my hand in the Adams 10 fleet.

It has been an interesting journey and one I did not see coming as a teenager studying music at Uni. Working part time for Harken to help fund Animus and then getting a call asking if I would go full time for DeckHardware as everything was changing. During that time the DeckHardware Sales reps included the Admiral Don Buckley and Nathan Outteridge whilst I was back in the office. It certainly has evolved a lot now needing at least two of us at all times in the office!

Our Aussie Sailing Community

Last night I attended the Australian Sailing Awards. I was able to take our DeckHardware Ambassador Lauren Gallaway as a thank you for all that she does. Lauren not only supports us in return for our support.  During the school holidays in the lead up to the Sydney Sailboat Expo she came into the office to assist in some of the work that needed doing.  Then on the weekend of the Sydney Sailboat Expo she assisted us with taking care of Instagram as well as doing interviews. It was nice to be able to say thank you.

The awards are a wonderful moment of celebrating sailing as well as catching up with friends old and new. It was wonderful to hear that the decision has been made to introduce an Australian Sailing Hall of Fame. I can think of so many names to be included in this list from the racing, cruising and exploring side of sailing.

It was incredible to see Liesl Tesch almost speechless as she received the President’s Award. So well deserved! Liesl is such an inspiration for so many of us. From her Charity work, who she is as a person, her competitive nature, I could go on.

One of the highlights though was seeing Alistair Murray take out the Lifetime achievement award. Alistair organises the International Sailing Summit which is I believe a fantastic chance for our sport and industry to discuss what matters.  Though a competitor in business through his role at Ronstan I am pleased to say we get on very well and I was so pleased to see him recognised for all he has done for Sailing and the Industry.

Male and Female Sailors of the Year Lisa Darmanin and Tom Burton are incredible role models for Sailing. They simply love being on the water no matter the type of boat and talk of how our sport means you can sail with family, friends, girlfriends and our sailing community. Tom’s speech in particular, was a highlight! To see Tom grow in the role of Olympic Gold Medallist and hear him express how he feels is fantastic. Knowing that when he gets the chance he will be able to inspire so many. Now he just has to figure out what he is sailing next!

This is it

Photo by Liesl Tesch
Photo thanks to Liesl Tesch as they prepared to enter the Stadium

This is it. The Paralympics’ sailing starts Tuesday at 2am AEST and our Aussie Sailors featured this morning in the coverage of the Opening Ceremony. Liesl Tesch as always front and centre, the life of the party. You can see what this means for the athletes including our sailors and their support crew.

We woke in the early hours to cheer on our Olympians, we headed to club houses for the Medal Races. Aussie Sailors I call on you to get behind OUR TEAM! Dan and Liesl (Skud18), Matt (2.4), Colin, Jonathan and Russell (Sonar).This is it, there is no option of 2020. Our Aussie Sailors and Sailing Internationally needs us to get behind them. The effort they have put in is incredible, as someone who knows them, I can vouch for this.

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The Australian Sailing Team. Photo Liesl Tesch

Good Luck Team! You have done the training and now it is time to go sailing and enjoy it.

I am so proud to be entered in this year’s Bart’s Bash which falls on the final weekend of racing in Rio. This year Bart’s Bash is raising funds for Disabled Sailing Internationally which needs our support. Let’s Reinstate Sailing! Doing so will give others World Wide the opportunity to participate in competitive sailing no matter their disability.

Because of the Paralympics the design of the boats available to disabled sailors has seen some incredible changes. When you look at a Skud 18 and how someone like Dan or Ame skipper, it’s remarkable. It is my hope that the Legacy of the Paralympics will not be lost. That in 2024 Sailing will once again return to the Paralympics.

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Aussie Sailors Rock

I often joke that my life is all about sailing. Working in the industry, going to boat shows, umpiring or just trying to find time to actually go sailing. The past few weeks it stepped up a gear with the Aussie Sailors competing in Rio. Waking each morning to follow the tracker, whatever course area was live on the 7app or more importantly the AST Twitter feed. I wasn’t alone with many other sailors online in the early hours of the morning.

With two of our DeckHardware brands Official Suppliers there is the obvious business connection for supporting the sailors. To be honest though we support them most importantly because of friendships. I like to think we are more than a sponsor as for many we were friends first. The support we give the team is a lot more than Product and that is something we are proud of.

The Aussie Sailing community is such a tight group with so many of us knowing each other thanks to regatta’s across the country. This showed up especially during the medal races with RPAYC, Manly 16’s and Wangi RSL opening their doors for supporters to cheer on the Aussie’s together.

I can not thank enough the amazing people who woke up early despite no racing to be at MHYC for the Sunrise Weather cross.  Pulling together with just a few hours notice we managed to not only find a crowd for 0530 but also a Laser to take Sam Mac out on. A big thanks to Lauren for remembering her sailing gear! With Olivia there as the special guest sailing commentator, we managed to pull it off.

Heading to Manly 16’s one of the clubs I spent my junior years to watch the Laser and Nacra Medal races will stay with me a long time. If you have never had the chance to watch a medal race in a room full of sailors make sure you clear the diary for 4 years time! It is something that stays with you. I still tell stories of watching Nath Wilmot and Mal Page at MHYC all those years ago.  Now I feel old!

Finishing off the games at Wangi was fitting. Being part of #TeamWangi and supporting Nath and Goobs, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. To Jody and everyone at Wangi who went above and beyond you are amazing! The main street was decorated, the RSL had a road sign out the front wishing them luck! The RSL was not only decorated but had lights outside to match all the green and gold. I think the live crosses with Sunrise Weather will be talked about for a long time. As will the special cross to Nath and Goobs!

Yesterday the team arrived home and the first two I saw as I walked up the stairs were Nath and Goobs. I couldn’t be prouder of these two, of supporting them as a friend and sponsor. After all they are the reason we became a sponsor! Getting to see these two come home with another medal was worth the lack of sleep and more. Especially as they are home for such a limited time before heading back to the America’s Cup and Artemis.

It is fantastic to see the Aussie Sailors come home with a Gold and three Silvers. Once again Sailing has been in the media which is so good for our sport! I hope every club out there is able to take advantage of this to help grow this fantastic sport! Let’s make sure we as a sport make the most of the increased interest.

A huge thanks to the entire team who took the time to sign the Bart’s Bash flag. Now the focus shifts to promoting this great event and the Paralympic Sailors who are so deserving of our support and a place at future Paralympics.

Head over to the DeckHardware Facebook to read our business post.

Inspiration is an energiser

Sunset at the SpitGetting back into the swing of things has taken a little time after the Sydney Sailboat Expo and working out what is priority along with DeckHardware over winter. I have been back at the gym where my new favourite class is Drums Alive! Such a great way to start a Saturday with a bunch of energy and friends.

I managed to catch up with Liesl Tesch and Erica Kirby before Liesl headed to Europe to compete. A catch up in the park whilst talking sailing rules and pretending to be boats on land. I am sure anyone driving past the Spit that afternoon looking at the Sunset must have been amused and wondered what on earth we were doing. What better way to spend an afternoon in Autumn! Spending time with Liesl is always inspiring and a great deal of fun.

Sunset at the SpitLiesl is now with other members of the Australian Sailing Team in Medimblik about to take part in the Para Worlds which start Tuesday! Good Luck team! Check out the Aussie Sailors Rock group on Facebook where we cheer on Aussie sailors competing overseas.

It has been a big few months for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation as the planning for Bart’s Bash is now in full swing.  Here in Australia there are a number of clubs already signed up and more that have confirmed verbally.  Here is a link to the latest news on this year’s Bart’s Bash.  Last week whilst in QLD I caught up with the team at Southport Yacht Club where Aussie Ambassador Joel Turner will be supporting this year’s Bart’s Bash. It is great to hear that plans are underway with Ambassadors involved!

I have a few plans for here in Sydney for this year’s Bart’s Bash so stay tuned! So far there are clubs in VIC, NSW, QLD and WA! In 2016 Bart’s Bash will be raising awareness and funds to support grassroots disabled sailing globally. The 2016 edition of Bart’s Bash is scheduled for 17-18 September which is on at the same time as the 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition. The timing is incredible considering everything that is going on, with this being the last chance for Para Athletes to compete in Sailing for now.

Whilst in QLD on Thursday I dropped by the Gold Coast International Marine Expo and Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. It was great to catch up with so many from within the sailing industry for a chat. We have seen some big changes in the last few years and working together we can certainly be stronger for it. I finished the day catching up with Alistair Murray from Ronstan talking rules, sailing, friends, industry, women in sailing and more. There is always so much to talk about when it comes to our sport and industry. If you work in the Aussie Sailing Industry check out our Facebook Group and you ever want to catch up just send me a message.

Recovery and Reflection

It has now been a week since the 2016 Sydney Sailboat Expo wrapped up. I almost don’t know what to write, there is so much to say.

Firstly to my friends and DeckHardware Ambassadors – I am so proud of you as Ambassadors and so grateful to call you friends. You helped me get through the weekend with your support and willingness to do whatever was needed. Ensuring I ate and drank water especially on Saturday when we were stretched for volunteers. The Sydney Sailboat Expo would not have existed if it weren’t for you being our volunteers. To deliver such an event with just a small team shows the effort you all put in.

Thank you to Jordan Spencer who the week of the Expo stepped in to be the voice of the Expo doing Videos, announcements and more. Thank you to Melissa Williams-Brown Photography for the amazing photos you have taken so we can remember what can be done.

I saw online a number of posts where people asked why this didn’t happen in other states.  I guess the reason is my family decided it was needed after discussing it with a number of people in the sport and industry. We dedicated I would hate to think how many hours to ensuring it happened. Sydney as a location gives us access to so much of the Sailing Industry. We are just a family who love the sport of sailing and work in the Industry. All the posters you saw at clubs leading up to the event and the signs around the expo for instance, were all laminated by my Dad (Phil). We dedicated our time and money to the promotion of our sport and would like to thank in particular our DeckHardware competitors who supported what we were doing.

A huge thank you also to the high profile sailors who came to the Expo or shared that the Expo was on despite being overseas competing. Special thanks to Liesl Tesch and Tom Burton who took hours out of their weekend to come to the Sydney Sailboat Expo and were more than happy to talk to everyone.

The last week for us has been about unpacking, sorting out the DeckHardware Warehouse and getting back to normal work. I’ve looked back and wondered how we achieved it and wonder where we found the time and energy to do what needed doing. I am the first to admit the Sydney Sailboat Expo could be so much more than what it has been the first two years. Having said that I am proud of the fact that we have been able to bring so much of the industry together to work together in promoting and supporting sailing. The range of Associations this year was truly something I was excited and proud of.

As I recover I will do some thinking about where we go now. The effort involved was massive for this year and doing it within our little office whilst still running DeckHardware is difficult I will not lie.  I am exhausted but at the same time can see what the Sydney Sailboat Expo could be if we could continue to grow and for the entire community to get behind it. I look to the shows overseas and I have to admit I would love to achieve so much more.

To those who thanked me for the hours my Mum (Robyn) and I put in, Thank you. I was honestly shocked to receive the thank you gifts from a couple of the exhibitors. I received some wonderful messages of what some of our visitors experienced at the Expo, thank you. Hearing that we were mentioned on two commercial radio stations honestly was fantastic. An Expo about sailing got mentioned! Who would have thought sailing would be on the radio let alone this.

In a few weeks once I have given it some thought I will have a meeting with a few of the exhibitors to discuss what happens now.  The Sydney Sailboat Expo, all it was a few years ago was a dream concept of showcasing sailing after the success we had in London. To show that we are an accessible sport for everyone! I have dedicated so much of my time and energy to this project and still believe it could be so much more. To do it again in 2017 is a big ask of not only myself and my family but my amazing volunteers. So for now, I will rest, reflect and get back to work.

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Time has flown by

I can not believe how long it has been since I wrote a blog post! That is what happens when you are busy. You don’t realise just how fast time is moving.

Work has been extremely busy especially the last few weeks as I prepare for the upcoming Sydney Sailboat Expo.  It is on next weekend! I can not believe the second SSE is almost here. What a journey and I am so lucky to have such amazing support around me. Especially as we juggle the job that is already a full time one DeckHardware. DeckHardware itself has seen a busy summer which has kept us on our toes!

I have managed to spend a little time on the water however for the first time in years have missed the NSW Schools Teams Racing which was on this weekend! So strange to not be there and instead be sitting here working away on the laptop finishing maps, competitions, press releases and the never ending list.

If you have followed my blog for a while you will know I spend a fair amount of time at the Physio thanks to being Hyper Mobile.  I am extremely excited about the upcoming Expo and special guest speaker that is coming.

Donna White from Total Physiotherapy will be hosting a talk on “How to make your body go faster / perform better” at the Sydney Sailboat Expo on the 9th April 2016 at 1pm.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from the Australian Sailing Team’s Physiotherapist. When it comes to Sailing and your body Donna and the team at Total Physiotherapy have a wealth of knowledge and experience.” Find out more: www.sydneysailboatexpo.com.au/how-to-make-your-body-go-faster-perform-better 

There is so much hard work going on to make this event a reality so to be able to announce a talk by someone like Donna is wonderful. So if you are a sailor especially a dinghy sailor make sure you don’t miss it!

The Sydney Sailboat Expo is the place to go to find out how to get yourself or your kids involved in the sport of sailing! So if you love the great outdoors of Sydney come along and find out more about sailing and the many options available.

The Sydney Sailboat Expo will be held on the 9-10 April 2016 10am – 4pm at the International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS) in Manly!

I am a volunteer

Over the last two weeks I have done 3 events, 10 days out of 11 on the water volunteering.  It often surprises me how many people ask if I get paid for what I do. I am not sure if this is asked because I work in the Sailing industry or because of the number of events I volunteer at which means being out of the office.  Lunches are usually supplied and sometimes breakfast for the early starts. Depending on the event you may get a regatta shirt or a small thank you gift. The three events I just volunteered at were two Match Racing Events at RPAYC and CYCA and the third was Fleet Racing being umpired at RMYC.

Many of the events I do I see the same volunteers, whether it be RO’s, Umpires, Judges or the onshore team. Many of the faces have now become good friends as a result of how much time we do spend with each other.

So I guess the question we should be asked is why we do it. We love our sport, we love talking tactics and rules.  We get to spend huge amounts of time on our beautiful waterways that people pay to spend time on.  But most of all we love our sport and seeing people enjoying it too.  So next time you see the same familiar faces on a start boat or RIB make sure you say hi. If you have ever thought about getting more involved do talk to us as it can be great fun. Of course it can sometimes be hard work and very long hours on the water or back in the protest room.

It comes down to loving the sport, the friends and the time on the water.  The next time you go sailing have a look at how many people it takes to run that racing. Do you see those faces on a regular basis?

I am a volunteer and this is why:

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Perfect evening for a Twilight Sail

Nights like last night remind me why I work so hard to show others how amazing Sailing can be.  A Thursday night sail on Sydney Harbour = magic. A couple of friends, a nice breeze and a great boat. It does not get much better than that!

I am lucky to be in the position that I can borrow a friends boat to go for a sail.  I know I am biased but the Adams 10 class really is something special. Easy to sail, enjoyable to drive and perfect for a twilight.  Since selling my Adams 10 whenever I have wanted to get out sailing I have been able to borrow Sirius and I am very thankful for that. Sirius beat me overall the year we tied for the Gunboat Trophy so it is nice to sail a boat that is quick and set up a little different to how Animus was.  Even if the pole setup did confuse my bow for a moment haha.

Enjoy the photos and remember how lucky we are to be able to go Twilight sailing on Sydney Harbour.  If you haven’t done it I recommend you do! It is easy as all you need to do is head down to a Yacht Club on their twilight racing night and put your name down for a sail.  MHYC where I sailed last night often have Phil C manning the whiteboard hooking people up with a boat to sail on.  Why not head down and give it a try one Thursday night during the Summer Season?

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Sailing Season has taken over

The 2015 Sailing Season has certainly taken over my world.  With Match Racing and Youth Events taking over my weekends and some weekdays! It certainly is all keeping me extremely busy as well as meaning I get to enjoy the great outdoors that we have to offer here in Sydney. I just worked on my Calendar up to Christmas and realized at one point I am doing three events back to back! That is not even at the peak Regatta time over Christmas!

Last weekend was the Australian Women’s Match Racing Championships and this weekend the NSW Youth Champs just as an example of how busy it is.  Then throw in the fact there has been a big announcement in my life –  Global sailing charity establishes new committee in Australia! The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation now has a committee and ambassadors set up in Australia.

The Australian Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation Team: I will chair the committee alongside Anthony Nossiter, Freddy Blencke, Marita Wilmot and Beau Outteridge. Ambassadors are Olympic Gold Medalists, Nathan Outteridge, Iain Jensen, Tom Slingsby and Nathan Wilmot and Sailors Lisa Darmanin, Luke Parkinson, Haylee Outteridge, Joel Turner, Dave Gimour, Laura Baldwin and writer Blue Robinson. With more names yet to be added.

Those who have followed my blog for some time will note that Anthony Nossiter a good friend of Bart’s is on the committee with me and that I have mentioned that surname before when talking about my sailing and sailing on Sirius the Adams 10m. I have often said Sailing is one big family and a lifestyle we live. Putting together the team for Australia certainly showed this. Besides the fact that there are two families with more than one person involved, many of us have known each other for 20+ years and have a strong connection with Bart who was from another country that is a Long – Haul flight away. Sailing can be pretty special at times and being involved in something like this reminds me how much so.

I might be busy but it certainly is an enjoyable busy.  Here are some photos from Bart’s Bash that happened a few weeks ago around the world. I spent the day at Woollahra Sailing Club having a fantastic time with great people.

Harry Price attempting a tack in an Opti
Briefing underway with special guest Lisa Darmanin from the Australian Sailing Team
The bigger Opti Sailors at WSC for Bart’s Bash