Moonlight’s first sailing race took place at the Noosa Yacht and Sailing Club, on the Noosa River. The inaugural Noosa Gaff Rig Regatta had a small fleet, ranging from a 23 ft Pilot Cutter, to Moonlight, a 12 ft gunter rigged clinker or lapstrake dinghy.
This was the first race for Moonlight and her crew who were normally accustomed to leisurely cruising.
The Noosa River is situated at Noosa, North of the Sunshine Coast in South East Queensland.
After a week of wet and windy weather, race day delivered blue skies and light winds. Noosa is just a half-hour drive north of our home on the Sunshine Coast. We launched at around 9 am, rigged the boat at Tewantin on the Noosa Estuary, and motored downstream to the banks of the River in front of the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club.
A small fleet of gaff boats from 12 – 23 ft in length were being rigged by their enthusiastic owners to the rhythmic thump of several bands entertaining the public at the Noosa festival.
We were the smallest boat in the fleet, with one of the least experienced crews as far as racing goes. I had been in a couple of races over the years, but only as crew, I had never been at the helm, so I was a bit anxious about how this might work out.
Our 11 am race briefing eased some of my concerns, and a little mud map scratched out on the back of my race notes gave me a pretty good idea of the layout of the course. My concern was not about finding leading the charge and not knowing where to go. Rather, I wondered if we would be in touch with the rest of the fleet so we could follow their lead.
After the first leg, the circuit had a dogleg between two buoys that created a figure 8 effect. Several tacks seaward gave us plenty of time to observe the others in the race weaving back and forth. By the time we rounded the mark the first time, the rest of the fleet was rapidly disappearing out of sight on the homeward leg.
We ponderously navigated the figure 8 section and headed downwind with the current to the finish line, as the others were maneuvering for the start of the second race. They generously delayed the start until we were across the line, so with no time to waste, we joined the fray and managed to get in a comfortable position at the start.
Our good starting form meant that I was able to capture some nice footage of the fleet as they passed us early in the first tack, which was the last time we had any meaningful contact with the fleet.
This time, the wind failed against the increasing tidal flow and we retired halfway through the first leg of the race so as to make it back to the starting line in plenty of time for the 3rd race in the series of three. A heads up from one of the committee had us positioned pretty well at the start as the five of us crossed the starting line for the third and final time.
Things went a lot better for us this time around, finishing fourth in the fleet ahead of Dory who with a very young lad at the helm putting up a valiant fight against our 45 years of sailing experience.
It was a great day on the water made even more satisfying when we were awarded a bottle of Bundaberg Rum for coming 5th overall out of a fleet of 5.
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