The Roaring 40s | How yachties enjoy time in the Apple Isle

By Marc Ablett

The Roaring 40s feature, as seen in the 2016 Down Under Sail Yearbook.

To celebrate the launch of the second Down Under Sail Yearbook, we’re re-living some of our best feature stories from our inaugural Yearbook last year. This feature, titled “The Roaring 40s” takes a look at Hobart during the traditional Christmas/New Year period and delves into how yachties enjoy their time there. Whether it’s a few beers, some great sailing or a mixture of the two—it all happens in Hobart.

There are many aspects of a sailing regatta that make it what it is—for a lot of us sailing is a lifestyle and in some aspects it is life. Now this doesn’t mean that gauging the success of a trip is whether you win or not, the winner at major and minor regattas is the individual or group getting the most out of it, whatever that may be. We all have busy lives and work the nine-to- five, five days a week just for the sole purpose of enjoying our four weeks of annual leave. So why should we let the three hours we spend on the water at a regatta each day dictate whether or not the trip was a success?

Usually a trip to a national championship revolves around the immediate post-Christmas, New Years period, the busiest and most enjoyable time of the year and this year we ventured to the sharpie nationals in Hobart. Now if I’m honest I think you would struggle to find a better place in the world than Hobart at that time of year. You have the Sydney to Hobart boats coming in, a food and wine festival that is second to none or for those that love their tunes, Marion Bay provides the perfect backdrop for the famous Falls Festival. Not to mention the city just pumps for two weeks straight—locals are definitely true by saying the population doubles at this time of year.

Constitution Dock, Hobart. Photo: Mary Tulip
Constitution Dock, Hobart. Photo: Mary Tulip

When it comes to getting to Tasmania, travel is quite limited due to the island’s isolation. You basically have three options, the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, flying on a big jet plane or jumping on board a boat and competing in Australia’s iconic race, the Sydney to Hobart. Throughout the sharpie fleet you will find a complete mixture of all three. The Tasmanians strategically pushed the start of the regatta back a few days to January 2 to enable crews in the Hobart race to “do the double” and jump on a sharpie afterward.

This also meant there was no rush getting to the event straight after Christmas—people were able to filter in to the state at their own leisure. Those who had family in Tassie got there early, those who wanted to spend Christmas at home could do so and those that wanted to have a holiday could spend a month away. There are countless stories and experiences from different states and what people encountered along the way. From hippies and backpackers in the car parks, to surfing the east coast, to $350 nights on the piss—all with quality sailing sandwiched in the middle—it all happened in “the roaring 40s”.

Sandy Bay Sailing Club
Sandy Bay Sailing Club. Photo: Lou Hollis

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

Being six years since I had been to the Apple Isle and with half my family living in Hobart I couldn’t wait to get down there and relive what my childhood Christmas was like and also share what was bound to be an unreal two weeks with my mates. Living in Adelaide without a boat and wondering where my sailing was at, I rang up an old mate who had a decent boat back in New South Wales and locked it in. I grabbed big Karl Schlimbach who had been grazing in the pasture for a few months and double trailed a couple boats down to Tassie for the sharpie nationals. I crossed the creek early on the “floating block of flats” (Spirit of Tasmania) arriving on December 23 to see my family that was down there and thankfully my good mate Mick Denny travelled with me.

Mick and I stayed at Lakes Entrance on the way down, camping on the beach and having a few beers with the locals at the Waterwheel Tavern, which resulted in a late start the next morning. We went surfing in some quality two-foot dribble and then got to Melbourne to catch the night ferry. We arrived early, got a spot in the queue and were keen to slot in to the top deck bar and smash some $4.50 pots of Boags while watching the Big Bash. Two hours passed, still sitting at the front of a queue without getting a look in, you could say we were slightly agitated.

Order was eventually restored, we boarded the boat, better late than never, and after half a dozen sleeping tablets (pots of Boags) we decided the sun beds on the top deck were as good as any to pull up and have a snooze. Once we were in the car to unload the next morning I knew we were in for dramas when I saw a shipping container plonked right in front of the van. The entire ship departed and we were told to reverse off—what a fantastic experience it was backing two sharpies off the Spirit.

— Marc Ablett, New South Wales

Some of Tasmania's picturesque views. Photo: Mary Tulip
Some of Tasmania’s picturesque views. Photo: Mary Tulip

CARAVAN PARK OR SAILING CLUB?

Prior to the regatta, the rigging area at Sandy Bay resembled more of a caravan park, full of German and French back packers looking for a free night of accommodation. West Aussies Ash, Emma and “The One” Mark Lewis had arrived in Ash’s big bus from Perth and a few Victorians were down there early enjoying the strangely nice weather over a few cans of VB. A few of us sussed out the town and headed to the Telegraph pub on the docks—$5 steak or schnitzels and $10 steins were the order of the day. I’m not sure you could buy the materials for those prices, but we weren’t complaining. The band was pumping and there were countless yachties and groupies hanging around the docks waiting for the Sydney to Hobart race leaders to hit the line.

We tried to drink the Telly out of Cascade Draught and rum, which didn’t end well and then somehow ended up at O-Bar where the rest is a blur. The next day more sharpie guys and girls had arrived and we decided 1pm was a perfect time to lock in to the Taste of Tasmania festival. Needless to say the new cashless system at the Taste was far too easy to spend money indulging in a few of the local delicacies. We had a large crew in attendance of about 20 and were all very keen to watch Comanche, who was inconveniently becalmed at the top of the river, finish the race first. All this did was allow more time to taste some of Tassie’s finest beers and food meaning we were proper flogged by the time Comanche actually came in later that night.

— Marc Ablett, New South Wales

Sharpie mates hanging in the boat park at Sandy Bay. Photo: Lou Hollis
Sharpie mates hanging in the boat park at Sandy Bay. Photo: Lou Hollis

MEDIA HERE, COMING THROUGH

My cousin works at Frank’s Restaurant on the docks so we had an ideal view of Comanche finishing the Hobart race without having to deal with the crowd. Once we saw the boat come in we headed down to greet them and a few of us decided we would step over the security barrier to become part of the media contingent. We got up close and personal with some of the crew along with the rest of the mainstream media. Big Tommy Alder and Ilona decided to welcome Comanche owner Jim Clark with a team selfie down at the boat, which he seemed to enjoy.

It sums up everything that is awesome about our sport—a millionaire with a maxi yacht worth more than any of us could ever imagine and a few sharpie sailors who had maxed out their credit cards that day on the beers at the Taste festival. Needless to say it was a fun night at the Customs House with team Comanche that night—some of us even ended up with their team hats as souvenirs, or was it traditional Native American headdress.

— Marc Ablett, New South Wales

Left: Sharpie lads wearing Comanche headdresses; right: taking a selfie with Comanche owner Jim Clark.
Left: Sharpie lads wearing Comanche headdresses; right: taking a selfie with Comanche owner Jim Clark.

CONCUBINE AND THE SHEEP

As we were inching closer to our own regatta, sharpie sailors were arriving and we were going out for a few tune up sails on the Derwent—the buzz was really starting to ramp up. We had a quiet night in anticipation for the next day that would see all our sharpie mates in the Sydney to Hobart, battling it out on either SA’s 45-foot Concubine or Black Sheep from New South Wales. We pencilled in two training sessions that day and the afternoon sea breeze was well and truly in at 25 knots, Irish Frog and us boys on Zulu from New South Wales were sending it down the river trying to chase some Hobart boats, but it’s fair to say we got no where near Concubine as they were fully lit doing 26 knots on their way to the finish line. A serious crew headed down to the docks to catch up with Concubine and only four hours later Black Sheep came in—the beers at the Taste were well and truly flowing again and the credit card was taking yet another hammering.

Team NSW stood on the dock when the Sheep rolled in with plenty of friends and family at the docks singing “Bah Bah Black Sheep”, with an effort that would rival Meatloaf’s 2011 Grand Final performance, as the team arrived. You could see they were all hanging for a drink, especially considering bowman Tim Rodwell had spent 18 hours spray-painting the inside of the cockpit—he assured me it was all part of the weight loss program. Needless to say it was an extremely large night, from taking over the Rolex Lounge, to drinking at Customs House and the Telly, to smashing a pie at the bakery at 5am, I am sure if Hobart didn’t know the sharpies had arrived beforehand they certainly did by this stage. Still three days out from the start of our own regatta and we were all pretty shagged from four straight days of living the ideal lifestyle that honestly felt like six weeks.

— Marc Ablett, New South Wales

Concubine sailor Luke Stephens (bottom left) greeted by his sharpie mates.
Concubine sailor Luke Stephens (bottom left) greeted by his sharpie mates.

THE METZ

The regatta pretty well carried on the same every night; beers in the morning, going out racing, then out to the pub until we could drink no more. One of the more memorable nights out was early on in the piece at the Metz in Sandy Bay. I don’t think the staff knew what hit them when about 50 or so sharpie sailors from four separate states rocked up to the almost otherwise empty bar and started running boat races down the entire length of the outside tables. Even when the DJ’s shift was over, one Harry Fisher took it upon himself to keep the night going and took control of the mic kicking off his own version of Hilltop Hoods’ Nosebleed Section, with a crowd at his feet that had built to even bigger numbers of yachties by this point in the night.

We carried on in this fashion for quite some time until a young New South Welshman (who will remain unnamed) clambered on to the laser light roofing after his shoe was thrown up there by a South Australian. This escapade must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back as it got every single one of us kicked out. We were pretty annoyed at first but felt a bit better when one of the bartenders was at the gate shaking our hands on the way out saying it was the best shift of his life.

— Jacob Nichols, Victoria

The Metz night was one to remember.
The Metz night was one to remember.

CHUG-A-LUG

While our on-water performance was not quite top-tier standard we certainly showed everyone a bit of fun off the water. We also proved that Victoria has the best women, who pulled through for the state and won the Women’s Chug-a- Lug trophy. That’s right, we have the fastest female beer scullers in sharpie sailing thanks to Mac Rhode, Emma Daily, Christie Lees and Grace Watson. It was also very tormenting to see the Western Australians form a girls team, captained by the WA team’s only on-shore WAG, Emma, and the three Bullit boys, who were all dressed in drag. Their forward hand Payno, sporting a cute sun dress, had the race all but stitched up before going to the bar for another drink half way through the anchor leg to throw in the towel—they probably would have been disqualified anyway.

The Victorian blokes however ended up living where they belong in the shadow of their women after getting knocked out in the third round by the New South Wales team that went on to win it. I tell you what, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such surprise in a man’s face as I did in Marc Ablett’s when his state was announced the winners—it can only be described as rare.

— Jacob Nichols, Victoria

The Western Australian women’s chug-a-lug team. Photo: Lou Hollis
The Western Australian women’s chug-a-lug team. Photo: Lou Hollis

TEAM VIC (F***N SIK)

Team Vic decided it was best to hit the sharpie nationals full steam ahead after spending three days at the Falls Festival at Marion Bay, an unreal part of the world, and when Team Vic do something, they do it well. Led by the Nichols lads and the Radnell clan, most trips involve swags, tents and stacks of VB. They have travelled to all parts of Australia as a group that gets larger and larger every year.

The success behind this movement is based around having as much fun as possible, sailing hard and taking advantage of the natural elements that Australia has to offer. Whether it’s a two-week surf trip down the south-west of Western Australia after a nationals or camping in the car park of the Sandy Bay Sailing Club playing cards, skating or any other activity that might be on hand. Wherever these guys and girls are the positive vibe and enjoyment is infectious. The mood around the camp is not dictated by results on the water but by what was achieved in memories on the day that had just occurred.

There are many stories that come out of these trips and some from Lewis Davies and Jake Nichols are absolute rippers. I was fortunate enough to experience Lewie’s skills first hand when he had to tow my van through Sandy Bay with his troopy after it suffered a broken clutch. Luckily for one German backpacker, Lewis has all the gear and is ready for any situation that might pop up, no matter how “rare” it might be.

— Marc Ablett, New South Wales

Team Vic at the Sharpie nationals in Hobart.
Team Vic at the Sharpie nationals in Hobart.

THE GERMAN

So remember our German friend Marc spoke about? Well he basically introduced himself to us at the Sandy Bay Sailing Club car park as a man who had “surfed the endless wave in Amsterdam” and spoke about out of body experiences to anyone that would listen. We later learnt his name was Stefan. Well he had some issues just outside a campground on the east coast of Tassie, but luckily old mate Lewis rolled in. We turned the corner in to the campground and we got the shock of our life, seeing Stefan standing there next to his rolled van. Having said that we have probably experienced stranger occurrences but we attached the snatch-strap and flipped him back on to all fours.

But there’s a massive back story leading to his rollover. He picked up a hitchhiker and they hit it off and they spent a few days camping up the coast. Then after a night that he couldn’t remember, he woke up in the morning outside his van and the hitchhiker and another person were asleep inside his van. So then he got a bit annoyed and went back to sleep. The second time he woke up they were no longer there and neither were his new surfboards, sold to him by sharpie sailor Derek Milligan. Now I’m not too sure if I believe his story 100 per cent, but I later found his boards 100 kilometres up the coast on a Queensland-plated Hilux.

— Lewis Davies, Victoria

Lewis' German friend... (not really)
Lewis’ German friend… (not really)

Stay tuned to Down Under Sail for more information about the launch of the 2017 Down Under Sail Yearbook and where you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy. If you would like to purchase a copy online and have it posted out to you, click on the button below.

CLICK to Subscribe to the DUS Yearbook

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*