John Crawford’s Innamincka flying down the run, Convicts Revenge and the surf behind


‘The Shire’ as it is known to the sedentary Australian TV watching population and the people who live there is an area around 30km south of the Sydney CBD centred on Cronulla that has been known in the past for a bit of rough and tumble.

It’s a slightly secret place that the rest of the greater Sydney population rarely go to and that’s the way the locals like it. But things are changing – in a big way. After a few years of Mid Winter regattas and a bit of water testing by a few outsiders, the J24 circus is coming to town in a big way with an expected 30+ boat fleet (the largest in 20 plus years) for the 2017 Nationals in January.

An indication of that was the Quantum Sails 2016 NSW State Championships just held over the weekend of the 5-6 November, with plenty of rough and tumble on the water and characters like ‘Hoody’, ‘Bucko’ and ‘Magoo’ neck deep in the proceedings it’s no surprise the regatta was a roaring success.

You can easily miss the yacht club entrance, but you couldn’t miss the 500 plus regular Friday evening revellers on the terrace (apparently it is a great place to meet a new lady friend for the evening) and for the gladiators and crews getting their boats ready for the weekend’s racing in the hot afternoon sun, it did seem like a strange mix of hot sweaty yachties side by side with the tarted up Cronulla youth (and those exploring their on-going mid life crisis’s).

Saturday morning and the balcony belongs to the yachties again but the wind is howling down Gunnamatta Bay straight into the assembled protagonists. A postponement is called and the Wise is thinking about a sit down lunch with cold refreshing wine – Terry is running his two sailing school yachts from his RIB – I decline on the basis of the dropping forecast and the need to be clear headed if we get on the water.

Some of the fleet downwind with Cronulla in the background
Some of the fleet downwind with Cronulla in the background

That’s just what happens and our biggest fleet in years of 22 boats hit the water for the sail out to the start line off the main Cronulla surf beach on the opposite side of the small peninsular that is the southern end of Cronulla. The wind did actually drop for a bit but the three afternoon races were sailed in 15 to 30+ knot SW winds and a huge 3-4m SE swell that grew rapidly in the last race making for some exciting racing with many wipeouts. With huge surf breaking on the main beach on one side of the course and a tsunami like set of waves breaking on the reef on the other side it was, shall we say exciting, for those not normally used to these ocean conditions.

It isn’t strange anymore how the good guys seem to get all the good luck and the names on top of the afternoon’s honour roll proved that experience, cunning and a fair bit of bravery carried the day. Arthur Crothers showing off a new set of Doyle’s and with Shane Guanaria at the helm of Kaotic took the first race by clear couple of minutes from Dave West in Ace and Steve Girdis in Convicts Revenge only 3 sec apart, John Crawford  in Innamincka a further 4 sec back in forth, so the usual bunch plus a few that fought it out in most of the following races and formed the top pack of the regatta.

Race two saw a general recall and a black flag, another tough fight with Convicts taking the honours from Innamincka and our own ‘Jet’ (sailed by me and my brave crew) the first of what the ‘cockroaches’ (NSW people) call the ‘Mexicans’ from Melbourne – down south of the border, Kaotic came home forth.

Race three and the wind was getting stronger from the SW and the swell getting bigger from the SE, we are sailing in an arena of wind whipped water surrounded by a ring of huge breaking white surf and quite a few of the gladiators are now beaten and returning home. Those who stayed flogged their way upwind and screamed downwind, some successfully and others not so. Many not using their kites. Steve Girdis showed his skill to take a narrow win from Kaotic, Innamincka and Jet.

After three races we were all happy to be going home over mountainous swells and flattening gusts on the top of them as we enjoyed our ice cold beers – didn’t everyone?

Magoo has another look at his bottom, as do we all


The regatta’s iconic pic came out of the afternoon sailing with (Magoo) Dave McKay’s ‘Stockcar’ lying on it’s side in the middle of the fleet, keel 3 feet clear of the water. This little episode of course goes onto his well known list of achievements like winning the world moth championships back before most of the fleet were born – (something he is still trading on). Seriously though he is a good sailor, a past champ and Australian Sailor of the Year – but what were you thinking Magoo – masts should point up !

In Cronulla Sailing Club you know the beers are cold and the BBQ hot, it’s the club tradition and it’s a perfect place to be on the terrace after sailing watching the sun go down over Gunnamatta Bay. You’re all yachties – you know what I mean !

Sunday and the forecast is for light – medium SE to E breeze making for glam sailing out into the Tasman Sea off the main surf beach. Three races again in sunshine, swell and perfect racing. If you missed this you need to get thinking about your entry in the nationals, this is stunning stuff.

Convicts is on fire and takes out race four from Innamincka, Kaotic and Stephen Wright in ‘Renaissance’, the first of the local boats to get into the top 4 placings. ‘Renaissance’ is the old ‘Excite Your Senses’ from Sandringham and proves like Ron Thomson in ‘Kicking’ that an older Jarkan sailed well can be very competitive.

Race two and the left out to sea pays big time, ‘Jet’ banged the corner and lead around the course to finish first from Convicts, Sean Kirkjian in ‘Sailpac’ (not having a good regatta) and Kaotic. Local skipper Barry Ryan in ‘Pinot’ who is one of the top local boats pushed the top pack all the way round.

Race three and surprise, surprise Sean Kirkjian in Sailpac (School crew) is at the front from Steve (Wiley Young Dog) Girdis in ‘Convicts’, Kaotic and Magoo in ‘Stockcar’ – finally showing some form !

The fleet had some interesting stats, there was the Thomo Cup (unofficial of course, between brother Ron (Kicking – 7th) and sister Jeanette (Wildfire – 12th). Father Dave McKay (Stockcar – 8th) from daughter Julie (MacKay Marine – 11th). Alejo Morales came the furthest from South America sailing Bandit for the Pacific Sailing School, Marc van Dinther sailing with his Ausea sailing school crew.

The assembled and tired but now lubricating mass of humanity we call J sailors, is finally addressed by the Rear Commodore of the club, otherwise known as ‘Bucko’, and standing on a chair with a voice to slay the noisy Macquart at 30 paces and an irreverence that makes even the most informal in the crowd blanch, starts dishing out the silverware with appropriate stories.

While I still don’t understand the results, Jet is awarded 3rd on handicap, Magoo 2nd and Ron Thomson 1st.

Steve Girdis in Convicts Revenge on 7 points is the 2016 NSW State Champ, Shane Guanaria in Kaotic 2nd and NSW Class President John Crawford in Innamincka 3rd. The first visitor was us in Jet in 4th place – well you have to have a Mexican in the mix don’t you.

Full results are in a separate post below.

‘Hoody’ is Clinton Hood sailing Vertigo, one of the Shire’s gentlemen, and organised much of the sponsors products. Local sailor Barry Ryan became a happy chappie after winning the draw for a reverse cycle aircon unit – well done Hoody and your wonderful sponsors. Thanks to all of our sponsors, Quantum, Sailor Sunscreen, Wet-tech, Aussea Sailing School, Afloat Magazine, Spot-A-Yacht Photography, Cronulla Marina and Pure Aerials.

Fiona Campbell, one of the driving dynamos in the Cronulla class and club and sailing with Hoody on Vertigo, won the well deserved NSW Woman on Water trophy. On behalf of the National Association we wish to thank Cronulla SC and all the volunteers and sponsors that made the regatta a huge success.

A special mention must be made of Mick Reynolds who as a long time driving force of the class at Cronulla has seen it grow from a handful of club handicap boats to a twenty boat class fleet that is now the centre of NSW J24 racing. Congrats to you Mick and to all the people you have inspired (and probably annoyed) along the way to build this fleet with you.

Roll on the Nationals at Cronulla – January 4th to 7th 2017 !