The Balmain Regatta is one of Sydney’s oldest sporting events, and has a long history with our waterways. It was first held in 1849 and continued until 1934, when sadly it was discontinued. It was revived in 1994 by the Wooden Boat Association, and Balmain Sailing Club participated in the Balmain Regatta in 1995 and 1996 as one of its Spring Series races.
In 1997, it was run as a separate event, jointly organised by the Balmain Sailing Club and the Wooden Boat Association. Today it is run by Balmain Sailing Club, in association with other sailing clubs and community organisations, and is a real celebration of Balmain, the harbour and our maritime heritage. The event attracts over 150 vessels on the water, making it one of the great annual spectacles around Balmain.
A couple of months ago I was contacted by Neil Hamilton from the Race Committee and asked if we could get a J24 fleet together as they would like to give us our own division – a lot of phone calls and encouragement later we have a fleet of 6, enough to race!! Wildfire’s Brett Hudson is always keen to race, as is Kaotic – both sailing down from Middle Harbour. Fun, newly owned by Paul Baker and David Lamb will, I’ve learnt, just be wherever you tell them to be, Madder ‘n Badder have the one design racing bug since coming to the NSW State Championship and local entry Maritime Training School made up the fleet, joined by our new crew on Sailpac.
A Spinnaker start in a 10-15 Northeasterly winds soon splits the fleet with Madder ‘n Badder getting away, Kaotic not far behind them and then a match race for the next 20 mins between Sailpac and Wildfire. Fun and Maritime Training School not far behind! Shifty winds and shadows from all the islands and headlands around make it a tactical race with a mix of works, kite runs and reaches.
Tim Briggs, steering Sailpac in only his fourth race is going well – I’m in the pit doing tactics and we scored the skills of Damien trimming – a definite advantage. Further around the course we see Janette steering Arthur Crothers’ Kaotic sail into a hole and as we come around Goat Island – with only Madder ‘n Badder in front of us a shy kite gets us where we want to be – in the lead. Holding that lead is the key, and finishing in front of Kaotic and Madder ‘n Badder, it was an absolute joy to see Tim steer a J over the line first – a huge confidence boost for a new owner!
Balmain Sailing Club doesn’t disappoint, with fun and festivities on the water front – a great regatta atmosphere, life raft demos, rowing, BBQ and raffles. A few wines later…the only thing sending people home on a glorious Sunday afternoon was the 6pm tropical downpour – a delightful days racing. We were also definitely in good company, hearing J24 Legends Gary Geitz and Ian Bashfords names dropped in post racing story telling!! Well done BSC! Hopefully with a larger fleet, we will definately be there next year.
1 Sailpac – Tim Briggs
2 Kaotic – Janette Syme
3 Madder’n Badder – Chris O’Neill
4 Wildfire – Brett Hudson
5 Fun – Paul Baker
6 Maritime Training School – Chris Lowe