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from Rob Legg Yachts

Boating Stories

by Rob Legg

17: One Last Sail.

If you have never been to Boreen Point on the shores of Lake Cootharaba, it is well worth a visit. To the north stretching for fifty kilometres is the Cooloola National Park and the upper Noosa River, a haven for canoeists and wildlife. There are fresh water lakes, an area of Everglades, and no habitation until you reach Tin Can Bay sixty kilometres away.

After I retired from work I had a little house there overlooking the lake. It was a beautiful spot, and I thought it may be the ideal place to retire to. The population of Boreen Point was around 200 and not likely to increase much more as the residents had voted never to allow the sewerage, nor the water to come to town, although after an experience with a flooding septic system, and later empty rain water tanks I felt that they were somewhat misguided in that respect.

The first thing that I did was to build myself a boat to explore the upper reaches of the river, and used it to make the forty minute run down the river, through Lake Cooroibah to Tewantin (to the nearest supermarket) or a further ten minutes further on and moor at the end of Hastings Street in Noosa.


The Village of Boreen Point and the National Park stretching away to the north.
The ocean and the coloured sands are just a short distance from the shores of the lake.

Boreen Point boasts a very active and friendly sailing club and quite a few RL24s had found their way there, and so it was that one day I received a phone call from one of the officers of the club. He asked if I would mind helping them out the following weekend. There was to be a VIP day, they had been given the use of a RL24 so that the visitors could sample the joys of sailing on Lake Cootharaba. Would I mind taking them out ? This sounded fine to me as the lake was a great place to sail.

I wondered if the visitors had ever sailed before, and decided to take along another experienced hand just in case. John Botterill,, a friend and experienced yachtsman from a long way back agreed to help and on the following Sunday we arrived to be introduced to the VIP guests. Imagine our surprise to find that we were to take not some politician and his wife, nor other strangers to sailing. It was Jock Sturrock and Norman Wright Jnr.

Jock Sturrock was Australiaís first Olympic yachtsman. He had sailed in the 1948 London Olympics and sailed in a further four Olympics. He was also the helmsman of Gretel in the 1962 Americas Cup. He was voted Australian of the Year and had won many championships in many different classes. I had not seen him again since he lectured the crews contesting the trials for the Rome games.

Norman Wright Jnr was a popular Brisbane yachtsman. His father had established a boat building business on the Brisbane River in 1909 and Norman had grown up amongst sailing boats. He had taken his Flying Dutchman down to Melbourne to contest the trials for the Rome games and I had not seen him since.

Both of these gentlemen were now in their eighties and not very agile and we had concerns about taking them out to race. We suggested that they would be more comfortable watching the racing from the rescue boat, but they were both adamant that they wanted to sail in the race.

The borrowed boat was moored about fifty meters off the shore in knee deep water behind a tiny island. It couldnít be bought in any closer because of the scattered rocks and shallow water, and this is where our problems started. Jock could not walk unassisted, and we needed help to walk our charges out to the boat. It was a real struggle to get them into the boat as neither could climb the stern ladder on the transom, and they had to be rolled over the side.

During our wade out to the boat, one of our assistants had asked about the combined age of our four man crew, it came to three hundred and one years. A rather frightening thought for a crew of four men in a light displacement boat.

The lake here is only separated from the ocean by a narrow and low strip of bushland, it is open to the full force of sea breeze when it sets in, and this day it had built up to around twenty knots by the time the race started, and was increasing. The race was to be two laps of a triangular course. We had arranged to have Jock sail the first lap, then Norman would take over and sail the final lap. So far so good.


RL 24s on the starting line during a series on Lake Cootharaba. Itís a great place to sail.

The start went well, but during the first tack things went wrong! Jock of recent years had been used to keel boats and he was not used to the speed that smaller boats went about. He got tangled up with the tiller and ended up sprawled out on the cockpit floor. No matter what we tried we couldnít move him, and he refused to give up the tiller, so we just had to talk him through that first lap while he sat there with the tiller in his hand and not being able to see where he was going, but at the same time certainly sailing the boat well to windward. Off the wind it wasnít so bad. We only had to point in the direction of the mark.

Now we had another problem, Norman was not able to take over on the second lap as Jock was in the way and he couldnít manage to step over the tiller. Another attempt to get Jock up on to a seat while we were off the wind proved unsuccessful, so we persisted with Jock sailing the boat on the second lap, and I am sure he secretly didnít want to give up the helm anyway; he wanted to be in charge.

Back on the mooring and it needed four men to get our guests out of the boat and back to dry land.

Sadly, a year later I heard of Jockís death. I am sure that, that race at Boreen Point would have been the last sail that either gentleman ever had, and I still remember the big grin on Normís face as he was driven away from the sailing club on that day.


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