When the prototype RL24 was first built, we would travel almost anywhere to race, and one of the important races around Brisbane was the “Lord Mayors Cup”. It was held on the Brisbane River, and the start was from the Eighteen Footers Club on the south bank and down stream of the city.
John Green had agreed to sail with us that day, and we were surprised to find a fleet of some ninety boats awaiting the start. There were keel boats, large catamarans, a huge trimaran, all sorts of dinghies, and trailer-sailers.
With so many boats on the river and a relatively short start line, there was the usual crush at the windward end of the line, so we decided on a leeward start right on the bank, and we thought that with a little bit of pinching, we could make it in clear wind for the first mile or so provided we started right on the gun.
Our plan worked well, and within a few minutes we were well clear of the rest of the fleet, although sailing only a few meters from the south bank.
While the rest of the fleet fought for clear air and the windward positions, we had rounded the first bend in the river on our way up-stream to the turning mark which was supposed to have been laid somewhere off the botanical gardens some six kilometres away.
The breeze was very light, and the day was grey and tending to drizzle. The slight assistance that the last of the flood tide had given us had stopped, and a lot of concentration was needed to keep the boat moving. I asked John to take a look behind us to see how the rest of the fleet was doing. There was a moments silence, then John shouted, “LOOK! look at that”.
I glanced around but saw nothing but the grey sky, and not a boat in sight, and turned back to concentrate on sailing the boat. Again John shouted, “LOOK! Look up there!”. Again I glanced around and was getting annoyed at seeing nothing special. Again John persisted shouting and pointed, “UP There!” And sure enough, there was a huge container ship with a tug alongside being turned in the river not a hundred meters behind us, and several crew members were staring down at us.
The day was grey, the ship was grey, and seemed to fill the whole river.
The ship was grey, the same colour as the day, and it filled the whole width of the river. The rest of the fleet was trapped behind the ship and out of sight. We sailed on for over an hour without seeing another boat, and had a lot of trouble sailing under the Story Bridge in the very light
conditions. The tide had turned and was now running out. We had just cleared the bridge and the Gardens were in sight when a power boat with a marker buoy on deck passed us heading down stream. We waved him down, and he came alongside to explain that the course was to be shortened, and the turning mark was to be re-laid well down-stream of the bridge, adding that it wasn’t his job to tell us the course had been shortened.
After all that excitement and effort, where did we come?
I believe it was 50th or 60th as we were not given any allowance for the extra miles we had traveled; the explanation being that the proper signals had been given from the officials boat, even though we were out of sight and out of hearing.
It had been a very interesting day.