Coutas out in force

Couta Boats came from Melbourne and Perth for a series of events in Sydney celebrating the iconic wooden Australian gaff rig boats.

31 October 2022


After two years of planning 13 Couta Boats travelled from Melbourne along with two crews from Perth for the 2022 Sydney Harbour Gaffers Regatta conducted by SASC, the Wattle Cup and the Thistle Trophy run by Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club at Point Piper.

These events produced a combined aggregate for the NSW Championships before travelling further north to Pittwater for the 2022 Couta Boat National Championships at the delightful Avalon Sailing Club.

The Sydney Couta Boat family led by the ever-energetic Larry Eastwood had done the hard yards re-ballasting and mast-stepping the visiting Couta Boats on Sydney Harbour.


Friday 14 October saw the two race Thistle Cup being conducted by RPEYC.

Honours went to Margarita helmed by Harry Mighell, with Olympian Tess Lloyd trimming the headsail. Second was Chris Sinn’s Rip helmed by another Olympian Will Phillips, and third was Mark Foley and the new Bella crew. Line honours for the Thistle Cup went to Bella from Margarita.

Saturday saw the Muriel Cup conducted on a very busy Harbour with skiffs, ferries, hydrofoils and even a seaplane landing amongst the fleet.

The race was well won by Rip with Wagtail second and The Barra third. Amazingly Howard Critchely sailed the regatta with one arm tied behind his back – literally!

Race Line Honours went to Nick Williams in Wagtail.

Sunday was a very big day for the Sydney Amateurs Sailing Club in Mosman Bay.

Some 100 boats celebrating the 150th anniversary Gaffers Race followed by much merriment back at the Club. Line Honours for the race went to the Hart brothers aboard Jocelyn.

But the Handicap winners were the team on Rip with the now Sydney based Kathleen Mary in second and Couta-Tah third.

It meant that the NSW States went easily to Team Rip followed by Kathleen Mary and The Barra. Regatta Line Honours went to Bella.

A shout out to Grant Smith and the Nepean crew who sadly broke their mast on the first beat of the first race on the first day which ended their regatta a bit early.

Owners chose different windows to sail/motor their boats to Pittwater with some leaving on each of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. All boats arrived uneventfully, and many whales were spotted

At times the conditions were very fresh and they sailed the boat really well.

Hospitality at both SASC and RPEYC was outstanding with volunteers shouldering much of the load.

The Nationals

Saturday’s First Warning Signal was brought forward due to various weather threats, although the lightning did not occur, the breeze built to a solid 17 to 20 knots, regularly busting 22 to 25 with peak bullets over 28 knots in the third race of the day.

Rule 3 “Decision to race” came in to play for some along with a bit of gear failure.

Line honours for all 3 Saturday races went to the Bella who really sailed very fast

Handicap honours for the day were shared by three Sydney boats Couta Tah, Makama and Kathleen Mary.

Unfortunately Race 1 saw 2 x OCS under U flag and Race 2 had 4 OCS boats who did not return.

The Great Circle Race

Sunday was the classic two islands race. And what a challenge it was!

Starting with a huge beat to windward in light breeze, a recovery reach then an upwind past Sperm Whale head that was full of holes in the most unexpected places. Once clear of Barrenjoey, the big swells brought a fresh set of conditions to race in before boats battled the lee of Lion Island.

After a long downwind to Scotland Island, lots of mini battles developed as the boats were challenged by the variable breeze under Scotland Island and finally there was a beat to the finish off Avalon Sailing Club.

The Wagtail crew held their nerve throughout the race to win by several minutes but on handicap it was the Sydney boats again with Kelly Holder on Kathleen Mary first, James George in Cariad second and Melbourne’s Zephyr third

After the race it was busy, busy, busy! Boats headed to the Etchells pond at RPAYC where boats were completely de-rigged, lead ballast was removed and stacked onto pallets and masts were craned out.

Once again Larry and his team along with Colin Mitchell had everything organised and the job was done quickly on the first half a dozen boats.

SSCBC’s Ben Fels assisted the PRO throughout the regatta utilising World Sailings appendix UF Umpired fleet racing which meant boats mostly took the low-risk option in situations in front of the umpire and the two incidents that occurred elsewhere could be dealt with via the “on the water” match racing style protest procedure before boats went ashore.

Handicapping the Sydney, Pittwater, Sorrento and Freshwater Bay fleets was a challenging exercise, but was based on the assumptions and actual data from the Sydney Harbour races.

A big thanks to SSCBC’s Julia Mackinnon back in Melbourne for running the scenarios and adjustments to get the handicaps and then remotely crunched all the results.

Ben’s knowledge and understanding of the Rules and Handicap system was much appreciated.


Local knowledge really paid off, with the three NSW boats taking out the podium Andrew McMillan from Perth who shares Couta-Tah with a NSW syndicate won the regatta from Russell Barrett’s Wattle with Wayne Parr assisting and Makama coming in third.

Line Honours, is another championship in itself with the Victorian boats Bella, Wagtail and Jocelyn filling the podium.

After racing, a festive gala feast was put on by the club and it was not just old mates catching up.

The CBA’s strategy has been to consistently embrace inclusive initiatives with the Next Gen and Lady Skippers races the best supported and enjoyed racing outside of championships. That mix is flowing back to keep the average sailor age lowering and the gender balance increasing.

Thanks to Georgie Silverwood SSCBC’s Commodore for making the effort to attend the Saturday evening festivities and swapping burgees with Avalon’s Ralph Moller and RPEYC’s Commodore Adrian Broadbent.

Georgie even sailed all three races on Saturday aboard the Sandy!

Full results along with hundreds of raw photos can be found here

An amazing event where everyone came together to make it happen, the class is exceptionally grateful for the support of Linfox, The Wooden Boatshop, Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club, Sydney Amateurs Sailing Club and Avalon Sailing Club and all of their volunteers and staff. Too many to name but we (and you) know who you are.

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