9910Craig Cameron sailed in the 57th National Championship regatta at Port Lincoln in January 2016 and won 1st place on handicap.  This prize goes to the boat that shows the most improvement over the regatta.  Here is his account of how he became involved with Herons, learned the ropes and sailed with success on Boston Bay.  Craig met a few helpful folk along the way……

Craig Cameron Turbo 9910 – A view from ‘somewhere in the fleet’ on Boston Bay,  57th National Heron Championship Regatta

I was introduced to sailing four years ago when my then eight year old son decided that he didn’t want to play cricket and tennis, the sports I had grown up with.  However, he thought that the boats he could see on the bay from our lounge room in Port Lincoln might be fun.  I had never been involved with sailing, nor did I know anyone that was involved, but I now had a son who desperately wanted to try it out.

I took him down to the club one Saturday afternoon and made some enquiries.  I was told “Come down next Saturday and we will put him in a boat”.  That was where it all began and he really enjoyed being involved.  I spent the next few years out on the water helping in the pickup boats and watching my son sail.  During this time, I listened to people on the boat coach and train the kids, shouting “pull the jib on”, “pull the main on”, “point up” and “watch your tell tales”.

Last season, I felt that I had gained some basic knowledge from all of the instructions I had been hearing and perhaps it was time to give sailing a go myself.  I spoke to a few people who encouraged me and with that, I dug out an old Pacer from the Club shed and found a keen youngster who was doing the learn to sail program who was willing to give it a go with me.

We were lucky that there were plenty of seasoned sailors who were happy to assist us to set the boat up and pass on a few more pointers before we hit the water.  I remember we tipped over nine times that day and my crew spent the whole time emptying water from the boat.  Despite this, we both had a great time and decided we would give it another go. In the coming weeks we sailed another four times.  Each time we got more comfortable in the boat and felt we were improving, having less tips.

At the end of that season I felt I had achieved something that I would like to continue. I discussed with various club members the possibility of me continuing to sail in the next season and what boat would be an option for me to continue to learn in.

With the Port Lincoln Club holding the Heron Nationals in the following season, it was suggested that the Heron would be the perfect class for me.  After giving this some thought I decided to find a boat to purchase and spent some time searching on the internet and discussing available boats with other sailors.  I found that people were extremely helpful and assisted me to understand the pros and cons of various boats.

After some time I found 9910 Turbo and made the purchase.  Everyone at the Club was very supportive and willing to help and teach me how to set up my boat, advising me about what they believed needed repairing or improving.  I managed to get on the water about five times prior to the Nationals, again obtaining a crew from the ‘Learn to Sail’ program.  The Nationals approached fast and, to be honest, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the event as I didn’t feel I had achieved control of my boat and I certainly was very sketchy about the rules of racing.

I managed to secure my ‘Pacer’ crew who had been crewing the season in a ‘420’. This was a relief as he now had knowledge which would be very helpful.  The regatta was upon us and I was overwhelmed with the support and friendliness of all the competitors.  I found myself with a massive ‘pit crew’ who would assist with the set up of my boat each day; adjusting, changing and repairing things on the boat in order to improve it and make it easier for me to sail.  I was inundated with encouragement and advice on things to do and adjust to improve my sailing.

The week was like an intensive training course, each day heading out with fresh advice and new techniques to incorporate with those that appeared to have worked in the past.  Over the week I could feel myself improving as things were starting to happen more easily and some advice making sense.  The weather was quite different each day and I found the lighter days much harder to sail in, as I realised after speaking with others after the race that I managed to have everything set wrong for such conditions.  I must say I do prefer the windier days as it was easier to keep the boat moving, even if things weren’t set quite correctly.

I have to say that I found the start line to be very daunting and whilst I attempted to keep my nose clean and clear of the experienced front runners, I did find myself in a predicament a couple of times where I got squeezed into a hole with no escaping.  I managed to come out unscathed and am thankful for the understanding and patience of the other competitors.

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and whilst it was both physically and mentally tiring, I have learnt a new and exciting sport and met some very friendly and encouraging people from all parts of Australia.  I am looking forward to continuing my sailing and I’m hoping my daughter will become my crew next season.  When I entered the Heron Nationals I never considered I would be collecting a trophy of any kind at the presentation. When I was told I had come 1st on Handicap, I was in disbelief.  It was a great feeling to think that I had achieved this result and I am thankful for all the support I have been given.