Big birds, clouds, records, sharks and fast boats from Noakes (Pt.II)
by John Curnow on 9 Dec 2013
Iconic names, records and boats going quickly. We saw a lot of that in Part One. Part Two is to be no different, whether we’re talking about Team Australia or a new service that is available for customers on Sydney Harbour. Read on and you’ll also see that NSW is not the only place where you can get some Noakes service, either…
Sean Langman’s MALUKA OF KERMANDIE, smallest yacht in fleet - 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Rolex/Daniel Forster http://www.regattanews.com
Now as the yachting calendar gets into full swing, what are Sean and the boat up to back here in Australia. 'Vodafone are not considering coming across to do a run South this year. Instead, they’ll be doing a lot of corporate activity. Our sole focus is on the Pittwater to Coffs race. Sailing to Hobart on our own, two hours after fleet and in such a good year for them just does not make sense. I was happy to do it against Vodafone but it’s not like they or the public need the confusion.'
Apart form that, Langman is working on achieving the required level of sponsorship to take on an around Australia record, which will involve Roger Badham once more, so if you have the need for some high level visibility, Sean certainly has the vehicle for you. 'Apart from all that, I really want to be involved in AC35, in whatever capacity, and have been receiving and reviewing options. In the more immediate future, my son Pete and I are going to join Grant Wharington on his Wild Thing for my 24th run South, in this 69th iteration of the Rolex Sydney Hobart race.'
Wharington commented of the whole thing, 'Look out! Old foes over the last 25 years have joined forces. In all seriousness though, it is great to have the opportunity to sail with Sean and his son, Pete. Sean wants to go again, like we all do, and he brings a lot of skills to the table.'
'We’re going with 18 crew this time and I feel the opportunity to have another driver, and one of the calibre of Sean, is really a huge bonus. Our transom is wider now and we can get the crew out a bit farther, so having a larger contingent is another benefit. Sean and Pete are a good fit with our team and we are not wanting for anything.'
'I’m really excited about it. It will be the best quality group of boats at our end of the spectrum since the 50th and wow, have times moved on since then! Loyal are so radically different, in certain conditions I think we’ll watch them simply disappear, yet I expect them to be a bit sticky in the light. We are now on a draft of 6m, with a new bulb and the rudder is a further 4m aft than before', Wharington finished by saying.
So indeed it is this very rudder that deserves special mention. During a training sail on Sydney Harbour, Sean decided to have a look over the side and see for himself what some of Grant’s concerns were. He tied his own line, peered over as they beared away and sheeted on a tad, to get a little extra heel out of Wild Thing.
Sean indeed saw what he need to witness, but as he pulled himself back up, the very knot he tied gave way and Sean slipped in to the very water he had so recently been evaluating.
'We got to cover off MOB practice as part of the equation too. Wharro must be happy, because he returned to get me, so I feel even more confident about our new arrangements now! We’re back in the shed, fitting interceptors to the rudder, which are part of the R&D that I’ve been up to in here, so it was all very worhtwhile', said Sean. Indeed we touch on the subject again later, as well. In the meantime, it will be good to see all the big’uns come out to play on Tuesday for the Big Boat Challenge.
So with all this talk of fast boats and with Sean’s company, Noakes, having worked on many of the fastest around, Sean tells of the newest, which is kind of back to the future. 'We have relaunched the name, Noakes Rigging, and have a new rigging manager in Jason Neuhaus. Our old, rigging knife Noakes logo is also back for this department, as too a properly supportive, high-speed response rigging boat.'
'We actually had this service on the harbour 20 years ago. There is a need for it out there and apart from a business perspective, the rationale came in two main parts. Firstly, we have all the rigging equipment on hand, loads of experience and it ties in nicely with our focus very much on sailing craft versus power.'
'The second aspect is that now with modern technology we can get there, assess the issues, give an estimate, get approval, perform the work and then take a photo of the completed task. Most importantly, it means we get paid in much faster timeframe than before. Technology has allowed this and the market has very much driven this system', said Langman.
'Since we have put the name, Noakes Rigging, back out there the business has been doubling every week. It is going gangbusters, which is fantastic and we really appreciate everyone coming back on board. The fast response craft will be available to assist with rescue and will have two riggers on board for our on-water service who will go directly to the boat in question and fix it there and then if possible. They’ll liaise with the customer directly, including photos, get the quote approved and then make the credit card transaction. All in all the whole response is far quicker than when we did it all 20 years ago.'
'Back then we really had that market by the throat, but when we got our new facility at North Sydney it was just more sensible business to get our customers to come to us. The opportunity was really borne out of having the all the skills already in the team and some great new and younger team members coming on board. So we’re going to go for it and I’m back climbing sticks once again!'
All in all, the move does make a lot of sense, especially when you consider the strong mooring culture that Sydney possesses. Also, boats are in use all week and twilight sailing is much larger than Saturday racing. If any of them get damaged, they all want to get back out on the water as soon as is practicable. Sean also sees this, 'I am looking out my window as the sun is going down and this time four years ago it was nothing but powerboats. Today there are two powerboats and 18 yachts, with the largest of them being 100 feet. I was also a customer of a locally based outfit to support my own vessel when we did not a fully fledged rigging operation and I felt that there could be a better alternative and we know what that is, so we have reactivated it as part of re-embracing the whole sailing market.'
Langman also feels that there is more positivity around in recent times and with a good Summer already underway feels that it is time to get going.
'Like Noakes itself, I am still here now. It’s as busy as it’s ever been across the whole group. We had a little forced shrinking during the dreaded GFC, but it has turned around after what you could only describe as a boating depression. The thing I like about Noakes is that we do everything. Currently there is a lot of commercial, defence and tug boat like work, which are big steel and aluminium jobs. That’s one area of the business. We’ve also got quite a bit of timber restoration taking place and we are always repairing boats that are built out of carbon.'
'For someone who loves boats, I just adore the diversity in what we do and the guys seem to like that, too. We didn’t let anyone go through the downturn. We still have a very strong team and they are all into it. We do still look at various new build opportunities, but these days they are more one off type things, specifically down the line of the research and development stuff that I am working on with foils', said an enthusiastic Langman.
'We have still got the hospitality area, the ferry company and obviously Kermandie in the Huon Valley, which has a marina out the front of it now. It’s a business you don’t get bored in, put it that way. North Sydney is still our biggest operation and most of the shipyard work goes through there, but we have some expansion plans underway for Sydney Harbour.'
Most interestingly, for a company virtually synonymous with Sydney and NSW, with a name every sailor recognises, there is one move that will be watched by a whole new market. Noakes are set to make a march into Melbourne, with a new facility to be opened in association with d’Albora. Of all the items mentioned, this one will be particularly interesting to watch as it unfolds.
So if you own a boat and no matter what size or type it is, then perhaps a scan of www.noakes.net.au could well be the good thing to do. Marine services is a business where you not only want experience, you want peace of mind that the job has been done to exacting standards.