Kids and veterans the true heroes of Heron racing

Jerome Watts and Oliver Gorman tackle the top mark
Rhys Llewellyn
After nine days of sailing at the recent Heron National Championships held at Lake Macquarie, it was clear who the heroes were – the kids.

Day after day, it was the junior skippers and crew – as young as four – who were the most eager to head out in all weather conditions to race around the orange buoys in the 62-strong fleet.

Equally impressive were the veterans, some aged in their 70s, who were often the first teams off the beach.

As the winner of the 53rd national Heron series, Greg Harris (41) from Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club (NLSC) NSW, says, ‘Heron sailing is all about the kids and families’.

'That is the best thing about Heron sailing, everyone is involved: kids, mums, dads, grandparents,' says Harris.

In fact, he attributes some of his success to his eight-year-old crew, Kai Johnston.

'I credit a large part of this win to my fantastic crew, Kai Johnston, who only started crewing at the beginning of this season, but has become really professional at the tender age of eight,' says Harris.

Greg Harris and Kai Johnston on their way to a win
Rhys Llewellyn

Second place went to Paul Armstrong and his young crew, William Armstrong (7), from Dobroyd Aquatic Club (DAC) NSW, and third place went to Brien Hennessy and Rosalie Hennessy (8), from Perth Dinghy Sailing Club in WA.

The first veteran, Bill Peterson and his crew Nina Peterson, also from NSW, ranked 10th overall.

The first junior team, Jerome Watts (14) and Oliver Gorman (12), from Georges River Sailing Club (GRSC) NSW, placed 21st overall. The second junior team was Matt Doyle and Matthew Arthur from DAC, and third was Georgia Llewellyn and Eleanor Macgregor from NLSC.

Watts says that while it was a very testing regatta, he and his crew sailed better than they ever have before and, more importantly, had plenty of fun on and off the water.

'We definitely sailed our best, but the real highlights of the regatta were the social events. You just can’t find a more fun class of boat than the Heron,' he says.

With Mother Nature throwing every sort of weather pattern at the fleet, it offered everyone the chance to sail in all conditions and evened out the strengths and weaknesses of each team and their boats.

Twenty knot breezes gave the heavy boats a fighting chance, light breezes saw the smaller teams head further up the pack, while storm squalls and chop that created dizziness akin to spinning in a washing machine tested the entire fleet.

Little boats, big start
Rhys Llewellyn

On two of the six race days, the 11-foot Herons even had 40-foot yachts and Etchells to be mindful of as each class raced around the same course. It certainly made for some interesting and challenging meetings on the water.

Other trophies went to:
1st Handicap - Tony Cope (VIC), Isabella Cope
1st Unplaced Interstate Boat - Richard Gibson (SA), Sophie Bredhauer
1st Unplaced NSW Boat - Ian MacGregor, Annie MacGregor
1st Family - Matthew Brown (QLD), Julia Brown
1st Lady - Emma Duncan (QLD), Rory Brown

For series results, go to the 'news' section on the Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club website,