by Rob Kothe
This coming October Long Weekend (October 3-4th 2009) is the fourth annual Heaven Can Wait 24 Hour Yacht Race.
Early morning - Heaven Can Wait Regatta 2008
There have been many 24 hour races around the World, the Le Mans which has been running since 1923, is the most famous.
But for Australia’s own 24 Hour race, there are no roaring engines and glare of lights, but there will be an almost full moon to light the way for the large fleet of yachts ghosting around Lake Macquarie, the largest salt-water lake in Australia.
Back in 2003 Race founder Shaun Lewecki, conceived the race when he was recovering from a major cancer surgery operation in John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. He saw on the wall of his hospital room a patch of imperfect paint, which to him, looked just like a chart of Lake Macquarie. He was sure he could even see a little spec that looked just the largest island on the lake, Pulbah Island.
Lewecki explains that his battle with cancer had been like sailing into darkness, and he was determined to sail out the other side and into the light.
Lewecki said ‘I decided my boat and I would make a comeback in a 24 hour race on Lake Macquarie. The doctors had kept saying to my wife 'the next 24 hours will be ....' but I thought ‘Heaven can wait, I've things to do.'
His vision became a reality on the October long weekend in 2006.
Thirty boats competed raising money for the NSW Cancer Council and in 2007 a 31-nautical-mile One Lap Dash for dinghies, catamarans and sports boats was added.
Last year the Heaven Can Wait Yacht Club, with Lewecki its inaugural Commodore, was established to run what has become a significant annual charity event.
2007 Heaven Can Wait race - Sunrise on Sunday Lake Macquarie
‘Up to now I’d been doing much of the organising work with some wonderful assistance, but it had become obvious that we needed a formal structure,’ Lewecki said.
Cheques totalling nearly $13,000 were handed over to Hunter region charities through the Heaven Can Wait Yacht Club, following the very successful 2008 Heaven Can Wait 24 hour yacht race, held on the October long weekend.
The NSW Cancer Council’s Hunter Division received a cheque for $6615, while the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol Lake Macquarie Division was given a cheque for $2835, at a presentation ceremony at the Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto on Monday December 15.
Additionally Lake Macquarie MP and Lake Macquarie Council Mayor Greg Piper made personal donations of $1000 each to both organisations at the ceremony, while a raffle organised through the online-based Trailer Sailer Place raised $1200 for the Cancer Council.
In making the presentations and his own personal donations, Cr Piper paid tribute to the work of the Cancer Council and the Coastal Patrol.
'All of us are touched by cancer in some way, and the Cancer Council plays a vital role in prevention, research and support, while the Coastal Patrol’s work in and around Lake Macquarie is essential in helping boaters on our beautiful waterway,' he said.
The Heaven can Wait Yacht Club, as the Organising Authority in conjunction with the Royal Motor Yacht Club of Toronto, will again invite owners of suitable Racing and Cruising Yachts and Multihulls to enter the 2009 Heaven Can Wait 24 Hour race and/ or the One Lap Dash, to be held on Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia on the October Long Weekend October 3-4, 2009.
Once again the entry fees paid by entrants to the Heaven Can Wait (HCW) races – the 24 hour race to be held on October 3-4th , and the shorter 'One Lap Dash' run over the same course on October 3rd – will again be earmarked to be distributed to the Cancer Council and Coastal Patrol.
Lewicki commented. ‘The support we have received for this event is great. We are expecting to have more than 50 boats on the water. More than half of the fleet will come from outside the region. We have boats coming from Victoria, Queensland and across NSW. One of our race officers, Blake Middleton himself a cancer survivor, is coming from the USA for the fourth year in a row.
‘Now we have a solid platform and a growing Heaven Can Wait Club membership. We are funding the race with membership fees so we are looking for more membership support. The Race Entry fees are tax-deductible up-front as the funds go to cancer research and Coastal Patrol.’
So on Saturday the 3rd of October at 11 am, just in front of the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto. Lewecki will be on the helm of his beloved Young 870 trailer-sailer, now called ‘Heaven Can Wait’.
Once again they will sail together into the darkness, but the skipper is looking forward to it. ‘Its beautiful out there on the Lake at 2am ,this year will be an almost full moon and to be there with the stars of the Milky Way overhead, it’s a good time to remind yourself that Heaven Can Wait ... and then you can look forward to another beautiful dawn.’
For more information go to www.heavencanwait.com.au
Heaven Can Wait Yacht Club burgee