by Rob Kothe
This coming October Long Weekend is the third annual Heaven Can Wait 24 Hour Yacht Race.
2007 Heaven Can Wait 24 hour race - early morning sun on Lake Macquarie
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, in fact there will hardly more than a new moon 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.
This 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.
‘The support we have received for this event is great. We are expecting to have close to 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 third 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.’
‘There are a lot of sailing boats racing on Lake Macquarie each weekend, but they all race in different fleets. We hope that in future years, other Lake Macquarie Clubs will make our Heaven Can Wait One Lap Dash their Club race for the Saturday of each October Long Weekend.’
The race this year will be sailed out of the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Toronto.
Next Saturday the 4th October at 12 noon, 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 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