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Southern Spars

Australia’s largest sail school takes to the Derwent

by Peter Campbell on 3 Sep 2011
Launching the Sabot and Optimists on a chilly Hobart morning © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
More than a hundred young Tasmanian dinghy sailors sailed up Hobart’s River Derwent this morning to give eco-cruising pioneer Rob Pennicott a colourful welcome as he completed his ‘Follow the Yellow Boat Road’ circumnavigation of Australia in a 5.4 metre inflatable dinghy.

Pennicott made the three month voyage around Australia to raise millions of dollars towards Rotary International’s funding for worldwide polio eradication.

The young sailors delayed the start of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania’s Dinghy Group Sail School to sail their fleet of more 70 Laser, Sabot, Pacer, Mirror and Optimist dinghies out to join yachts and motor launches escorting Pennicott up the river from Sandy Bay to his finish in Sullivan’s Cove.

Then it was down to the first session of on-the-water training and coaching for the 135 young Tasmanians by the team of national and state coaches, in groups ranging from beginners paddling Optis to many of the State’s elite Laser 4.7 sailors competing short, highly competitive tactical windward-leeward races.

Opening the Sail School, RYCT commodore Graham Taplin described as the biggest event of its kind in Australia, adding 'sailing has a beginning but no end.'


The RYCT Dinghy Group Sail School, sponsored by Peter Johnstone Marine and supported by a number of clubs, coincides with the start of school holidays in Tasmania and has drawn young sailors from clubs around the State eager to improve their sailing skills.

While most of the sailors in the Laser 4.7, Sabot and Optimist classes are well advanced in their skills, an important part of the Sail School is the Beginner – Learn to Sail category, in which a maximum of 50 youngsters have enrolled.

Many of the young sailors are children (and grandchilden) of prominent RYCT members, parents such as Helsal III skipper Rob Fisher, SB3 sailors Brett and Jacinta Cooper, and Dinghy Group chairperson and club director Philippa Calvert and grandparents such as Life Member Barry Shepperd.


Using the club-owned training fleet of Optis, the beginners group is being taught the basics of boat handling, safety and sailing. They began today on the water in un-rigged Optis, one youngster steering, the other paddling, in the ‘pond’ at the RYCT. Over the weekend they will begin sailing the Optis.

Weather permitting, the beginners will be taken for a sail on keel yachts on the second last day of the Sail School to experience big boat handling.

Visiting coaches at Sail School include three-times Olympian Karyjn Gojnich, Andrew Chapman, a past national champion in Cherubs and Flying Elevens who more recently has been sailing nationally and internationally in 49ers,
Susie Ferris, the Singapore national sailing coach, and Brendon Todd, the Australian Sailing Team windsurfing coach.


Significantly, a number of the local coaches are champion young sailors recently returned from international competition, now prepared to onpass their skills to other up-and-coming.

Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania website

Barz Optics - Floatersupffront 660x82Zhik Isotak Ocean 660x82

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