Please select your home edition
Edition
Mackay Boats

Laser designer and Int 14 sailor pays tribute to Geoff Smale

by Bruce Kirby on 14 Apr 2011
Geoff Smale and ralph Roberts (NZL) sailing Atua Hau to victory in Cowes at the 1958 Price of Wales Cup . .

Canadian sailor and designer Bruce Kirby,better known as the designer of the highly successful Laser class was one of those who competed on the 1958 Prince of Wales Cup, along with Geoff Smale who died last weekend in a light aircraft accident.

Here he pays tribute to his old friend:

Geoff Smale was the man who put New Zealand sailors on the map and on its way to becoming the smallest country with the biggest influence on international sailing. In 1958 when the North American and European sailing communities thought of N.Z. as an island somewhere off the east coast of Australia (and weren’t even sure where Australia was) Geoff and five other Kiwis descended on Cowes with their International 14s and showed the rest of us how to get these lively thoroughbreds through the water.

The team racing that year was won by Canada, but only because both Geoff’s boat and Ian Pride’s (Ian was also lost in an flying accident many years ago) had breakdowns in the 30 knot winds of the final race. But there was no way we were faster in any wind above 10 knots, especially upwind. The following week Geoff and his outstanding shipmate Ralph Roberts, sailed away from the rest of us in the 68 boat fleet that hit the line for the 15-mile Prince of Wales race, and took back to New Zealand the most prestigious trophy in dinghy sailing at that time. And the fleet had one Olympic Gold Medal winner and at least two other Olympic sailors.

This experience in Cowes had a huge impact on my career, because I was so disturbed at being so grandly outclassed in heavy weather by the Kiwis, and Geoff in particular, that I returned to Canada and immediately designed my first boat. It was aimed directly at fresh air upwind efficiency, and in fact turned out to be pretty good in those conditions. But I never met Geoff on the race course again, although we crossed paths at many other events over the years.

The last time we were in touch perhaps illustrates more about Geoff Smale that that wonderful win off Cowes all those years ago. A very good friend from Victoria, B.C. who is now permanently in a high tech wheel chair as he fights the long battle with ALS, e-mailed me that he was going on a vacation to New Zealand. This was Dave Cook, or 'The Cooker' as he is known to his host of sailing friends. As his health has deteriorated Dave has gone from Olympic disabled sailor to radio controlled model yacht aficionado – even conceiving designs which friends help him build.


Well, it turns out that for many years Geoff Smale has been designing, building and very successfully racing model yachts at the world level. (what else?) So I tipped off Geoff that The Cooker was going to N.Z. and would like to see some of Geoff’s models. So Geoff, at the age of 86, practically adopted Dave Cook. He arranged for a wheelchair access van to pick up Dave and take him to the magnificent Smale home overlooking the ocean.

He spent an inordinate amount of time showing and explaining and demonstrating the absolute latest in sailing model development, and then he took Dave to two events, lending the stranger in the wheel chair his best IOM model to try his hand against the cream of the Kiwi model yachties.

And a month after The Cooker had left Auckland Geoff Smale - champion sailor, very successful businessman, self-taught sailmaker and technician, and about as close to a perfect human being as you will ever find, flew his hot little ultra light into the side of a mountain, in what is believed to be freak bad weather.

Bruce Kirby
Rowayton, Ct. USA

Southern Spars - 100Zhik Yachting 660x82Mackay Boats

Related Articles

America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ give first look at the pedaling AC50
Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Emirates Team New Zealand formally christened their new AC50 America's Cup Challenger on a rainy Auckland afternoon. The team has been sailing for the previous two days making news headlines after it was revealed in Sail-World.com that the AC50 would become only the second yacht in America's Cup history to use pedal power.
Posted on 16 Feb
America's Cup - Kiwis sign Olympic Cyclist for the Tour de Bermuda
Ttop cyclist Simon van Velthooven, a 2012 Olympic Bronze cycling medallist had been signed by the America's Cup team Emirates Team New Zealand put in a second foiling display on Auckland's Waitemata harbour ahead of the official launching of their AC50 tomorrow. With brighter skies the cycling team took their places on the pedalstals and used leg power to provide the hydraulic pressure necessary to run the AC50's control systems for the foils and wingsail.
Posted on 15 Feb
A Q&A with Shawn Macking about the StPYC’s Sailing Center and OD fleet
I talked with Shawn Macking, the StPYC’s waterfront director, to learn how the club is getting more people out sailing. I caught up with Shawn Macking, waterfront director of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, via email to learn more about the club’s Sailing Center, its hefty investment in a new fleet of ten J/70s, and how the StPYC is using this infrastructure to expose more people to the sport we all love.
Posted on 13 Feb
A Q&A with Karen Angle about the 2017 Conch Republic Cup race to Cuba
I caught up with Karen Angle, executive director of the Conch Republic Cup, to learn more about this exciting event. If you’re like me and have arrived at saturation with winter’s cold rain and snow, imagine racing to Cuba as part of a 13-day cross-cultural event that’s designed to lower barriers of entry at a time when some Americans see a need for taller walls. I caught up with Karen Angle, executive director of the Conch Republic Cup, to learn more about this exciting event and the adventures it affords.
Posted on 23 Jan
A Q&A with Anna Tunnicliffe about her return to competitive sailing
I talked with Anna Tunnicliffe before the Sailing World Cup Miami to learn about her return to Olympic-class sailing. Anna Tunnicliffe won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in the Laser Radial before shifting her sights to the Women’s Match Racing event for the London 2012 Olympics. Here, she came up shy of expectation and left sailing for the CrossFit Games, but now she is returning to her roots. I talked with Tunnicliffe before the Sailing World Cup Miami to learn about her return to Olympic-class sailing.
Posted on 23 Jan
A Q&A with Dick Neville, Quantum Key West Race Week’s RC chairman
I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for the Quantum Key West Race Week, to learn more about the event. For the past 30 years, international sailors have gathered in Key West, Florida, each January for Key West Race Week, a regatta that has achieved legendary status due to its calendar dates, its location, and the impressive level of competition and racecourse management that this storied event offers. I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for this year’s Quantum KWRW, to learn more.
Posted on 16 Jan
A Q&A with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Race’s new deputy race director
I talked with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Round The World Race’s new deputy race director, to learn more about his role. I was fortunate to sail with Daniel Smith [36, SCO], skipper of “Derry~Londonderry~Doire” for the 2015/2016 edition of the Clipper Round The World Race, when the fleet reached Seattle last spring. Now, Smith has been hired as the event’s deputy race director-a job that will test many of the skills that he polished as a skipper. I caught up with Smith via email to learn more about his new job.
Posted on 9 Jan
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Suck it up, sunshine!
The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour, another two million watching on TV, and the constant buzz and whir of media helicopters overhead. 88 boats, from Australia, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Korea, China, oh and New Zealand, had lined up on three start lines.
Posted on 31 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race - More merriment on the airwaves
Here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and Hobart Race Control So on December 29, 2016, after the River Derwent had let just three boats home (Perpetual Loyal, Giacomo and Scallywag, all inside the old race record, she went to sleep for a lot of the day. This made it frustrating for the sailors, some of whom saw the lighter side. So after seeing some of those in Dark & Stormy, here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and HRC
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Sydney Hobart Race-Dark and stormy, well because it is Dark and Stormy
Proving that there is a lighter side to the frustrations that is a race to Hobart Well it is now dark and the rain 'storms' have passed, but proving that there is a lighter side to the frustrations that is a race to Hobart, the custom Murray 37, Dark & Stormy had a wonderful exchange on the radio. Quite possibly it was co-owner and Navigator Terry Courts on the VHF in the super-frank exchange with Hobart Race Control at around 1928hrs on 29/12/16.
Posted on 29 Dec 2016