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Royal Prince Alfred YC Youth program to offer offshore experience

by Lisa Ratcliff/Sail-World Cruising on 18 Dec 2012
Bruce and Tina Hogan and the Perpetual Mocean crew made up of the RPAYC Youth Development squad2 Damian Devine
No matter what your ambitions in sailing, there's nothing like experience on 'big boats' to give you a taste of the adrenaline that often accompanies ocean sailing. The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is taking its youth development program to another level by providing seven selected students a comprehensive training on big boat sailing.

They will be given the chance to participate in offshore racing in the Club Marine Pittwater & Coffs Harbour Regatta 2013.

The youth development team will be composed of high school and university students and will undergo training under the tutelage of seasoned sailors such as Nicky Souter, Olympic silver-medal winner Nina Curtis, and America’s Cup helmsman James Spithill and his sister, Katie Spithill.

This year the club’s youth development program has added another component to its training repertoire - big boat offshore racing.

The January Club Marine Pittwater & Coffs Harbour Regatta and the generosity of one owner is giving some of the current youth development recruits wanting to venture out of Broken Bay and Sydney Harbour a handy leg up into bluewater sailing.

Bruce Hogan and Tina Clifton, owners of the sporty Marten 49, Perpetual Mocean, will add another dimension to the sailing CV’s of seven youth development sailors when they set off on January 2, 2013, in the Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race.

Hogan and RPAYC club coach, Tom Spithill, have put the inaugural program together with Spithill responsible for training and the final selection of the seven chosen from the original pool of 11. The youth development team will be joined and mentored by an experienced ocean racing crew for the annual sprint up to the tropical mid north NSW coast.

Ranging in age from 15 to 20, the high school and university students are champing at the bit to be chosen for the 226 nautical mile on the 49 footer.

Given it’s a category 2 offshore race, there is no minimum age of 18, giving those less than the voting age a taste of the adrenaline and what it’s like to race day and night, eat salty sandwiches and snatch sleep in short stints on a bucking bed.

The 'kids', as Spithill affectionately calls them, like racing fast and exciting skiffs. The Marten is a major drawcard because it’s a high performance boat, they will be sailing with good mates who are a similar age and they will play an active role on board.

'It’s an unusual stepping stone from centreboard to keel boats,' says Spithill, adding 'a lot of the time young people are asked to stay out of the way when they are trying to learn about big boats'.

Spithill predicts a humdinger in the 40-50 foot range with the two DK46s, the Farr 45 Pretty Woman, the Beneteau 45 Victoire, the Kerr 43 Kerisma and the Corby 43 Anger Management, among others.

Knowing they needed crew, Spithill mustered his understated charm and approached Bruce and Tina with the idea of helping the club’s youth development program by giving select youth the opportunity to add offshore experience to their already well developed skill set.

'We said yes for a number of reasons, one being Tom,' admitted Hogan. 'He’s earnest and trustworthy and believes in what he’s doing, which was compelling for us. We believe in giving young people an opportunity to enhance their skills, and we have had the full support of the RPAYC from the board down.'

Under Spithill’s guidance, the youth crew are being put through their paces on Perpetual Mocean in the RPAYC’s five-race bluewater series. They have also had the opportunity to complete the gruelling Sea Safety and Survival Course, including life raft drills at the Qantas pool, to understand what can go wrong at sea and how to best manage emergency situations.

'The forces are so much greater on a bigger boat and everyone has to understand exactly what their job is should an emergency arise. Everyone on the crew will also have to read our standard operating procedures and understand them,' said Hogan.

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Perpetual Mocean was crowned line honours winner of the Pittwater to Coffs race in 2009 and competed again in 2010.

'It’s a terrific event which starts with a testing race without being as gruelling as heading south but still, it takes a lot of discipline and focus,' said Hogan. 'We also enjoy the outstanding camaraderie and spirit at the Alfreds, the professionalism with which it’s all put together then, once we reach Coffs we get to do a few fun races and enjoy a relaxing holiday cruise back to Sydney.'

Bruce Hogan was a latecomer to the sport, first stepping on a boat as he approached 50. Having watched Sydney Harbour come alive each Wednesday afternoon with twilight racing from his high-rise office, he decided he was missing out and ten years later Bruce and his wife are enjoying their third boat.

Being boat owners who like to cruise and race, Bruce and Tina know that having well trained and enthusiastic crew allows them to put together a race program.

'I don’t have any expectation that I’m developing crew for myself,' assures Hogan. These are people I hope will have their skills enhanced and some, but not all, will continue to want to do it. That resource will be available to everyone.'

The 2013 Club Marine Pittwater & Coffs Harbour Regatta event website is at Pittwater Coffs Regatta 2013
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