Apart from the rustle of the breeze in the reeds and from the gentle wake of the competing yachts, the only sound was the polite murmur of 'starboard' on 'contact' from one of the dozen or so yachtsmen lining the banks of Risdon Brook Dam on the eastern outskirts of Tasmania. Occasionally, a request for 'buoy room.'
But the intensity of the competition was just the same as that shown by helmsmen and crews from the crews of another fleet of racing yachts, where I had watched a boisterous start to their race a few kilometres downstream on the River Derwent.
The first event was the start of the Hobart Combined Clubs Long Race off Kangaroo Bluff at Bellerive. The second was the final heats of the International One Metre class at the Australian Radio Controlled Yachts national championships on Risdon Brook Dam.
Racing a radio controlled yacht requires much the same concentration and skill of steering as 40-footer and a similar knowledge of the racing rules of sailing. The difference, of course, is in the size of the boats and the fact that there are no crew to shout at.
Many of the competitors at the Australian Radio Controlled Yacht championships are current or former prominent sailors. Rod Jackman took a day off from sailing with his father Roger on Doctor Who, while John Cole-Cook is a former ocean racing yachtsman to contest the International One Metre class finals on Risdon Brook Dam.
Other competitors, who came New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and New Zealand, have been racing these boats for many years or also retired big boat racing skippers or crew.
Their boats are highly sophisticated racing craft, the hulls of fibreglass, mast and boom of fine grade aluminium, the sails made of draughtsman’s film. Apart from using a transmitter to steer the boat, most have electronic winches to control the sails on and off the wind.
Design rules vary for the different classes but in the case of the International One Metre class, it is a ‘box’ rule that allows flexibility in hull shape. The latest trend is for hulls with a chine, with a deep bulb keep that comes within a weight restriction.
The 2012 Australian championships for the International One Metre (IOM) class ended yesterday, ending a week of competition in the A class, 10 Rater and Marblehead classes.
The A class championship went to West Australian Graham Howie, beating Tasmanian Michael Hickman and another WA entrant, Gary Cotterell. Victorian Lincoln McDowell won the 10 Rater title from Graeme Howie and Queenslander Jeff Byerley.
Tasmanians dominated the Marblehead class, with Denis McLoughlin winning from Lisa Blackwood and Michael Hickman.
The IOM class attracted 38 entrants with close competition in the flukey and gusty breeze that swept across the dam waters, the competitors lining the bank, their fingers steering their boats and adjusting sail trim with slight movements of the toggles on their radio transmitters.
At the end of the day, Queenslander Michael Grieve took out the title from Craig Smith (Vic) and Paul Jones
(NSW) with Michael Hickman (Tas) fourth overall. John Cole-Cook finished eighth overall and Rod Jackman 12th.
The championships were conducted by the Risdon Brook Radio Yacht Club which holds races every Sunday.
Contact is Alan Furmage on (03) 6248 5237 or email alan.furmage(at)southernphone.com.au or go to the national website www.radiosailing.org.au