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Flying 15 Regatta at Clayton Bay Boat Club, South Australia

by Craig Birbeck 18 Jan 06:41 PST 2-4 January 2021
Flying 15 Regatta at Clayton Bay, South Australia © Chris Caffin / Canvas Sails

Clayton Bay Boat Club is a small, friendly and welcoming sailing club on the banks of the Lower Murray River, mostly catering to trailer yachts the occasional dinghy and catamarans.

The club is in between the towns of Milang and Goolwa and the famous Milang to Goolwa Freshwater Classic yacht race fleet sails right past our bay. We have Lake Alexandrina on our doorstep and the beautiful Coorong within sight. Clayton Bay is a secret we locals like to keep!

A season or two ago, a couple of Flying 15's started to race with our mixed fleet at Clayton. Interest started to grow in the boat's design, good looks and impressive performance. After experiencing the Flying 15 class camaraderie and excitement of the Nationals at Adelaide's Royal Yacht Squadron, my skipper and I were looking at the Nationals in Lake Macquarie as an option but COVID 19 made that unlikely to go ahead. We wondered what we might do instead, and thought to maybe get some local boats together for a regatta.

We knew that there were a few boats still spread about South Australia, including several at Christies Beach Sailing Club and Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club. A Facebook group was formed, the word got around, and the rest is history!

Friday 1 January: Arrival and prep

On New Year's Day the Flying 15's started arriving at the club, and all of a sudden we had nine Flying 15's on the club lawns, including 'Bubbles' — all the way from Tin Can Bay in Queensland. Lots of new faces were around, but between rigging and a couple of test sails to break the proverbial ice, all the participants were ready to go.

Saturday 2 January: Invitation race

The Invitation Race of 18 boats in total boasted a mixed fleet of CBBC trailer yachts including seven Farr 6s, a Sabre dinghy, and a beautiful locally handmade wooden Fulmar 15 design dinghy. The race was a simple reaching course from Clayton Bay past Rat Island, around a buoy to avoid the shallows and back past the other side of Rat Island to the finishing line, approximately 14 kms distance. In conditions of 12 to 18 knots, the occasional spinnaker was flown with mixed success, and the elapsed time for line honours was 58 minutes 20 seconds.

Invitation Race Results: A perfect course and conditions for a very well sailed Sabre Dinghy 'Flite,' with the corrected time winner Craig McPhee. Second place was the Flying 15 'Bubbles' (Ken and Lee Bubb), and third went to Flying 15 'Ark' (Dave Bennett and Dave Mulvaney).

We finished the day with dinner at the local restaurant Sails At Clayton Bay. 32 people attended, with new friends made and many stories (and lies)! Told along with good food and drinks.

Sunday 3 January: Race day

With winds forecast to build to over 25 knots late in the day, and 25 knots plus for the next day, we decided on an early start to racing with the first race held at 10am. Starting in approximately 8 knots of shifty winds the Sausage-Triangle-Sausage course in the immediate Clayton Bay area was shortened when the wind dropped out completely. Very frustrating for all, but a great introduction to the variable direction and large windless holes that can be found when the wind goes light in Clayton Bay. 'ROFFL,' crewed by myself (Craig Birbeck) and skippered by John Phillips, found the largest black hole and finished last by a long way.

Race 1 results:

  • First place on corrected time went to 'Bubbles' (Ken and Lee Bubb)
  • Second place to 'Fish' (Sam Edwards and Phil Parish)
  • Third to 'Scallywag' (Marc Read and Tony Graham).
With the first race completed, lunch was called with a sausage sizzle back at the club. Then we held a 1pm briefing for 1:30pm start to the two back-to-back races in the afternoon.

The second race saw wind conditions of 12 to 15 knots, and was a Sausage-Triangle-Sausage course once again. Much better racing conditions, with less than 4 minutes' difference over the fleet in elapsed time. A bit of start line barging and congestion at the committee boat end of the starting area, causing a couple of penalty turns and some yelling!

Race 2 results:

  • First place went to 'Bubbles' (Ken and Lee Bubb)
  • Second to 'Scallywag' (Marc Read and Tony Graham)
  • Third to 'Fish' (Sam Edwards and Phil Parish), each proving themselves to be solid contenders for event trophies.
By the third race, with the wind building to 15-20 knots, the fleet decided to congest the pin end of the line with several boats over the line early and returning to restart (and more yelling, of course). I was too far behind on 'ROFFL' to give a description of the action up front but by all accounts there was some close racing and tight mark rounding's!

Race 3 results:

  • First place again went to 'Bubbles'
  • Second to 'Ffruition' (Brad Briggs and Charles Erwin)
  • Third to 'Ark' (Dave Bennett and Dave Mulvaney).
We held a BYO barbecue at the club with the bar open after the day's races, and more tall tales were told into well into the night.

Monday 4 January: Blown Away

The forecast unfortunately proved correct for what was supposed to be the final day of racing, and the final race cancelled due to the strong winds.


Results were given out on Monday 4 January with huge thanks to our sponsors of the event: Bennett Architecture, KFC, and Dynamic Engineering and Adelaide Steel Frame Windows.

Yardstick Overall
1st Bubbles, Ken and Lee Bubb
2nd Scallywag, Marc Read and Tony Graham
3rd Fish, Sam Edwards and Phil Parish

Performance Handicap
1st Scallywag, Marc Read and Tony Graham
2nd Ffruition, Brad Briggs and Charles Erwin
3rd FoMo, Christine Rootsey and Dick Trice

1st Classic Hull: Scallywag, Marc Read and Tony Graham
Riverside Perpetual Trophy: Bubbles, Ken and Lee Bubb
Combined crew age over 120 years: Bubbles, Ken and Lee Bubb

Special mentions

To Ken and Lee Bubb on Bubbles: they sailed superbly and showed as all how to do it with class. Ken shared his experience, boat setup and ideas with the fleet in an informative talk on the Monday. Thank you!

Marc Read on Scallywag sailed very well with a new-to-Flying-15 crew Tony Graham, and Marc was Mr-Fix-It to several other boats in the fleet. Thank you!

Phil Parish crewing on Fish spent time helping with rig tensions and boat setups on several boats, always happy giving tips and advice to us learners. Thank you!

Many thanks also to the large contingent of club volunteers without whom the event would not have happened, particularly the race officials, safety boat crews and the catering staff. I believe our little club did itself proud and will do it all again with the Flying 15s and maybe other classes in the future.

Much support was given to the idea of restarting a state association for Flying 15s in South Australia and running a race series each year. Hopefully we can rebuild the Flying 15 class racing in the state going forward.

More information at

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