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Nose to tail sailing the CYAA 2023 Cup Regatta

by Southern Woodenboat Sailing 9 Nov 2023 14:57 PST

The Div. one flag comes down...a minute to go...the boats are jostling for the final run to the line.... It's all about boat speed at the gun... winding these things up takes minutes not seconds...Five 40+ footers all get it right... as the gun goes 60 tonnes of timber elegance come up onto the breeze on starboard tack, waterlines fizzing, gunnels just yards apart.

There's no yelling. Just quiet concentration and perhaps a little awe at the spectacle, as each boat tries to nudge forward to keep her wind clear. It was just after midday in the 4th race of the Cup Regatta last Sunday. 11 knots of breeze, blue skies and 28 degrees. A day to be remembered.

The five boats were the S&S from 1971 CYAN. Mercedes III and IV from Ted Kaumann (with a bit of Ben Lexcen in #III) and two Rhodes Boats, SCIMITAR and FAIR WINDS design numbers 618 and 633 sharing much of the same DNA.

Wind the clock back 36 hours and the skippers and crews were standing in Ferdi Darley's shed in Williamstown, along with 140 others of the wooden boat community. The bare timber hulls of WYRUNA & VANESSA glowed in the twilight and the deep craftsmanship and knowledge acquired over centuries, was on display for all to see. The mood was collegiate, with an undercurrent of excitement for the weekend ahead. Speeches were kept to a minimum... knowledge sharing and embellished story telling dominated the conversations. And that's where the nose to tail bit comes in. The Cup Regatta weekend is not just about winning. Its not even just about racing. It's about the full spectrum of wooden boat values. Authenticity, a respect for history, self sufficiency, the actual not the virtual, and above all community.

A few numbers. 31 boats entered the racing. Another 14 came along as non-racing participants from as far afield as Sorrento and Geelong. The combined sailing experience of the boats attending the weekend was about 2330 years. The oldest racing boat in the fleet has just turned 100. The youngest is 49. 15 New Zealanders made it over the Tasman, enriching the whole experience. In all, there were about 180 crew out there racing.

A few moments that will stick in my mind for years to come

The sight of the Charlie Peel designed 1923 Gaff Cutter, ACROSPIRE III with 5 sails up, burning the young upstarts on the light air beat to the top mark in race 3. Not a bad way to celebrate turning 100!

The seven Tumlarens, every one a different colour, as willing as a fleet of Etchells, ducking and weaving on the start to gain that treasured clear air. Let's add the missing three next year and make it double figures!

The sound of laughter and cheers coming of the magnificent MARGARET PEARL as she elegantly and generously transported the spectators around the fleet on both Saturday and Sunday.

The sight of the brave little Sorrento Couta Boats LUCY & JOAN punching valiantly up the last beat on Saturday into 20 plus knots and the gnarly Port Phillip chop.

So that's it for another year. Put the 18th edition in your diaries right now! 1st, 2nd & 3rd November 2024. The satisfaction that we get from these events is usually directly related to energy we put into them. Become an advocate. Talk to your sailing friends. Let's get some interstate boats here. Let's continue to grow the event to be the premiere Classic Yacht Regatta in the Southern Hemisphere!

  • For those that are interested the results are up there for the three divisions. Visit here to view.
  • The CYAA is genuinely interested in feedback from participants and stakeholders. Any suggestions and comments you might have can be emailed at
  • Events like this don't happen without hours of work from a huge range of contributors. Here are a few that deserve a mention and apologies to those that I've missed.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of

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