Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Over the Great Divide

Over the Great Divide - Carcoar Dam
Carl Sparre
January 2003

On 23 and 24 November (2002), four Hunters Hill Mirrors went west, past Lithgow and on to Bathurst, veering south past Blayney then easily finding the 15 generator wind farm which overlooks Carcoar Dam. The southern (dammed) end is home to water skiers. A brief foray into their reserve revealed it was 'petrol heads only'. We pushed on, over the wall, round a few more bends on the dirt road, then left at the spirited Angus bull which guards the entrance to Carcoar Sailing Club reserve.

A mix of boats were being rigged. From a large trailer sailer with metal keel, to a dozen or so catamarans of various sizes, moths and lasers. One local wooden masted mirror 'Hot Chilli Pepper' increased our ranks to five, the magic number to constitute a 'class'.

The official start hour of 1100 came and went. Nobody seemed perturbed. Clearly we were on 'country time'. Water was in short supply, though beer was not. Plenty of time for a drink before kickoff.

The land was parched, and the dam fortunate to be holding 70% of capacity. Above and below the sinking water line, the ground was safe under foot. At the edge however, gumboots were the only sensible footwear. After months of drought, surely the weather would be fairly predictable. The morning breeze was 10-15 knots from the north. A quick two lap race before lunch was just the thing...

As if on cue, the breeze dropped to zero precisely at the time the start flag dropped. In the first minutes, most boats were lucky to cross the line. More than an hour later, we were still guessing which hill the next whiff of a breeze would wander over. The catamarans played leap frog. With momentum, these sleek craft were able to go hundreds of meters without wind, sneaking from puff to puff, occasionally passing a dumfounded skipper stranded in the void, muttering choice words.

Carl and Brianna Sparre in Woody took an early lead. Celia May and Julie Holmes in Sea Joule won the dash to the line under spinnaker, cleverly stealing wind.

The afternoon breeze was stronger, and a 5 lap triangle/sausage course was set. This time Woody did the chasing. A freak storm knocked everybody, save for the hardy Bruce Lucas into the drink. Carl showed alternate (lighter) crew Mikaela Sparre that determination and weight beats skill in a blow, righting first, and sailing on to level the score.

Saturday night at the pub in "Neville" was as you can imagine. The locals had character and charm. The drunkard at the corner of the bar declared he'd been there for 40 years, nobody doubted it. We consumed our rare T-bones, vegies and gravy with yarns from a couple of 'catamaran cowboys'. Bearded John Baird could perhaps have been mistaken for a local. The rest of us were identifiable as 'city folk', unable even to identify the animals grazing the landscape at sunset. A good time was had by all.

Sunday delivered more gusty swirling conditions. Two wins to Woody delivered the Mirror prize basket to the Sparres. Carl, not known for speech making managed to say the right things. Homeward bound, tired and sore, but with fond memories of a unique sailing experience.

Keep an eye out for those boys in "Hot Chilli Peppers". The word is they've had a taste of competition, and they want more. Father and Commodore Tim knows a thing or two about sailing and is no doubt keen to pass on the tradition.

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