Making a deadline on a sailing boat was the origin of sailboat racing!

by Chris Kameen on April 22, 2013

Now I know what the pilot boats of old must have felt like racing out to the sailing ships to be the first to bring them in and get paid!

I don’t think Bennalong would have made a great sailing Pilot boat! This morning I had to be in Middle Harbour by 9:30, so we initially set off at 4:00pm on Sunday, but we didn’t get very far as there was no wind at all. We sculled our way back to the mooring and I awoke with the sparrows to catch the early morning breeze. Alas it did not make it into Little Manly and I had a frustrating half hour trying to make my way out to the white caps in the bay. I made good time across Hunter bay but with a dying wind and an increasing ebb tide I made very slow progress up towards Spit Bridge

I was within half a mile of my destination and probably could have signalled my crew using flags we were that close, fortunately mobile phones sorted the problem and they were able to grab another coffee and relax, but it got me thinking…

Whilst trying to get around Grotto Point against the tide and wind I was torn between getting out of the tide and close to the rocks or playing it safe and staying in the middle, without an engine you can not afford to get caught in the washing machine of refracting and reflecting waves. I started to stress about being late and it was then I smiled to myself that this wasn’t real stress, no one was going to die, and I just needed to accept that we shouldn’t take the breeze for granted. However I did think a quicker boat would have solved my problems… or an engine, but the old pilot boats didn’t have engines either, they just became fast and so perhaps that was the beginning of the skiff movement! Pilot sailing boats racing out to the cargo ships trying to be the first so that could get paid.. What a different life to today..

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