Phillip Cooke has a simple answer when asked what keeps him going after so many years skippering a 16ft skiff.
“Any day out on the water is a good day. Your worst day sailing is still better that your best day working,” the Manly veteran declared with a smile.
Forty-six-year-old Cooke has enjoyed plenty of good days on the water during his 25 years as part of the Manly fleet.
But the wins dried up in recent times, which made last Saturday’s victory in the sixth heat of Manly’s club championship so sweet.
Piloting Altis Consulting, Cooke and crew members Dave Greuter and Jim Levy got off to a great start and never looked back.
They led by two minutes at the second mark and held that advantage all the way to the finish, holding off Sutech (Daniel Turner) and Brydens Lawyers (Zac Barnabas) to claim both scratch and handicap honours.
Barnabas is just 14 and Sutech bowman Will Divola only 14, again showcasing the young talent coming through at Manly.
Not that the likes of Cooke are ready to let the kids steal all the glory just yet.
“I haven’t been able to put in the sort of time I’d like to over the past few years, but we’ve always been competitive,” he said.
“When it all comes together like it did on Saturday, it makes you want to go on forever.
“It really was the perfect race and perfect conditions for us and we were able to sneak away from the rest of them.”
While Altis Consulting was streaking away, there was a race within a race further back in the fleet.
Holding a handy lead over closest rival Fluid Building (Clint Bowen) on the overall club championship pointscore, Fire Stopping (Joe Turner) just had to stay upright and ensure it kept Fluid at arm’s length.
Bury, skipper Joe Turner and for’and Rob Napper did just that, finishing four places ahead of Fluid in seventh and pocketing the crown with a heat to spare.
“We knew what needed to be done but it didn’t happen the way we had planned,” Bury said.
“I think we got a bit caught up focusing on Clint and the boys on Fluid, knowing what they can do to you in a moment’s notice, and we forgot about the bigger picture.
“But we were lucky enough that the cards fell our way with other results.
“Winning the club championship is such a big deal given the quality of the Manly fleet, and it goes some way towards making up for missing the national title by a point for the second year running.”
Manly 16ft skiff sailor Peter Mackie shudders each time his mobile phone bill lobs in the mail. “I’m doing my bit to ensure Telstra shares go up. Every week I seem to be ringing around trying to find a skipper,” he said.
Mackie isn’t joking.
At last count, the Brydens Lawyers skiff had employed seven skippers across a series of club, state and national regattas. With work commitments and the arrival of baby twins keeping regular skipper Lee Knapton landlocked for much of the summer, Gerard Smith, Bryce Edwards, Kurt Hansen, Chris Nicholson, Dave O’Connor and Nathan Wilmot have all taken turns on steering duties.
“It’s been great all those guys have been able to help us out but it does make things difficult when you are constantly swapping skippers,” Mackie said. “It’s probably no surprise our season has been pretty up and down.”
It was Wilmot’s turn to play the role of stand-in skipper last Saturday and it proved a seamless handover. A dominant win in Manly’s fifth club championship heat of the summer was a reminder of what Brydens – a multiple state and national champion – is capable of when all is in tune.
Wilmot opened up a good lead up on the initial windward run and was first around the mark, leaving club championships aspirants Fire Stopping (Joe Turner) and Fluid Building (Clint Bowen) to play catch up. Brydens’ lead was never really threatened as they pulled away for a comfortable 2min:15sec victory.
Fire Stopping was second with Fluid close behind in third. “I think our cause was helped by the fact Fluid and Fire Stopping were racing each other and we were able to sneak away,” Mackie said.
“Nathan did a great job steering as did young (for’ard) Harry Moreton. “We can’t win the club championship title but we want to finish the season on a strong note.”
With two heats to race, Fluid appears the only threat to Fire Stopping winning the silverware.
If you’re going to dream, why not dream big?
That’s the attitude of young Manly 16ft Skiff Club skipper Felix Grech and his crew as they negotiate their way through the 2016/17 season. Aboard Korman Marine Composites, Grech steered the boat to an impressive win in last Saturday’s second pointscore race of the season. The 47-second win could be a pointer to bigger and better things in the coming months. “We want to place at the nationals this year and the club and pointscore races are good training for that,” Grech said. “It’s super competitive at Manly and the young guys are out to push the big guys as much as possible.”
KMC got off to a terrific start in beautiful conditions last Saturday, easing away from the rest of the fleet alongside Brydens (Gerard Smith) and Holmes Marine (Matt Stenta). Stenta took the lead on the second lap and looked on track for victory before Grech and his crew Paul Darmanin and Tom Potter came at him again, regaining the lead and holding on for an important win.
It was a particularly sweet for Darmanin, who was up against his Olympic medal-winning sister Lisa aboard CHPS. “He was keen to beat Lisa – we all were,” Grech laughed. “It was a really tight race, very tactical, and we were always getting pushed. “We couldn’t relax for a second so to come back and win it was very pleasing.”
Bean Counters (Henry Harding) took out handicap honours from KMC and Skiffropes.com (Amy Lee).
The third pointscore race of the season will take place on Saturday afternoon.