Phil SMember Since 06 Dec 2005
Online Last Active Today, 11:43 PM
In Dec 2009 there is a new thread inviting people to provide biographies, but I think this is a more appropriate place for people to view if they are interested and also it will not get lost in an old or long thread depending upon whether the biography idea becomes popular or not.
My sailing started when I was 12. My uncle sailed VJs and we often visited on Saturday afternoons, and I became interested. He would not take me for ride so I badgered my parents for a boat. Dad built a ply kit called a dolphin, which was like a small wooden sailfish complete with lateen rig. We spent a summer holidays learning to keep it upright. There were big winds on the NSW south coast that year, it was when Kioloa set a Sydney to Hobart record. 1962 or 3 maybe.
Dad got the bug and built himself a heavy 12ft catamaran. We both got tinkering. My boat got a moth like rig and I raced it a couple of times against the moth fleet at Connols Point. Dad's cat got a Jib and Spinnacker and I crewed with him at cat regattas. Then we helped form Bottany Bay Cat club, and my moth sailing stopped to crew for dad every saturday.
The IYRU created A, B, C, and D class cats and as dad was looking for a bigger boat he designed an ACat, KA 8. He did not need a crew so at the age of 14 I designed a 12ft ply cat and built it for myself. Both boats saw many improvements, breakages and repairs. My little one got to be the fastest 12ft cat on the NSW cat regatta circuit, Dad built a better second A and improved his placing.
When I was 17 I wanted an A so I developed on the ideas from my Harmony 12 footer and built KA 38, Harmony 2. It won 3 NSW titles and twice won the event the Aust Cat association was trying to promote as a Worlds, beating only Australian in 1968 at Wangi, but also beating a fleet of Kiwis in 1970 at Sorrento Victoria.
Harmony 2 was so successful that just before we sold it, we measured the girths of the multichine hull and made a model based on these dimensions via the then new stitch and glue stressed ply method. That model became the Rhapsody shape which Dad then sailed for many years winning 3 Aust ACat titles and forming a strong part of the Aust ACat fleet.
Like any uni student 21 YO, I wanted independence from family so moved away from cats to skiffs. I remembered an old skiffy telling me at Wangi that winning a cat regatta was OK but I needed to sail open boats to sharpen my skills. He meant 16s, but they still had 4 crew and 140 sqft spinnakers. I wanted something fun and bought a 12 ft skiff instead.
The fleet for the NSW 12ft champs was 85 in those days. Only the top 12 got to sail in the interdominion. My season started with a lot of swimming but by the time the states came around we were finishing a few races. We excelled ourselves and scraped into the team at 12th. We were as amazed as everyone else. We got in the next year too but did not star in either regatta. I learned a great respect for the people at the top end of the 12fft fleet, they were incredible boat handlers, great tactically and many became long term friends. The third year we dipped out so I decided it was time to build a boat.
12s were mostly molded ply, some chine ply and a few new solid glass hulls. Most had only a std rig and a storm rig. I thought they all looked big, blunt and heavy so built a tiny stressed ply hull, Walpurgis Wrath, which when launched attracted a lot of attention and showed flashes of extreme speed. The Kulmar brothers convinced their dad to build an improved version, Vagabond. They won the inters that year and we came third. I had beaten many of the people who I considered better sailors. In the next 3 years I built 7 more S&G boats for myself and others, sold many plans and I think about 20 boats were built by my method in Aust and NZ. I came 5th twice, once with a 15 YO Mike Spies as crew and finally against Iain Murray who introduced a new trend in wide flat hulls
During my 12 period one of my crews wanted to build a skiff moth so we each made a stressed ply hull and raced them in one winter regatta. The moth bug did not bite yet.
By 1976 I thought people were spending too much on new 12s and I decided to build a small yacht instead for the same sort of money. This became Breakfast 2250, nominally a light centreboard quarter tonner but by the time this was nearing completion I was involved with lovely Larelle and in 1977 we left for a year in Scotland. Sydney Water allowed me the leave without pay because we were newly married. Larelle was exchange teaching.
Breakfast and married life meant sailing for a few years was just saturday afternoon handicap fleet racing on Parramatta river. Spinnakers got bigger, the centreboard got swapped for a bulbed keel in 1983 and later the IOR influenced hull shape was modified. We still have her and its used occasionally for picnics or weekends on the harbour.
Somewhere along here I also did two seasons on 18s, Nock and Kirby with Ace and knobby Nick to start with, and ended up skippering a few times before the time commitment of sailing two days a week got to me.
Children happened. When Andrew was 7 there was a big junior revival at Hunters Hill SC. He started in Sabots, a year later I was bored with watching sabots and bought an old NS14 which Andrew crewed on sunday afternoons after sunday morning sabot racing. We took Pui Mosso, NS 1261, to the NS nationals at Lake Hume, it was the oldest boat in the fleet. It had an obsolete round mast and 18 YO mainsail. It was light. We were placed 4th after 2 days and people started checking the boat. Then it got windy and we dropped back to mid fleet.
I built Andrew a foam sandwich sabot, Wild Thing 1325. It was too light and needed more than the 5kg of lead allowed. It got huge teak blocks in the tanks to screw the toestraps to and made weight. Then I made a foam NS, Out to Lunch, 1772. It was not a huge success and I missed a few critical shape areas trying to make it from foam sandwich pannels without a mold or jig. But we had fun for a few years and when Andrew got too big daughter Kate crewed for a while.
After Flying 11s Andrew showed some interest in moths. I only needed a hot cinder to inflame the old interest. We bought a wide skiff and shortly after built a narrow one to Wardi's ply/glass design. At the end of 1999 we attended our first nationals at Toronto. Like when I was 21, I was impressed with the people, their skills and attitudes. We both made long term friends at that regatta and still sail against some of them.
Together we made several more moths in the next few years. Some stressed ply hulls, some foam/carbon hulls too. We moved on to foils when it happened. I think I might have been the first to finish a moth race with a foiler in Sydney, not that those early foils were any good, but finishing meant we were starting to make them strong enough.
A few years back I was tempted into the design challenge of the new International Canoe rules devised and Promoted by Steve Clarke (CCat Cogito, Vanguard etc). I went back to stressed ply again creating a very slippery shape, getting almost down to wigt and learning to sail a very different type of boat. My version has a single sail on an unstayed rig. I did not star at the 2008 McCrae WC but I met another great group of sailors and have been inspired to keep developing the boat. The rig is now siffer and a new sail is on the way.
My 2008 moth is a step way from the stereotypes and has several innovations like elevated wings, unstayed mast and different foil controls. I do not win races but I am now nearly 60 so my movements about the boat are a bit slow now. A couple of good legs and some exciting fast rides is now enough but I can still beat the youngsters when it light enough for no one to foil..
Andrew took a family sabbatical and sailed 12s for three years but has now come back to moths. He quit Uni to take up boat building and is now more skilled than me. Kate sailed Sabots, F11s and a Laser but has now given up, but still has considerable skills. Sailing is like bike riding, once leaned never forgotten.
If all that is not enough I also sail radio Marblehead yachts and fly electric powered RC model aircraft, mostly all home designed and built. And I am still married to Larelle, so she is obviously a very special person.
So if you got this far you must also be a beared garage boffin and we have something in common. Enjoy your sailing and I hope you create something astounding.
Phil Stevenson 13/12/2009
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