Barwon Heads Sailing Association Newsletter View in browser 

Ratty’s Ramblings September 2023

Dear ,

Welcome to the Spring edition of Ratty’s, an inspiration to get the boat out and ready to go for the glorious sailing days of Spring and Summer!

In this newsletter:

Commodore’s Comments

Creaky Boats

Club Captain's Corner

Let’s Get Racing!

Safety Comes First

Commodore's Comments

Welcome all to the latest edition of Ratty’s. Once again can I thank Linton Roe for all the work he does in putting Ratty’s together and maintaining our website with regular updates.

Sailing activities are minimal over the winter months, however, the committee has been active in a number of areas. 

As always, Bruce Clements has undertaken the onerous paperwork involved in obtaining the club exemption for the 5 knot limit on the Barwon River (although observations would suggest that this limit is almost universally ignored by most powered craft on the river!)

Bruce and I have attended two meetings with Barwon Coast and Coastwatch regarding Barwon Coast’s proposal for upgrading the channel markers in the Barwon River. Barwon Coast initially proposed that an additional 19 makers would be installed between the heads and Ocean Grove boat ramp but limited funding means that we will now see most of the markers south of the bridge to facilitate entry to the river channel and clear channel lighting underneath the bridge. A new marker will replace the existing marker between the bridge and the Little Jetty where there is a reef, and the “pinch point” at the end of the sand bar north of the little jetty will be more clearly marked. This is essential as Coastwatch have difficulty negotiating this point in poor light in their large rescue craft. I believe these changes will have minimal effect on our sailing.

The committee has noted that many of our policies and indeed the club constitution are out of date. The current club rules (constitution) are based on the 1995 model rules recommended by the Department of Justice, which are not only outdated, but in some instances contain sections which are now illegal. Legal advice was taken and we worked with Australian Sailing to adapt the latest model rules by the Department of Justice to meet our club needs and this updated constitution will be sent to all members prior to the next AGM, where it will be presented for approval. The major change is to clarify committee roles and to establish a mechanism by which members “ex-officio” can be invited, where needed, to attend committee meetings.

As foreshadowed in the club rules, we have now established a Sailing Sub-Committee, to be headed by the Club Captain, the purpose of which is to spread the load of managing the racing program. We have developed a 

Child Safe policy as mandated by government legislation and this has now been posted on our website to allow familiarisation by all. 

On behalf of the club I attended the annual Australian Sailing conference, which provided interesting insights and statistics on attracting younger members and the mechanisms by which this can be achieved. It boils down to two main issues: having a clubhouse with facilities where they can meet and providing boats which they can use at low cost. This is a huge challenge for all clubs, but particularly one as small as ours. We do, however, continue to explore the possibility of some form of expanded clubhouse. Unfortunately Australian Sailing does not wish to continue active participation in hands-on sailing, has ceased to run the Tackers program, and is selling the assets, sadly, as it was hugely supported in the local community and will be sorely missed by many local families.

Sail Pass is a mechanism where non-members can be registered to compete in individual club sailing events. It registers non-members with Australian Sailing and BHSA and ensures that their details are recorded. They are then also covered by personal accident insurance. Members can register non-members and friends wishing to join us in a sail by following the link on the website. It is quick and simple!

Can I also strongly urge those members who do not have their boats insured with 3rd party indemnity that this is essential to protect them against potential litigation in the event of an accident on what is now becoming an ever increasingly crowded river.

We now have an official “Buy and Sell” page on the BHSA Website for those wishing to dispose of, or perhaps acquire a boat. If you wish to sell a boat it can be posted to our site by sending appropriately worded 

details to Linton. Please be aware that the details and any transaction is between buyer and seller and the club has no involvement or responsibility.

Finally, can I wish everyone a great coming season, hopefully avoiding the pitfalls of Covid, blue-green algae and sudden gales.

See you on the river.

Cheers, Nigel Hocking.


Creaky Boats

Peter Creak’s recollections of sailing at Barwon Heads
Mum and Dad (Julie and Tony) settled in Ocean Grove after emigrating in 1972 as 10-pound poms. They were always into sailing and lots of summer and easter holidays were spent at regattas. Dad sailed Fireballs a lot, which at the time had regular regattas across Victoria and further afield.

The Barwon river was a great place to learn to sail. My first sailing on the river was in the early 1980’s crewing for Dad with my twin brother Simon in an old but restored Mirror named Frederick the Great. It was a great boat to learn in with a spinnaker. The 1982 safari was very hot with a strong northerly.

In the mid 1980’s we acquired a yellow Minnow dinghy that I shared, again with my twin brother Simon. I think we took turns using the boat and raced a bit in the Barwon Heads races. I was quite surprised to win the 

1986 Safari on yardstick time as the Minnow was probably the smallest boat in the fleet.

Like many locals, we camped on the river during January and mucking around on boats (and later windsurfers) was just part of the fun and at high tide, joining in with racing when it was on.

As a teenager I also sailed an International Cadet, another junior class, but more on Corio and Port Phillip Bays. As study and work took me away from Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, I had long breaks away from sailing, only returning occasionally as a crew.

As I started to return to Ocean Grove more frequently, I got back into sailing in a Laser around 2010. As well as sailing on the Barwon, I sailed at Port Melbourne and further afield prior to moving back to Ocean Grove with my family in 2019.

Sailing on the Barwon is unique - local shifting winds, dodging sand banks and weighing up the tidal influence around the course being some of the challenges. The Barwon Safari is a great race; looking for gusts, wind shifts, thinking about the sand bars and shallow water, as well as other boats, is really important.

Since moving back to Ocean Grove, sailing on the Barwon is still a highlight and more recently I have been sailing an RS Feva with our three sons Oscar, Harry and Asher. Harry crewed in the Barwon Safari this year and six year-old Asher also crewed in a few races more recently. Both Oscar and Harry are sailing Optimists (no pun intended!), so there are likely to be Creaks sailing on the river for a few more years.


- “Fred” with A, P&S Creak upriver, possibly on a Safari

- Peter and Harry rig the RS Feva

BHSA and the Creaks | Tony's recollections
Reading Peter’s wonderful reflections of sailing on the Barwon has encouraged me to share a few of “Mum and Dad’s” memories of those early days.

Julie and I moved to Ocean Grove in 1972 and built in the back blocks near Thacker Street and, although we were aware of the Barwon River, our focus was more on the beach. We had both sailed in England before arriving in Geelong. With water all around, it was the perfect opportunity to get back into sailing. We bought an old Fireball and started sailing it at Torquay, perhaps not the ideal location, but in those days you just did.

The little Creaks started to arrive quite soon, forcing Julie to interrupt her sailing career as I continued to sail various Fireballs in Geelong with various crews, and soon found Corio Bay better suited to the Fireball. One craft was called “Hop on Pop” from reading Dr Zeus’s to our ever-expanding family. I sailed with another Tony who also had five kids and we were often referred to as “Dad’s Army”.

I’m digressing, this is supposed to be about sailing with BHSA and the Barwon!

Fast forward to the early 80’s and twins Peter and Simon were old enough to start sailing. It was around this time, during the summer holidays, that we were crossing the Barwon Heads bridge and saw a menagerie of sailing craft, many with bright red sails, on the river. It had never occurred to us that we could sail this close to home.

It wasn’t long before we were scouring the countryside for a second-hand Mirror but at that time it was not easy to find one. It had been a long day but eventually we found one in a farmer’s shed in Lang Lang, covered in layers of dust. I think it must have been dark by this time because when we looked at it at home the next day, we couldn’t believe we had bought it. 

Under the dust we found that it had been coated with linseed oil.

Following a total rebuild, including a new deck and a new sparkling coat of navy-blue paint, the Barwon River adventure had begun.

Memories of last week are hazy, memories of 40 years ago very hazy. However, with the help of the BHSA website “Honour Board” some of the timeline can be reconstructed.

The premier event on the BHSA calendar has always been the Safari, a unique event that requires skill, patience and local knowledge thrown in with a measure of luck. It really doesn’t matter where you finish and being a yardstick event, it can be a long time before you know - it’s the competing that’s the fun.

The Creak name first appeared on the Fairburn Cup in 1983, A, P, & S Creak (Tony Peter and Simon) in the Mirror “Frederick the Great”.

Next was 1985 - A & V Creak; Tony and elder daughter Ginny, this time in a borrowed Heron.

Then in 1986 P. Creak; Peter in a Minnow at age 12, a name to feature many times in the years to come.

In those days there was keen rivalry for honours between myself and my boss at Ford, Don Dunoon. After Peter’s win in 1986, Norney Dunoon was overheard to say. “It’s one thing Tony beating my husband but quite another when it’s Tony’s son”. Don was to be the top scorer in the 80’s.

Creak’s continued to be well represented in the Safari. “Fred” was replaced with Sabre “Hot Potato” which Julie sailed. The two youngest Creaks, Fi and Tim, sailed with Dad in the Fairy Penguin which was purchased to fill the role of “Fred” for the 

younger Creaks. Despite no lack of trying, success in the Safari eluded the Creaks and the Fairy Penguin, until the Laser revolution later in the 90’s.

The days of the Mirror and the other small two-handed dinghies was all but over, but not finished, Linton continued to feature on the Fairburn Cup until well into the 0’s

Yes, times have changed. Our first Safari in Fred was probably in 1982. It was close to 40 degrees and a screaming northerly. Was the race postponed? No way! This was the 80’s and this was Safari Day, come what may. It was a long and testing beat to the turning mark upstream, but the tide helped. However, I was apprehensive that the rig wouldn’t survive the run home, so we dropped the main and literally flew home under jib alone. I seem to remember we finished 4th, which could well have been last, but the mast was still standing.

That is almost the end of my story. Not so long ago a friend of Hamish’s who lived on a farm near Horsham was looking for a home for a Mirror but not many hands went up. Hamish said, “all it needs is a good wash” I turned on the Gurney and off flaked the paint and the start of another extensive Mirror renno. “Barwon Blue” has made a few appearances with various grandchildren but has yet to race and is hoping for company. She even has an auxiliary motor.

Photos Above:
- “Fred” with Tim aboard but not afloat

- The safari-winning minnow, pictured at Lake Boga with cousin Suzie

- Preparing for a race start, Sally Patterson on left, Fi on right, Fairy Penguin behind


“Barwon Blue” with Julie and Fi

The next generation in Optimists

“Barwon Blue” with the next generation, Fi’s Rory and Sunny

Club Captain’s Corner

Hi fellow sailors,

Recent incidents during our races have led the committee to reconsider our rescue operations.

We have always planned to have at least two rescue boats for the 

Safari and Sheepwash races. But, due to the perennial difficulty of finding an additional boat and crewing it, the sheepwash has at times been run with only one.

This year showed how conditions can be ideal then suddenly turn destructive mid-race. The one rescue boat found that it was inadequate to help all those who needed assistance and with the fleet spread out the crew couldn’t assess who was in the most need. In future, we need two rescue boats for these races, so if anyone knows people with a boat that could help, please let us know.

The other issue is the difficulty of getting sailors from the water into the rescue boat. Consideration has been given to purchasing a different style of boat or using flotation devices towed behind the boat. 

I look forward to seeing you on the river in the Iceberg series, which will be commencing on the first Sunday in October.

Regards, Jim.

Jim Poulston

Club Captain

Let’s Get Racing

The smell of Spring is in the air so it’s time to get that cover off the boat, give it a scrub, get down to the water and rig up! We hope you will join us for the Iceberg Series, starting on Sunday 1 October. All the race times and details are on the website, so we hope you’ll bookmark the Let’s Get Racing page.

Safety Comes First

A lot of work each year goes into ensuring our documentation is up-to-date and that we comply with all marine safety rules and exemptions. Working with our local authorities ensures that our activities are both safe and legal.

We are now required to make all of our members aware of the special provisions which allow us to run our races.

Please read the Barwon Coast 5-Knot Exemption Declaration

Thanks to Bruce Clements for the latest update to our Safety Management Plan.

Sailors should take particular note that we have a duty of care to others on the river, which may mean suspending our involvement in a race where health and safety are in question. Two of the newly amended guidelines are below for your interest.

6.2 (b) Participating yachts shall monitor each other and any yacht that is either capsized or sailing erratically shall be approached and questioned if any assistance is required and actions taken accordingly.

8.2 The B.H.S.A. reserves the right to cancel or suspend a race event if conditions are deemed unsuitable or as described in BHSA Sailing Instructions, i.e. (a) In “Ordinary” races, wind readings exceeding 20 knots three times in a minute
(b) In “Up River” races, winds readings exceeding 18 knots three times in a minute

Thanks, everyone, for helping your committee put safety first.

Please forward this newsletter on to any interested friends or family members.

Alternatively, you can ask anyone to sign up to our mailing list by giving them our web address:

See you on the river,


[email protected]

Barwon Heads Sailing Association

50 Carr Street, Barwon Heads


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