by Jessica Gabites
Darwin sailor Peter Bracken has one less thing to worry about out on the water at the Festival of Sails this week – crocodiles.
“We’ve only got great white sharks and stingrays to worry about here. We don’t have to worry about those in Darwin, the crocs eat them all,” he says.
Bracken’s love of sailing started more than 30 years ago when he moved from Adelaide to the Top End. “I’ve been sailing since I moved up there. You don’t surf up there and I hate fishing and I thought the sailing club was a pretty nice place to have a beer,” he says.
“It’s such a good sport and you can do it (sailing) anywhere around the world, until you are old and grey. I have no intention of stopping.”
Bracken and his crew came second in the S80 division in Saturday’s 174th Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race and after two windward/leewards on Corio Bay on Sunday January 22 they are second overall in the S80 division.
Before the regatta they had never sailed together as a group and didn’t have a boat. But that didn’t stop them from making it to the starting line at Australia’s largest keelboat regatta with 174 years of rich history.
Peter got in touch with the S80 Association of Victoria and they connected him with local sailor Tim Campbell who wasn’t taking part in the regatta and was happy for Peter to charter his boat, Recycled Reputation.
The skipper said people shouldn’t let the fact that they don’t have a boat or are from interstate put them off competing in the Festival of Sails.
“The S80 class here is really good. It is all scratch racing (no handicap). None of us (the crew) sail S80s regularly and we have never actually sailed one in battle before. We were chuffed at getting second in the Passage Race.”
One of Australia’s oldest sporting events, this year’s Festival of Sails has attracted close to 300 boats bringing around 2500 competitors from all six states plus the Northern Territory.
Bracken has teamed up with friends from Darwin days, Steve Telford and his 16-year-old son Luke from Melbourne (Sandringham Yacht Club) and George Owen, who usually skippers a catamaran called Mad Max and is based in Maroochydore.
“This is fabulous,” he says of his first regatta. “I don’t think I’d like to live here because I hate winter but I like the idea of including sailing with my holidays.”
Peter said agility and general fitness are important for sailing. “I’m 66. You don’t have to be an 18-year-old to do it. There are lots of people older than me out here sailing.”
“You’ve got to be able to concentrate and keep focused. It’s like a fluid game of chess, it changes all the time. You’ve got four people working together and working as a team is vital,” he says.
“My motto on our boat is if you shout on the boat, you shout in the bar. It has been my motto for years.”
Fellow sailors from the Darwin Sailing Club will head to Victoria in June when the club charters one possibly two S80s so two female crews can be part of the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta.
Bracken says the DSC could also have a stronger presence at the 2018 Festival of Sails given he is planning to return and spread the word.
Peter’s love of the water has seen him sail in Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, as well as compete in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
“My favourite place to sail is anywhere the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing,” he says.