Twenty years ago, almost to the day, a bunch of Seawind owners got together to test their sailing prowess and race their cruising catamarans around the iconic Pittwater, just north of Sydney Harbour. Gathering at the Basin campground afterwards, tales were told over beers and a barbecue and friendships were born. The concept caught on, and the Seawind Pittwater Regatta became an institution that has grown to become one of the largest multihull regattas in Australia and one of the largest brand gatherings of its kind in the world, with up to 35 Seawinds racing at its peak.
After a hiatus from Pittwater for several years, it was considered fitting that Seawind would return to this spectacular cruising location once again and retrace the old racing programme established two decades ago to remind ourselves why this regatta was so special.
So, after many months of planning and organising by the regatta committee, made up of fellow Seawind owners, we gathered 22 boat entries and around 80 people to join us for a weekend of sailing.
Some boats were already on Pittwater, but many had to travel from locations including Port Stephens, Port Hacking and Jervis Bay. I sailed our little Seawind 1000, ‘Seabbatical’, up from Sydney Harbour one afternoon solo, taking advantage of the daylight savings sun and cruising in company with a Seawind 1250, ‘Catty Shack’. A nice little sail up the northern beaches with a soft sun.
No-one had travelled as far as Rich Carey had done, on board his Seawind 1160 ‘X86’. Rich had recently arrived on Pittwater following his solo transpacific and previous transatlantic crossings, from the Med where he had been cruising for some time. Though his boat isn’t really optimised for racing, it is optimised for offshore passage-making shorthanded with extra handholds, a windvane (rare to see on cats) and a whole bunch of equipment to help navigate the seas. Rich is now selling his boat and hopes it will go to another cruising adventurer (see www.multihullcentral.com for details).
As you sail around Barrenjoey Head and into Broken Bay – that is, the three-way intersection between Pittwater to the south, the Hawkesbury to the west and Ettalong and Gosford to the north – you see the impressive Lion Island greeting you on arrival like a sphinx in front of the Great Pyramids. This is a destination rather than just a location, and I can appreciate why Pittwater has always been a favourite amongst yachties.
Following a short invitation race, the flotilla assembled Friday afternoon on 26 October 2018 at Refuge Cove on Pittwater and gathered onshore at the Basin, where a large marquee had been erected in the yard of a heritage-listed cottage that had formerly belonged to settlers.
The Basin is a little piece of paradise, with what seems like hundreds of moorings in a protected bay and a sandy beach to pull up your dinghy, overshadowed by large Norfolk pines with a large flat grassy area where campers and kangaroos intermingle. On the inside, there is a large saltwater lagoon which is a favourite in the summertime for kids to go swimming. It’s very peaceful here. It’s near impossible to get here any other way than by boat, so there are no cars, no traffic… just the sound of birds in the trees and a gentle breeze. It’s no wonder the Basin was picked as the location to catch up.
We gathered for a paella, freshly cooked onsite in front of us, and it was refreshing to see so many familiar faces that I hadn’t seen for some time. After a welcome and short presentation, the ‘Seabbatical Short Film Festival’ was played in the marquee on a large screen, providing some inspiration for future adventures.
The next morning was a stunner, with perfect blue skies but not much wind. The group got together for bacon and eggs at the cottage, and Michael Meehan provided a briefing for the two races that lay ahead.
Sailing in next to no wind is a great test, not only of a catamaran’s performance but also of your own sailing skills as you try to find clean air and predict where the wind will fill in from as the north-easterly builds through the day. The congested start line meant you could almost jump from one boat to another, which prompted some friendly rivalry between crews. However, it was impressive how well the Seawinds could sail in the lighter conditions, and in no time the fleet was making its way around the course.
Finishing near Towlers Bay, another pretty location with lots of moorings, the fleet dropped in for lunch. We took the kids onto the beach for a swim in the crystal-clear water before returning for a BBQ lunch and a chat with our neighbours who we had rafted up next door onboard Seawind 1000 ‘Tranquillity’. They had just won the first race and were keen to get out again for the second race as the north-easterly was building quickly.
Race two was action-packed, with 20 knots filling in from the northeast, which meant a couple of tacks which separated the fleet and a long march down to Lion Island and back. The wind against a strong outgoing tide in Broken Bay really tested the little Seawind 1000. We had a few green waves over the bow, but it punched through undeterred. We had pace, but couldn’t quite catch ‘Tranquillity’ which held onto the lead the entire race but was chased by Seawind 1160 LITE ‘Seaddler’ and Seawind 1250 ‘Catty Shack’, who were both flying on the return off the breeze.
Finishing at the Basin, the fleet consumed some sundowners before donning the formal attire (Hawaiian shirts) for the presentation later that night… more food rolled out from our caterers and the cool drinks on ice flowed.