Inshore Racing | Fremantle Sailing Club + The Cruising Yacht Club Rockingham : Catalpa Return

Sparkling sunshine and gentle breezes set the tone for an absolutely perfect day on the water for the FSC and TCYC fleets participating in the feeder race to TCYC and Catalpa Classic pursuit return to Fremantle last Saturday.   The race commemorates the escape, on 17–19 April 1876, of six Irish Fenian prisoners on the whaling ship Catalpa after an exciting pursuit by Colonial authorities.  This year we joined forces with Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom (Inc) who exist to honour the Fenians, and celebrate their lives through art, literature, history, music, dance and film events and festivals with several boats hosting FFF members as guests for the day.

The day began with eighteen boats (seventeen FSC boats plus Optimus Prime from TCYC) racing to Rockingham in a feeder race.  The course was shortened (with a start at S) to allow plenty of time for all boats to finish before the time limit of 12:30pm.  Race control delayed the start by ten minutes to allow all competitors to reach the line in the light airs (initially seven knots South Easterly).  A combined fleet start with all divisions added to the fun with some rather close quarters work, but all managed to start successfully. The breeze soon swung to the west and remained a gentle 7-10 knots all day.

Division One fielded a fleet of eight boats with Trevor Taylor’s Optimus Prime, flying the Irish flag and carrying a large party of Fenians, blitzing the fleet to arrive first at TCYC in a time of one hour, forty-six minutes and twelve seconds.  On Performance Handicap Noel Murphy’s Southern Star took first place ahead of Roger Passmore’s Aquila with Graham Martin’s Sand Crab’s Disco in third place.

Five boats raced down in Division Two.  Lance Woods’ Impulse took the double crown of fastest plus first on both Performance Handicap.  We hear that Lance has a tradition of cooking a bacon and eggs breakfast for his crew during this race each year – it appears to be a winning formula!  George Carter’s Eufarria was second, with Brian Cooper’s Valkyr third.

Five boats also raced down in Division Two.  Steve Kerr’s Polaris took first on Performance Handicap with Jane Laws Ambience second and Ole Otness’s The Longboat third. Ian Joel’s Jubilant was fastest.  We were delighted to see Bill Burbidge’s Le Truck out for a second outing this season.

TCYC provided hospitality for the FSC fleet, running a busy ferry shuttle to their clubhouse where over a hundred guests enjoyed lunch.  A military exercise just off Garden Island formed a backdrop to the pre-return race preparations as a big C17 Globemaster transport aircraft overflew the fleet multiple times to drop firstly boats, and then troops, into the water.  A lot of the coordinating radio traffic was on our race radio channel (72) and one reported exchange included “do you reckon those racing yachts will run over our parachuters?” (We didn’t, they were all cleared away by the time we reached the area).  We later learned that the Duke of York (Prince Andrew) was visiting the Stirling Naval base during the morning and Fremantle in the afternoon – perhaps we should’ve offered him a lift back up the sound?

The return race to Fremantle, The Catalpa Classic, is a pursuit race with the TCYC competitors (representing the Fenians) setting off fifteen minutes before the FSC competitors (representing the pursuing authorities).  Thirteen boats carried the green Fenian flags and seventeen the red flag of the pursuers giving us a combined fleet of thirty boats.  Southern Star joined the escaping Fenians and entered into the spirit of the day with all on board donning convict garb (white painters overalls printed with broad arrows).  Valkyr’s crew were lucky enough to be accompanied by dolphins both morning and afternoon.  The super yacht White Rabbit Golf undergoing sea trials off Garden Island created more interest during the race.

Only a few competitors started with spinnakers or reaching sails, but once the fleet was clear of Mangles Bay they blossomed, creating a colourful spectacle for all (and for Chris to take photos of from Success).  FSC race control wisely shortened the course at S allowing all to finish before five pm.

It was FSC’s turn to return the hospitality of TCYC and all competitors gathered in the sailor’s bar to enjoy wood fired pizzas and other refreshments whilst the results were processed.  FSC Inshore Captain Brian Cooper and Rear Commodore Sail Connor Moran presented the FSC Pennants for the race down.

John Percy then presented the pennants for The Cruising Yacht Club’s members with three divisions competing for the Robyn Skells Trophy (Division One) – won by S Morris’s Freedom, the Paul Dubois Trophy (Division Three) – won by Sam Threlfall’s Lady Irene and the Dave Vaughn Trophy (JAM Division) – won by K Spence’s Abracadabra.

The Catalpa Cup for the first boat on Performance Handicap in the pursuit race went (for a second time) to The Longboat sailed by Ole and Annie Otness and their crew – Odette Glisson , Jeff Gillan and Mark Winchester.  Ole and Annie are members at both FSC and TCYC so both clubs can claim some of the glory.  The actual trophy is a large-scale replica of the Catalpa and is kept at TCYC where Ole and Annie visited it the next day.  The aptly named S Morris’s Freedom (TCYC) was second in the Classic with FSC’s Michael Sproxton’s Fat Wallet Lost third.

Thank you to all the participants, the hosting clubs, the race officials from FSC and TCYC and especially the FSC race control crew on Success who started both races, accompanied the fleets both ways and finished the return race – a long day on the water!

Full results from the race down can be found on, additional photos from Chris Bender on Success are available on OneDrive.

FSC inshore racing resumes next Saturday with Consistency Race 6 / Championship Race 3.

Race Report thanks to Frances Hammond

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