Custodians: Ruth and Steve Wirtz; 2006 – 2015
Claire was built in 2006 at the Wooden Boat Shop (WBS) in Sorrento, Victoria for Ruth and Steve Wirtz. Having previously owned two smaller Couta Boats, Steve’s original plan was to have an open 18 foot boat in which he could easily move around. However, he then altered his plans to extend the length and include a cabin. Claire was built at 20 foot 8 inches.
At the time of Claire’s build, Huon Pine was moderately inexpensive in comparison to its current price. Her planking and transom were built of Huon Pine; the cabin, deck, coaming and thwart, were built out of Celery Top Pine; the keel was built of Grey Gum, and the spars from Oregon.
Claire was moored off the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC). Then in the following year, Steve loaded Claire onto a Jubilee yacht trailer towed by a VW Kombi and transported her by ferry across Bass Strait to attend the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, Tasmania in 2007. In the two weeks prior to the festival, Steve and his friend Clive sailed Claire into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, the body of water that lies between Bruny Island and the south-east of the Tasmanian mainland, where they cruised around in perfect weather doing a little fishing, and enjoyed a drink or two! They then made their way up the River Derwent to showcase Claire at the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart.
When back in Sorrento, Steve sailed Claire regularly in the Division 2 fleet out of the SSCBC. Even though she was pitted against longer boats in the SSCBC Division 2 Fleet, Steve raced her successfully for 10 years. He claimed that she almost won the Division 2 Aggregate Cup one year but was just beaten by Duchess. She did, however, win the San Pellegrino Cup.
Custodians: Sue Cant and Stephen Davies; 2015 – 2021
In 2015, Steve Wirtz made the decision to sell Claire, and the time span between this decision and the transaction of sale to her new owner was quick.
Stephen Davies became the new owner of Claire in March 2015. Whilst he initially intended to buy an historic boat, Claire offered other benefits. Being a new boat out of the WBS in Sorrento, she was beautifully built, had been well maintained and was in immaculate condition. The cabin offered shelter and security and the possibility of fishing and overnight trips with his children and grandchildren. She was also well set-up for two-handed sailing.
The sale was clinched on a very stormy Friday morning when wooden boat builder, Wayne Parr took Stephen out to Claire on her mooring. They sat in the cabin while the weather raged around them, but the cabin kept them sheltered and dry, so the transaction was settled that day.
Stephen recalls that on the day following the transaction of sale, when he was crewing on a Division 1 boat in the Queenscliff Regatta, his decision to purchase her was affirmed by local Couta Boat sailor Mark Bergin. Mark had regularly crewed on Claire and advised:
You can drive her really hard because she is such a dry boat, and in heavy conditions the rig is not huge and so you stay dry, not be overpowered and get no water in the cockpit.
Subsequent races on Claire in the 2016 and 2017 seasons at SSCBC, confirmed Mark’s advice.
In seeking a sailing partner, Stephen sold a half share of Claire to Sue Cant in May 2015 after they were introduced to each other by Wayne Parr. Wayne knew that Sue was keen to return to sailing after crewing for a few seasons in the early 2000s. Sue had the good fortune to sail with fishing and double-ender boat legend Dugga Beazley and was keen to take up sailing again in Couta Boats after her permanent move to Blairgowrie in 2012.
Stephen raced Claire initially with Graham Mee and Colin Arcaro in the SSCBC 2016 and 2017 seasons, and achieved numerous good results. After leading the aggregate for a large part of the 2017 season, they narrowly missed winning and finished second to Morning Star in both the Club Aggregate and Passage Race Aggregate. Claire was awarded the Club Captain’s Trophy as the Most Improved Couta Boat for the 2017 sailing season. Stephen competed in the 2019 Lacco Cup Series with his elderly neighbour Alan Biddiscombe, now deceased, and Colin Arcaro. Claire was consistent as always and was placed second in the series. Claire is now sailing regularly in Division 2.
After a change in work commitments, Sue re-joined Stephen for the 2021 racing season, along with Bronwyn McIIveen as crew. However, in early 2021, when work and study commitments impacted on Sue’s leisure time, she sold her share to Stephen.
Custodian: Stephen Davies; 2021-Present
In addition to racing, Stephen uses Claire as a leisure sailing boat. As he and his sons are keen fishermen, Claire is frequently used for fishing, catching flathead, snapper, squid and much to Stephen’s pleasure, even barracouta in Port Phillip!