Custodian: Giorgio Gjerga; 2003 – Present
In 2003, following years of campaigning keel boats, Giorgio Gjergja commissioned the Wooden Boat Shop, Sorrento to build a classic 26 foot 6 inch Couta Boat. Indeed, her precise build ended up being 26 foot 6¼ inches. Giorgio named her Darney, the nickname of his wife, Dianne.
Darney has the characteristic broad, relatively shallow draft lines of the Ken Lacco designed 1986 Wagtail. She is planked in Huon Pine on Celery Top Pine ribs and carries North Sails.
Darney has raced in the Division 1 Fleet at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club regularly with Wayne Parr as the helmsman and has enjoyed a long history of victories. The most improbable triumph was the 2009 Portsea Cup Line Honours. Sailed in heavy weather, ‘Darney-weather’, she was sailing aggressively on a hard-work close to the race leaders, the ‘crack’ Couta Boat team. The gaggle of boats converged for a windward mark rounding and the leaders collided in a tangled mess of flapping sails and expletives. Darney skirted the logjam of boats into clear air and sailed on to take line honours. When crossing the finish line, Wayne impersonated Steve Irwin, yelling:
Crikey! We’ve done a Bradbury!
One Australia Day Three Piers Race, it had been a light weather day, Darney had dropped to the back of the fleet. The call from the race officers was made to shorten the course in the Sorrento Channel. As the ebb tide started to run harder, the lead boats found themselves unable to fetch up to the finish and drifted past it. Darney, with no wind in her sails or steerage at all, drifted through the finish line, transom first, in 1st place! It is believed that this is the first ‘stern first’ winning finish and one which has yet to be repeated.
Occasionally, Darney has raced with the Flinders Yacht Club fleet and she goes up a gear on the passage in Bass Strait from Port Phillip to Western Port. The open waters of Bass Strait bring out the pedigree of a purebred Couta Boat and Darney balances so well as she romps along on a rolling sea. Wayne says;
Sailing a Couta Boat in open water is lots of fun and thoroughly recommended.