“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Kenneth Grahame – Wind in the Willows
Custodian: Bill Davis; 1984 – 1989
Kate was designed by Ken Lacco from a brief by Bill Davis and was the second Couta Boat built by Tim Phillips at Sorrento. She was commissioned by Bill after a series of meetings held with Ken Lacco to initiate the design process. Construction commenced in early 1983 and she was launched in October of that year.
Kate’s length at 25 foot 11 ¾ inches is one of the smaller 26 footers racing in the Division 1 fleet at the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC). In planning and implementing her design, Bill’s request was for a slender and slightly narrow hull with a fine water line so she could tack quickly to enhance good upwind performance.
Bill arranged for the installation of the fuel tank and the prop shaft, which was a mould cast from Minerva’s prop, and had most of the bronze castings done by a foundry to the west of Melbourne. He had purchased the engine beforehand and had the centre-plate built and faired by an engineering shop who arranged for the galvanising as well.
Kate’s sails were made by Col Anderson and although her rig was proportionately smaller, her on-water performance was testimony to the innovative design features.
Bill named his new boat ‘Kate’ after his mother.
Kate’s sail number derives from when she was first registered, then at Royal Brighton Yacht Club as B305 where Bill was a member and, later, became C305 when she was entered in the Couta Boat register. In the time when bill was her custodian, Kater was maintained by Tim Phillips of the WBS.
Kate was sailed by Bill and his crew throughout the 1980s, she played a significant role in the rebirth of the Couta Boat fleet. In her early years, she was moored at Fishermans Beach, Portsea, then, later, off Lentell Avenus, Sorrento, and then in 2001, she was moved to SSCBC when the Couta Boat Club and Sorrento Sailing Club merged.
Bill’s regular crew comprised Russell ‘Budgerigar’ Evans, Rick Marshall, James Mort, and Gerry Sheahan, amongst others. In the early 1980s, Couta Boats typically used cruising cloth fabric for their sails. Although inexpensive to purchase, such fabric easily stretched. Bill became tired of having Kate’s sails re-cut several times each season so he had Col Anderson of Hood Sails make him a set using NYT fabric, the same as used in the Etchells racing yachts. These new sails were cut with a small radial in the head sail. The result was a Line Honours and Handicap win for Kate in the 1988 Portsea Cup. Needless to say, the rest of the fleet soon followed Bill’s initiation in adopting the NYT high performance sail cloth.
Kate participated in the Bicentennial Gaffers Regatta in Sydney in 1988, then in the following year she was sold to Warick Leeming.
Custodian: Warick Leeming; 1989 – 2001
Warick successfully campaigned Kate in the local Couta Boat fleet throughout the 1990s. Regular crew comprised his wife Sue, Adam Leeming and fiancee, Felicity, and his friend David Todd and son Mathew. Kate was relocated to Sydney Harbour, NSW when Adam and Felicity moved to Sydney in the late 1990s. She returned to Sottento in 200o.
Warick and his crew experiened great success in Kate; she was regarded as one of the most outstanding ‘handicap’ boats in the fleet. Refer to Race Record.
Custodians: Michael Heaton, Richard Hurley and Ralph Wilson; 2001 – Present
In 2001, Warick sold Kate to a syndicate of four, comprising Michael Heaton, Richard Hurley, Stephen Silk and Ralph Wilson, who were all long-time members of the SSC, now SSCBC, but relatively new to the skills and enjoyment of Couta Boat sailing. Like the custodians Bill and Warick before them, they and their children and friends enjoyed sailing and racing Kate.
Custodians: Michael Heaton, Richard Hurley, Harley Moffatt, David Paranthoiene, Stephen Silk, Gary Smith and Ralph Wilson; c2000s – Present
The syndicate of four soon increased to include Gary Smith.
Stephen retired from the syndicate and then David Paranthoiene and Harley Moffatt joined the group.
Kate was maintained by Ian Cockman of Nepean Boats, Rye and later by Mark Abbott when he opened Corsair Boats in Rosebud. Mark still maintains her today. In this period, her sails have been upgraded by Col Anderson at Hood Sails, Mark Rimington when at Doyle Sails and UK Sailmakers, Sam Haines at North Sails and most recently by Col and his son Blake Anderson at Doyle Sails.
There have been made memorable times onboard Kate. Richard tells of some amusing stories:
The Catcher in the Rye (channel) Incident:
The Kate has always been owned and crewed by early adopters of modern technology. A strange juxtaposition for those who embrace the culture of, and admiration for classic sail boats. Neverlethess, it was the early naughties when the Kate crew adopted the wearing of Stormy Seas inflatable jacket, long before it became mandatory. In fact, inflatable jackets were considered a novelty and a source of amusement and hilarity on the part of others. For the KATE crew, with backgrounds in the law, veterinary science, dentistry, commerce and agriculture, and out of an abundance of caution, it just seemed to be a wise thing to do.
And so it happened at the post race drinks on the deck of the old Sailing Club, and under the mask of bonhomie, the inevitable happened. One after another, the inflation cord was pulled, inflating each other’s jacket. The sight of four crew resembling the “Michelin Man” was certainly amusing at the time. Whilst purchasing new inflation cannisters on the Monday morning, it became apparent we weren’t the first to find amusement in the puerile and trite behaviour of the previous Saturday. It turns out the stockist was very low in canisters. Not that there had been a spate of man-over-board events, but rather the pranking of fellow crew members in the bar at yacht clubs all around the bay.
Some weeks later the Kate was competing in the Three Piers Race that took the fleet to a rounding mark off the Rye jetty. On rounding the mark, as the crew executed a gybe, dropped the plate and set the sails for the next leg, it seemed the helmsman wasn’t responding to the course we had expected. He had quietly, without fan-fair, fallen off the back of the boat and was now 100 m astern.
He was wearing a yellow jacket so the crew assumed it would be inflated at any moment. It wasn’t.
Wearing a jacket that could not be inflated had turned an amusing moment into a perilous situation very quickly. A conundrum existed. As we were doing exceptionally well in the race, we took a vote on whether to continue the race without the helmsman, or go about and pick him up, ensuring we lose our winning position. The first vote didn’t produce a clear outcome. A second round vote made it clear, we would return to pick up the man-overboard. Bugger!
And Michael remembers;
I recall a few times when we had some funny (and serious) incidents.
The twilight sail when Steve lost his mobile phone and watch, my recollection is when he tried to stop these from going over, that he followed them and also went overboard.
The day we won the race by successfully sailing across the sandbars with Kate bouncing and keeled over.
The day on the second last leg when we were enjoying a delightful bottle of white (not the first), we half filled Kate with water and our female crew Kay Southwell and Susie Lachal did not sail with us ever again.
Me in the water scrubbing the underside of Kate while the rest of the crew were happily chatting up on deck.
The day the wind blew up, lowering our sails, getting drenched in driving rain, then rescuing and towing many distressed off-the-beach boats back to shore.
After one of the Queenscliff passage races going out The Heads and back a couple of times with “Yellow Boat” (Mystify) doing the same. It was a glorious day.
Me being sent up the mast chasing the loose halyards, successfully and unsuccessfully sorting things out with the mast swinging at increasing angles.
A school of dolphins on our bow, a beautiful sight.
The day of Steve Silk’s 50th birthday when Ralph and Richard were with Steve celebrating and Gary and I took Kate out with two French sailors. Three races in the afternoon, blisters all over our hands, Greg Chisholm yelling for room, Gary saying “just keep going” which we did! Absolutely exhausted at the end of the day! We did not have time to wonder what Ralph and Richard thought, looking out from the Morgan’s Bar!
Blazing hot, sitting out there, no wind, waiting for breeze and a start, only for the afternoons racing to then abandoned.
A Portsea Cup win with the jib pulled in by the jib sheet with a second sheet running across Kate. Ralph called it “barber hauled” if my recollection is correct. It certainly made a difference. Despite all our efforts we were never able to replicate that sheeting!
The twilight sail when the stay flew off nearly hitting the for’ard hand crew. Could have been serious.
Kate has competed in many regattas held at yacht clubs around Port Phillip: namely Royal Melbourne Yacht Club, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Mornington Yacht Club, Queenscliff Lonsdale Yacht Club, and Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron amongst others. In addition, she has competed in regattas held on Sydney Harbour and at Pittwater, NSW.
Kate continues to enjoy good racing success. Some might say that she is one of the most decorated handicap boats in the Division 1 fleet.