Custodian: Peter Graham; 1980 – 1994
Minerva was designed by Ken Lacco and built by Chris Young at Blairgowrie. She was commissioned by Peter Graham, the first Vice President of the Couta Boat Club (CBC). She was launched by Chris in 1982, unbeknownst to Peter who was aboard Seau Later in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race at the time, much to Peter’s chagrin!
She is built of Huon Pine with Celery Top ribs and is the only boat to feature a lead shoe on the centre section of the keel. As her build predates the regulations set by the Couta Boat Association (CBA), her owner was accorded an exemption.
Minerva was named by Peter after HMS Minerva (1780), a 38-gun fifth-rate British Royal Navy frigate, in honour of a forebear who commanded her.
She was built to sail in the early Couta Boat fleet out of Portsea and, later, Sorrento Sailing Club (SSC). She was considered by many to be unbeatable; she was explicitly designed and rigged for racing with a crew of yachtsmen that had success in other classes of yachts. Local Sorrento sailor, Dan Ingall, now a syndicate member of Lisa C71, regularly sailed on Minerva as a child. It was reported at the time:
Nine year old Dan Ingall basically sailed Minerva all the way from Portsea to Mornington while the crew raided the stubby-bank!
Thankful for Peter Graham’s generous and fine mentoring during Minerva’s early years, Dan is still in awe of Minerva. Minerva really was a ‘goddess’. Super-fast and highly competitive, she won most CBC titles a number of times during the 1980s.
Not only did Minerva gain a reputation as an impressively fast boat, she was a standout in appearance, due to her extended suit of Hood Sails courtesy of Col Anderson and her well-dressed crew year in, year out. Marg Williams had crew t-shirts in the hottest and loudest colours – from hot pink to mint green and everything in between – well before the days of official apparel sponsors. She was always a regular participant in the annual Lady Skippers Race.
Peter recounts a day when at the now Blairgowrie Marina on Port Phillip, the emerging Couta Boat fleet had caught the attention the then Premier of Victoria. Just as the Premier was about to step aboard, a well-known identity yelled in good humour from across the marina:
Tip him in!
For Peter, this spontaneous and light-hearted response highlighted the appeal of Couta Boats to both sides of politics.
Custodian: Richard Buxton; 1994 – 1998
Richard Buxton purchased Minerva in 1994 and sailed her out of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC). Throughout this period Minerva was the subject of much discussion by the Couta Boat Club (CBC) committee, having been built prior to the standardisation of Couta Boats and the regulation of boat dimensions. Minerva did not conform to the new rules. So modification to the standing and running rigging were made by Richard to comply with the Couta Boat rules.
Richard raced Minerva regularly and was very competitive, but he was also judicious in his assessment.
I could not get her sailing as fast as Peter! Also lighter and better sailed Couta Boats were entering the fleet making completion much more competitive.
Ultimately, Richard moved onto bigger yachts, one of which was Epsilon in which he circumnavigated Australia raising over $250,000 and via the sale of his book “If Matthew Flinders Had Wings” – two adventures flying and sailing around Australia to raise funds for mental health charity.
Custodian: Simon Allen, Mark Michelmore and Ross Middleton, John Mitchell and Jack Rush; 1998 – 2016
Simon Allen and Ross Middleton purchased Minerva from Richard Buxton in 1998; the boat was in excellent condition. Thereafter, Minerva had a number of owners who would come and go, including: Mark Michelmore, John Mitchell and Jack Rush.
Minerva was raced by this crew every season and was always competitive, despite the relative inexperience of the crew. At some point the sail number was changed to C48. The Portsea Cup was a particular favourite of her owners and, although she never met with the success of earlier days, the crew experienced the highs and lows of sailing in the Cup, becoming becalmed one year and breaking the mast in another.
In 2006, Minerva’s owners resolved to get serious about racing and so fitted out the boat with the latest equipment including a new set of sails, and engaged good friends James (Sam) Byrne as skipper and Tony Hoppe as a tactician. With the addition of this highly skilled duo, Minerva met with immediate success in the CBA National Championships, winning the first two races under the brilliant helmsmanship of Sam.
However, due to a handicap readjustment, Minerva finished down the placings in the third and fourth race of the regatta, resulting in third place overall. The handicap adjustment is still a point of contention between Ross Middleton and his good friend James Mighell who was the Club Captain at the time.
Minerva’s owners continued to race her for many years, but not always with podium success. In later years, she was used more as a pleasure craft to sail and motor with their families. Eventually, Minerva was sold when her owners decided:
We were getting old and less agile. Further, Mark now has a plastic boat and I have had surgery on my knee!
Custodian: Wayne Andrew, Chris Day, Tony O’Dwyer and Andrew Williams; 2016 – Present
In 2016, Minerva was purchased by the current syndicate: Wayne Andrew, Chris Day, Tony O’Dwyer and Andrew Williams. They have raced her in the Division 1 fleet out of Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC) but use her principally for social pleasure outings with their families and for fishing. In their five years of custodianship, they have worked to fine tune her, to suit their requirements.
Minerva is moored at SSCBC, Sorrento.
A model of Minerva is featured on the wall at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club.