Custodian: Brian Wales; 1986 – 1988
Wagtail was commissioned by Brian Wales and built by Tim Phillips at the Wooden Boat Shop (WBS), Sorrento, in 1986.
Brian had sailed on Wattle for some time with Marcus Burke and was one of the first to commission a new Couta Boat. She was based significantly on the design of the Lacco built Mermerus, owned and worked by Ted McKinnon of Sorrento. She is quite beamy, but has the traditional pre-engine wineglass stern sections which made her quick off the wind, indeed quick everywhere, except possibly upwind in a steep sea.
The name ‘Wagtail’ comes from a bird that alighted on a balcony handrail, as Brian was courting his new partner Geraldine.
Brian was a long time member of the Sorrento Sailing Club (SSC). She was moored off the Club and was raced with Brian on the helm and a crew of young ‘off the beach’ sailors in their 20’s from SSC, led by Brian’s son-in-law Simon Latchford. As a senior pilot with TAA airline, Brian was methodical and conservative in his approach, which nicely balanced the less risk averse crew who were more used to close racing on Finns, Moths and sailboards.
Wagtail immediately became one of the line honours favourites, winning the Portsea Cup in her first year along with the Queenscliff Regatta and the Williamstown Cup. Under successive owners she has remained the yardstick for the fleet.
When Wagtail arrived up at the starting area off Portsea for the final race of the Petersville regatta one year, watching an air acrobatic display, the planes a long way apart, Brian exclaimed:
These planes are going to collide.
Which seemed far-fetched given their present separation, but he was one of the most experienced pilots in the country. Sure enough they got closer and closer, and indeed collided, both crashing into Port Phillip, with the wreckage of one hitting various Couta Boats and the pilot perishing.
Custodian: Jane and Peter Burke; 1988 – 2011
Brian and Gerry relocated to spend their time between the UK and the Caribbean and Wagtail was sold to long time Couta Boat enthusiasts, Jane and Peter Burke in July 1988. Along with regular crew Rob and Leisa Hartnett, the Burkes continued to sail, race and fish out of Wagtail for about 20 years, winning a great many races along the way, including Line Honours in the Portsea Cup for an unprecedented three years in a row. Wagtail was moored at Camerons Bight, Blairgowrie during this period.
Custodian: Nick Williams; 2011 – Present
In 2011, Wagtail was acquired by Nick Williams who campaigns her in Couta Boat events both off Sorrento and interstate.
As newer lightweight boats built to less traditional designs joined the fleet, line honours has become out of reach for most of the older craft, but not the Wagtail. From the day she was launched, through the various custodianships to this day, Wagtail has continually proved to be the benchmark in performance for the Couta Boat fleet. Her race record is a testament to her many podium placings, including Line Honours and 1st Handicap in the 2021 Couta Boat Association National Championships and 1st Handicap in the 2021 Victorian State Titles.