Extracts from the Commodore’s presentation and Serena’s notes, presented on Saturday 22 January 2022
Serena Steuart is our newest life member and one of our longest serving active club members. She thoroughly deserves this award for her tireless efforts over so many years.
Sailed a Hobie 14 for most of the time until recently changing to a Windrush
First joined the BHSA committee in 1987 and has been an active member ever since
In 1988 became the BHSA handicapper and has been ever since albeit having shared the position with others a couple of times.
In 1989 became Vice Commodore and then Commodore for 6 times over various years.
Some comments from Serena
I think it was probably 1982 when I first came down to BH with Frank but I didn’t sail in races until about 1986. Frank taught me a bit about sailing but he was a Captain Bligh and I refused to sail with him after the first couple of efforts. He took me out on his Hawke cat and would show me something once and then shout if I responded incorrectly the next time.
The Campbells suggested to Frank that he buy me a boat and he bought me an old Hobie 14 (which I did up). Later we sold that boat to the Chipchases and I replaced it with a new Hobie 14 turbo that had been rejected by the winner of a raffle (so was about $2K cheaper than from the shop). I knew about aerodynamics and aerofoils and set about learning to sail by instrumenting the boat with windvane and telltales.
Frank bought a Hobie 14 so I could practise against him and after a while I began following the last boat in races to learn more. Of course the last boat was generally lapped by the first boats and soon I would get in the way. The only sailing I had done previously was in 1965 in a 56ft ketch “Euteka III” in Tasmania, where I shot a documentary on 16mm film rather than crewing.
The first race I actually remember was the 1987 Safari, with a SW so strong that Herbert Lees was on the verge of cancelling the race (this was a time when “sail in all weathers” had been substituted with prudence after many boats were damaged). I was nervous but didn’t know enough to realise just how ignorant I was, and Frank reassured me by saying I could always pull out. In the end I finished the race, I think in about 18th position in a big field of cats, in which Don Dunoon (who won) and I were the only cats not to have capsized. It was a big field, in those days, about 60 boats.
In 1987 I joined the committee and suggested that it should be possible to devise a personal handicapping system. Being a scientist and unaware that the procedures already existed I explored some approaches until I discovered the VYC website. I then devised a scoring system in complete ignorance of the well established procedures used in the yachting world. However no one objected and our current points system was implemented, which has remained in use because it suits our regattas much better than that commonly employed.
Originally the only trophy the club had was the Fairbairn Cup for the Safari. In 1978, in memory of Ursula Cummins and Frank’s first wife Helen, the Cummins-Steuart perpetual plate for U-16 Safari skippers was introduced. In 1988 Balcombe Griffiths introduced the U-18 Aggregate Perpetual Trophy as well as tankards for first place in classes in the Safari and Easter events, opening the path to the proliferation of trophies.
Having got a personal handicapping system working we needed more trophies. The club had a number of suitable medallions in stock so I attached blue ribbons to them and these were awarded to class winners on handicap in each race, later with green and red ribbons for other places. Frank made a trophy (a plank of wood) for the handicap winner of the summer aggregate and this set the tone for our wooden trophies. One year, 1998, I was to win that trophy so we bought an old tankard in the op-shop to award to the scratch winner of the summer aggregate, but it turned out that I won that also, so the motive was a bit ineffective but now we do not award both to the same skipper.
The perpetual for the Sheepwash race was introduced, a perpetual for Ancient Mariner (a battered cup that Frank had in the garage), and an Iceberg Perpetual made by Greg Martin (of a very high standard compared to our other cheapskate trophies).
In 2002 one of our champion Laser skippers, well refreshed at the Safari after-party, expressed unhappiness that the Fairbairn Cup had gone to a catamaran after application of the Multihull Correction Factor (MCF) to the results. I knew that the MCF was a bit dodgy in small fleets of widely varying skills, so in 2003 all the trophies were duplicated so we could avoid the problem and give trophies for mono and cat classes separately.
BHSA race starts had always been signalled using handheld flags and horn, which worked just fine but did need two people to do it. Serena thought we needed to mechanise the system. At this time races were started and timed from the Steuart’s balcony, so our first mechanised system employed an old air compressor, discarded by Hamish, to drive a riverboat horn, whose deep bellow could be heard all the way up the river. Flags were later replaced by strobe lights but the strobes were not very visible. Fin got onto the job and had his lab technician design and build the control system we now use. John Birrell connected it up with lights powered by a car battery and I rehoused it to make it more portable and weather-proof.
I’ve always referred to our race officials as timelords and recently I was interested to hear that a sailing club in Perth refers to its race officials as “timelords”; I suspect introduced by another Doctor Who fan rather than by adoption from BHSA.
The only words I should say after your kind awarding of my Life Membership is “thankyou”.