and Danielle Miller prepare
Sailmaker for competition.
Ask any of Australia's
champion sailors where they got their start and they will generally
say it was through the junior sailing school of a yacht club.
Around Australia on most weekends the 'Mitey
Mites' can be seen sailing their Cadets, Manly Juniors, Flying Ants
and other junior classes in some very serious competition. While
doting mums and dads, many sailors themselves, offer the usual parental
This year the Sandringham Yacht Club hosted
the 40th International Cadet Championships in Melbourne over the
school holidays. The regatta attracted 64 entries from South Australia,
Tasmania and Victoria. This was better than average for the annual
championships according to regatta director, Bruce Eddington. "We
generally average around 45 to 50 entries. In the past we have had
a bigger numbers of entries, but we are pretty happy with this year's
turnout and hopefully it will grow from here," he said.
"Christmas and New Year is always spent around
sailing," says Wendy Arkey mother of three boys. Her youngest is
following in his brothers' footsteps and also sailing a cadet. Wendy
doesn't mind spending her Christmas holiday break away from home
because they are together as a family, but admits "sometimes it
would be nice to go somewhere different for the holidays - somewhere
Sailing is a sport that can be in the blood
of families for generations. Bruce points out that there are quite
a number of families who are members at Sandringham that have more
than one child sailing and in some instances up to three.
For 10 years Wendy and her husband, both members
at Sandringham, have watched all three of their boys progress through
cadets. Now with the youngest in his last 12 months, Wendy's involvement
with cadets is almost over as he currently decides whether he will
join his older brothers in either the laser or 420 class. The boys'
early enthusiasm did not go unnoticed - all three made it to the
world cadet championships. This involved some travel and financial
sacrifices. There are few sponsors for the junior sailing, clubs
provide some assistance, but generally parents are often left to
foot the bill for overseas travel.
But speak to any of the mums and dads and they
will tell you that the time and money spent travelling to the championships
is not a sacrifice, in fact they admit to having just as much fun
as the kids. It's not only the youngsters that form friendships
with their competitors from interstate, but the parents make longstanding
friends as well.
Lyn Vaughan has been involved with the cadets
for 10 years now, and sees regattas as an opportunity to catch up
with other parents: "When we are interstate we try and catch up
with other families."
Steve Blakebraugh is just one of the many dads
hanging around making repairs to the boat and helping the kids set
up before the next race. Unlike some of the others, Steve says he
is not from a sailing background and only became involved when his
daughter, Clare was roped into the cadets when her friend was looking
for a crew. That was five years ago, since then her friend bought
a new boat and Steve bought her old one for Clare to skipper. The
boat was kept in storage for about three years, until about a year
ago when Steve dragged it out to spend "about 100 hours" converting
the cockpit from a mark 2 configuration to a mark 3 and re-decking
The boat is named Sailmaker and over the years
it has had a chequered career with a number of owners, especially
at the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Unbeknown to Clare and her
crew, Danielle Miller, the boat was actually built by Danielle's
great uncle. Both are still members of RYCV.
Sailmaker's first outing in its new guise was
day one of the regatta. Clare and Danielle, were out on the race
course when the first problem happened; the vang anchor point gave
way and "that had them out of the race pretty quickly," Steve said.
"Apparently it was dad's fault because I knew about it but couldn't
rectify it in time for the race."
At the age of nine, Danielle is one of the youngest
in the field. She lives a couple of streets away from Clare in Williamstown
and has been in cadets for just a few months, but didn't think that
she would be selected to crew just yet. "I thought no one is going
to pick me, but then I was asked to sail with Clare, so I did!"
However, their first practice run together as skipper and crew didn't
go too well - it rained heavily so they had to head back in.
With some children as young as eight it is understandable
that there would be some nervous parents watching their children
compete for the first time. Lyn is now watching the youngest of
her three children compete in the cadet class and although she is
not anxious seeing her 15-year-old son occasionally dealing with
windy conditions, she concedes "in the very beginning you do worry
about the big waves. But the kids come back and say 'wow, that was
fantastic'. You start to realise that you don't have to worry, and
the regatta is run really well."
Although the kids charge out the gates and onto
the beach eager to start, some are aware that like most sports there
are inherent risks. Danielle admits to being scared out there at
times, particularly of large waves, which she has had a frightening
encounter with. "There were two really big waves, things went everywhere
and we got really wet, so we went back."
Not only are the championships a chance to catch
up with friends and have some fun, it also an opportunity for the
kids to be selected to represent Australia in the world championships.
From the cadet championships, seven boats are chosen to compete
for Australia in the world championships held each year.
Having had two of her three children attend
the world championships, Lyn Vaughan would be considered a veteran.
She says that the other countries competing in the world championships
are little more competitive than Australia. "The thing about world
championships is that Australia is still relatively new," says Lyn.
"In England, for example, they sail regularly against 100 so they
have a lot more big fleet experience than our kids."
There is a large number of past cadets who return
to the cadet class in a variety of roles. Bruce points out that
some of the older kids that have been up through cadets return to
drive rescue boats and many of the parents who help run the regatta
are past cadets themselves. In addition to this, Bruce says "a majority
of cadets have coaches, many of whom are past cadets".
At the end of each regatta there is what is
known as the ceremonial dunking of the crew. The skipper along with
a few others - should the crew try to resist - carry the crew and
throw them in the water. Lyn says, "when the skipper and the crew
come off the water still smiling at each other, you know the race
has gone well." The 41st International Cadet Championships will
be held in Adelaide next year.