August 17, 2017

Martin Cross

Classic Barrenjoey AUS 14. Gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics now in the Maritime Museum in Sydney

It was late in the evening at the 2011 Annual Prizing giving at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club the bar depleted and the conversation deep. Having just won the Australian 5.5m Nationals in an aging Skagerak, borrowed from Roy Tutty for the event, Bob Stoddard was reminiscing lyrically on the great days of the 5.5 metres at the club. In the 60s and 70s the 'Alfreds' was one of the great centres of world 5.5m design, building and activity. Australia's first sailing Olympic Gold came in the 5.5m Class when club member Bill Northam and crew won in Tokyo in 1964 From 1970 to 1981 Australians, many from RPAYC, won 7 world championships The 'Alfreds' was at the heart of these activities and a new hardstand 'The 5.5m Stand' was build to accommodate the numbers. Sadly Bob reflected that the glory days were now gone, but that he was still enjoying his annual 5.5m race with Roy Tutty and Steve Brajkovich at the Nationals.

Carl Halvorsen’s Skagerak was purchased and raced by Roy after Carl, by then well into his 90's, retired from the sport. Sadly as a 1973 boat Skagerak, like her builder Carl, was starting to show her age and Bob was worried that unless someone renovated her over the next few years another important boat in Australian sailing history would be lost. I confessed I had fallen in love and always fancied a 5.5 metre ever since I saw a picture of one in the 1970 Yachting World Annual when I was young. We drank a bit more and the kernel of ideas and plans formed to buy and renovate the boat. Obviously when Bob sobered up in the morning the kernel had germinated and a few weeks later he brought Skagerak AUS32 from Roy. Then with the guidance and help of Steve Brajkovich many hours were spent renovating her to an immaculate state. In a lovely touch in 2013 Carl Halvosen, then aged 100 years old, turned up in the rain and poured the champagne on the bow for the official relaunch. Bob started racing her regularly at the 'Alfreds' in the PHS mixed fleet racing doing extremely well.

Evolution Skagerrak AUS 32

On the water Skagerak looked superb. She was elegantly beautiful and my first love of the 5.5m was reignited. Luckily I found a fully functional but tired, 1973 Antares AUS29, costing only slightly more than a new Melges 32 3Di jib! Antares does not have the classically beautiful lines of Skagerak because of her rounded canoe bow, but like a bulldog, she has her own elegance and charm. She also needed a lot of work on the tarnished varnished deck (Peter Gould and his son Scott spent many hours on this). It came up a treat and before we knew it we had match racing within the fleets on Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night twilights. The sight of these boats turned more heads for both their looks and the speed of these renovated 'greyhounds'. I personally was captivated with my new, old boat - they are true 'gentleman's' (or gentleperson's) yachts with impeccable manners; more like Rolls Royces than Ferraris and somehow point so high upwind that you swear you are defying the laws of sailing! They also race remarkably well to their ORC Club handicap ratings.

Antares AUS 29 on a summers day on Pittwater

Evolution canoe bowed Antares AUS 29

With Owen Crick regularly sailing Rhapsody AUS35 at the iconic Woody Point Yacht Club Wednesday twilights we now had 3 boats regularly sailing on Pittwater. Next on the scene was Jason Antill whose father Rob Antill sailed 5.5ms in the glory days with Carl and the King of Norway. He teamed up with Tom Spithill and Damian Macey and they bought the revolutionary Baragoola AUS26 a 1968 'Classic' 5.5m with a diamond shaped hull, roll forward mast, L shaped boom for the vang, chines and separate keel and rudder (helmed by Jason she was still fast enough to win the Australian Nationals this year). We now had some epic close 5.5m fleet racing and a race within the usual RPAYC Saturday racing.

Evolution Rhapsody AUS 35

The revolutionary Classic Baragoola AUS 26

At the 2015 Hanko Cup and Worlds in Sweden Kaspar Stubenrauch very kindly lent Bob and me the famous 1973 Australia Evolution 5.5m Southern Cross now owned by Jörg Grünwald. We had an excellent time with great racing and particularly admired the latest Modern Fives which went faster and pointed even higher. Not surprisingly as in a development class the more modern boats tend to be faster than the older boats and boats tend to finish in age groups.

Then the Pittwater trickle became a flood. Rob Hart had always loved a picture of the beautifully varnished AUS59 Marotte tracked her down in Europe bought her and shipped her back to Australia. Next Peter McNamara tracked down one of the Australian Modern 5.5ms which was a declining away on a mooring in Sydney harbour, AUS55 Tangalooma. Some of the oysters on the bottom were big enough to eat. After a lot of hard work Tangalooma was resurrected from the near dead to produce another lovely sight sailing on Pittwater.

Evolution Marotte AUS 59 leads out the fleet at the 2017 Nationals

Modern Tangalooma AUS 55

At the most recent 2017 RPAYC Autumn and Winter One Design Regattas we once again had 5 Fives racing together. Recently Rob Fielding joined the happy throng buying a 2000 Wilke modern boat and shipping her to Australia. Now re-re-registered as AUS60 and called PlanB Redux. So we now have 7 Fives back on Pittwater and we are all looking forward to the 2018 Nationals the Australian 'Gold Cup' which are now scheduled at RPAYC at the end of February 2018.

Modern PlanB Redux now AUS 60 the latest addition to the Pittwater fleet

This year Bob and I had another conversation (at the bar) and decided we would both like to campaign a Modern 5.5m for a couple of years in Europe. Accordingly we have just both jointly bought a 2009 Wilke boat renamed Alpha Crucis and now re-registered as AUS61. Unfortunately Bob cannot make this years' Gold Cup and Worlds but Jason Antill and Larry Eastwood will join me to fly the Aussie flag at Benodet. Bob and I will campaign the boat in Europe in 2018 and 2019 and then plan to ship the boat back to Pittwater for the 2020 Worlds (assuming as we hope the RPAYC application to host the event is endorsed by the 5.5m Association members). As well as Pittwater we still have many 5.5m regularly sailing on the harbour primarily at Vaucluse Sailing Club. This should mean around 15 local boats for any major championship.

Modern Alpha Crucis AUS 61 the latest addition to the Aussie fleet based in Europe

Pittwater is a beautiful harbour surrounded by National Park with little commercial traffic 30km to the north of Sydney Harbour. This year the RPAYC celebrates it's sesquicentennial anniversary (150 years) Should the offer to host the 2020 Gold Cup and Worlds be accepted it would likely be held in the Aussie summer in January or February 2020. At this time the mean daily temperatures are a balmy maximum of 26C and minimum of 19C and typically a NE sea breeze kicks from 11am between 10 to 22kts. The racing is usually held at the Palm Beach Circle just offshore with no boat traffic and little tidal influence.

The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Green Point Pittwater NSW

Beautiful Pittwater the home of RPAYC celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary this year.

Meanwhile at RPAYC we are still looking for new 5.5m recruits! There are lots of reasonably priced Classic, Evolution and Modern 5.5ms in Australia and Europe looking for new owners go to to or email: to find one to join the throng on Pittwater. Remember you don't own a 5.5m you just look after it for the next generation.

Martin Cross Antares AUS29 + Alpha Crucis AUS 6