From MHYC: The First 60 Years
Article by: Geoff Foster
Frank Likely was unique in that he was a Life Member of both Middle Harbour Yacht Club and the Yachting Association of New South Wales, an indication of the widespread respect in which he was held. He passed away on 10 November 1990 at the age of 71, his death leaving a gap in the club and the Yachting Association.
Every member who sails with MHYC and elsewhere for that matter, owes a great debt to this remarkable man who has done so much for our sport. With Frank, the club had a premier place in sail training, not only in New South Wales but nationally.
Under his direction, courses ran from 1966, preceding the AYF Training Scheme by several years but embracing the scheme on its formation. It was for this work that the Yachting Association awarded Frank Life Membership. By the time of his death, 500 people had attended MHYC 'Navigation' courses, both celestial and coastal, 950 'Sailing Birds' in 38 courses, 350 'Radio', 200 'Meteorology', 200 'Yachtmasters', 100 'Inshore Skippers', 140 'Diesel Maintenance' and 50 'Yacht Maintenance'.
Almost all instruction was by club members, and a high standard of accreditation was maintained throughout. In addition to the training courses, Frank led the club and AYF in safety training and equipment testing with his usual enthusiasm and determination, organising and taking part in practical liferaft exercises, when a number of liferafts with volunteer crew wearing safety gear were cast adrift for 24 hours off Sydney Heads. Many of the crew suffered seasickness. All, including national and yachting authorities, gained valuable knowledge of survival at sea following abandonment of the parent craft. After Frank's death in 1990 MHYC did not conduct any liferaft exercises until members of the Frank Likely Trust revived the concept in 1995.
Frank was not content with organising and taking part in safety exercises, but with the approval of the Yachting Association and other bodies, tested items of safety equipment as they came on the market. One test impressed a great many members of MHYC when he donned a safety harness and cast himself off the first floor balcony. Neville Watkins, a long-time friend, described the incident:
"Frank's object was to show how to release oneself from a yacht safety harness. He thought the best way to show this was to suspend himself on a tight rope, stretched very effectively by some truckies in the club from the top veranda rail to the wharf near the starter's box. He took off from the club veranda, and slid down the rope to a spot just above the sand, hanging by his harness safety rope. However, in skidding down the rope, he forgot, having been brought up on cotton and manilla ropes, that synthetic ropes don't like friction. The slide down melted the rope and down came Frank, crashing four metres to the sand! In true circus fashion, he leapt up and tried again, finally releasing the harness and dropping a metre or so to the sand to deafening applause."
After Frank's death, a trust was formed to perpetuate his memory in a practical Way, largely by making awards to young sailors who would otherwise be unable to continue their sailing. It is a condition of the award that beneficiaries will, in turn, pass on their knowledge to others. Awards are not aimed at the champion racers, many of whom receive sponsorship, but rather at the enthusiast who is likely to meet the trust's objectives and show the 'Likely spirit'. To date 12 awards have been made, a number of recipients continuing to help others, particularly in coaching younger members.