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Frank Likely
Frank Likely
Frank Likely

Date Born1919
Current City/HometownSydney
ClubMiddle Harbour Yacht Club
Boat Owner ofHoi Phoon

Frank Likely

Frank Likely was made a Life Member of Middle Harbour Yacht Club. He was Secretary about 1949 for some years, Rear Commodore for three years and served on the Race Committee for a long time.

On the Yachting Association of NSW, he was the Chairman of the Offshore Safety Committee and served on this and the Offshore Racing Committee since it was first formed. He also served on the Racing Rules Committee for a number of years. Was the Queensland resident delegate on the Racing Rules Committee.

A Likely Story

Frank Likely
Frank Likely

From MHYC: The First 60 Years

Article by: Geoff Foster

Published: 1999

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.

Geoff Foster on Frank Likely

I joined M.H.Y.C. in 1963, the year that I started sailing and bought a yacht. By 1969 I was on the race committee as No. 1 Offshore Division rep., Frank also being a long term member of the committee with abundant wisdom resulting from his experience. He had been racing Hoi Phoon, the ketch built in 1939 by his father, a boat that Frank loved although it was outdated and not competitive as a racing machine, and his services were always in demand by owners of the hot ocean racers.

In 1970, much to my surprise and delight, Frank asked me whether he could sail with me. His Father had died the same year, and maybe that was a reason for his decision to leave Hoi Phoon for cruising and pleasure sailing, but it was terrific to have one of Australia's premier yachtsmen in the crew. Although he no longer raced Hoi Phoon Frank and many of his friends regularly enjoyed a cruise on her with him and Jean during the Christmas holiday period - even a complete stranger could be told how to identify Hoi Phoon - "the yacht with two wooden masts and a bowsprit", but that didn't identify the internal comfort and friendly atmosphere.

"Before Frank" we had been a crowd of beginners mostly going along for the ride. Now we suddenly became a force to be reckoned with, winning races not only in our Club, but also being competitive in longer C.Y.C. races. One of our first triumphs was when we gained line honours in a Middle Harbour overnight race beating a number of larger yachts across the line, and this was followed by two victories in CYC Woollahra Cups and a Montague win.

We were in the Brisbane Race in 1972, a strong southerly pushing the fleet along and gained third placing. This was followed by the Gladstone Race which was hit by Cyclone Emily, more than half the fleet retiring on the first night. After the morning sked, I made the difficult decision that we should retire and seek a haven in Mooloolaba, a decision which had the support of all the crew except Frank, who accepted it with some reluctance. However, our retirement was greatly to the benefit of M.H.Y.C., as the support we received from Mooloolaba Yacht Club led to the transfer of the finishing line from Brisbane to Mooloolaba. It fell to Frank to let Q.C.Y.C. in Brisbane know that we should finish future races elsewhere, a matter that he handled so well that Q.C.Y.C. continued to donate a major trophy for many years.

In 1974 we decided to enter the Sydney to Noumea Race, a decision that we should not have made had Frank not been available. He had never been in a race exceeding 1,000 miles, probably the only new experience we were able to give him. The fleet was hit by a gale soon after the start, and Apollo and Helsal, the two largest yachts in the fleet retired with damage, but we kept going in conditions varying from rough to pleasant and came second on handicap. Frank had been looking forward to the cruise back to Sydney, but there was a telegram awaiting his arrival that his mother had died, so poor Frank was forced to fly home and miss that trip. It was particularly unfortunate for his old army cobber, Tiny Hunter who had flown from Hobart to join him on the ten to fourteen day trip, only to find that Frank had already flown back home. However, Tiny, good fellow that he is, joined three perfect strangers and was a tower of strength all the way.

Everyone who sailed with Frank profited by the experience. He never thrust his knowledge down your throat, but quietly showed how things should be done, and the result was that you were sailing and doing your best for him and trying to make him proud of us all. There was no question of paying him for his involvement, he always insisted on paying his share of the expenses and he was always surprised when we gave him some little personal trophy to commemorate a race that we had won largely because of his ability and enthusiasm.

Frank's practical ability was well-known. The 1976 Mooloolaba Race was sailed in a southerly gale, Helsal's time of 45hours, O minutes and 27seconds is still the race record after 18 years.

Frank and I were sailing Harmony and early on the first morning of the race a wave broke in the cockpit, the spray affecting our radio mounted below by the chart table. As a result we could not answer any further skeds, and no other yacht reported our position with a sighting. Knowing that there was concern about yachts that had not given their positions in the wild conditions that existed during the race I rang Vic English who was race director at M.H.Y.C. as soon as we finished to which he replied, "We weren't worried about Harmony, we knew that Frank would re-build the boat if necessary!"

Pictures and Articles

1967 Wathera II in Admirals Cup 1967

Frank Likely on Wathara II
Frank Likely on Wathara II
Frank Likely on Wathara II
Frank Likely on Wathara II

1972 Wild Goose

Wild Goose and Frank Likely
Wild Goose and Frank Likely
Wild Goose and Frank Likely
Wild Goose and Frank Likely

Frank sailed in One Ton Cup races in Sydney as navigator on French chartered Wild Goose


Sydney to Brisbane Yacht RaceOne Ton Cup at Le Havre
One Ton Cup at Le Havre Frank Likely
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race winner SiandraHoi Phoon Frank Likely
Hoi Phoon Frank Likely

Sailing Experience

Frank Likely Yachting Personality
Frank Likely Yachting Personality
Frank Likely Yachting Personality
Frank Likely Yachting Personality

Any Member would like to see a first class example of modesty, you have only to meet Frank Likely who has kindly given the Log some very brief notes of his sailing career.

I joined Middle Harbour Yacht Club in 1957 and sailed with Tiny Hunter's converted eighteen footer Nisus until approximately 1954, then commence sailing Hoi Phoon which belonged to my father and myself.

With Tiny Hunter, son Ian and Pod O'Donnel as crew I continued sailing Hoi Phoon with the Club in inshore and offshore divisions until 1971 when I retired "Hoity" and joined forces with Geoff Foster in first Senyah then Harmony.

My first ocean racing season was with Graham Newland's Siandra in l956 - we came 5th in the Hobart Race, repeated the dose again in 1958 and 1960 with better effect - first both times.

Year Sailing Result
1956 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Siandra with Graham Newlands
1958 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Siandra with Graham Newlands 1st
1959 Sailed with Norm Brooker for the Ocean Racing season in Pegasus 7th in Hobart Race
1960 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Siandra with Graham Newlands 1st
1961 Ocean Racing season with Ron Swanson in Silhouette 12th in Hobart Race
1962 Ocean Racing season with Ron Swanson in Carmen 8th in Hobart Race
1963 Ocean Racing season with Norm Brooker in Sea Wind 4th in Hobart Race
1964 Ocean Racing season with Ron Swanson in Camille 2nd in Hobart Race. Equal first in Admirals Cup selections
1965 Sailed with Camille in Fastnet Race and other Admirals Cup races Top points scorer in team
Also sailed with Ron Swanson & John Borrow in Camelot 2nd in Hobart Race
1966 Ocean Racing Season with Ron Swanson on Salome II 2nd in Hobart Race
1967 Ocean Racing season with Noel Long and Ron Swanson in Matika 3rd in Hobart Race
Also sailed in One Ton Cup at Le Havre and in Fastnet Race with Bruce Cameron in Wathara II.
1968 Ocean Racing season with Ron Swanson and partners in Sundowner. Unsuccessful in Admirals Cup Trials.
1969 Sundowner 10th in Hobart Race.
1971 Ocean raced with Geoff Lee in Taurus 5th in Hobart Race
1972 Sailed in One Ton Cup races in Sydney as navigator on French chartered Wild Goose
1974 Montagu Race, one of the premier events on the ocean racing calendar 1st
1988 The Bicentennial Round Australia Race - Otella

Sailed in All Twelve Sydney to Brisbane Yacht Races

1964 Carman 2nd 1970 Kaleena 2nd
1965 Calliope 2nd 1971 Gillawa 5th
1966 Camelot 1st 1972 Senyah 3rd
1967 Hoi Phoon 4th 1973 Senyah 7th
1968 Calliope 1st 1974 Harmony 2nd in Div 2
1969 Sundowner 3rd 1975 Harmony 3rd in Div 2

Sailed in all North Solitary Island Races

1972 Senyah 2nd
1973 Harmony 2nd
1974 Harmony 1st

Also in winning crew of all Ampol Tasman Sea Trophies.

Sailed to Noumea with Harmony - 2nd

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