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Ken Mascord

Current City/HometownSydney
ClubMiddle Harbour Yacht Club
Boats Sailed OnDiamond Cutter II

Ken Mascord

Early Sailing

I spite of having no exposure to sailing or sailing boats, from a very young age, I felt the tug of the sea and of yachts so I had little opportunity to express myself through any form of sailing. 

My very first sail was on Sydney Harbour in a dinghy built by my older brother, something of the size and shape of a Heron class.  I was working full time and studying at university for an engineering degree, was married with a mortgage way over my head, yet, I had to sail.  What does one do?  He builds one. 

Somehow, regardless of my poverty of cash and time, I actually built a Northbridge Senior to completion and began sailing.  That demonstrated to me how little I knew of sailing.  I sold the NS14 to help support myself when I won a traineeship which allowed me attend university full time. 

It was only after graduating that I was able to return to sailing and I did that by joining Nick Levay on his bluebird sailing at Greenwich Sailing Club.  Several years later, Nick bought an Endeavour 26 and began racing at Middle Harbour Yacht Club and invited me to join him. 

I joined MHYC in 1974 at age 32, perhaps a tad old to be beginning such an endeavour.  What I remember about racing in that lively fleet is finishing every race with arms that were as sore as boils.  Single speed winches, I decided were a serious problem.



1976 Canon

In 1976, I was invited to join Norm Casey in racing his Peter Cole design East Coast 31, Canon, in the offshore events out of MHYC.  Norm was running a small business manufacturing winches and other yachting equipment, so Canon, was set up as a showcase of winches.  Two speed winches were, comparatively, a blessing.  However, sailing in any form has its challenges.  Norm sold his business and his yacht, after that season of offshore racing but I sailed with Norm in another East Coast 31 the following season. 

In the 1977 South Solitary Island Yacht race, we got a pasting off Smoky Cape when we sailed into a region the charts described as having "Ripples".  This was in a fifty to sixty knot south-westerly, thought provoking experience.  

Salamanda II

Painting of Salamander II, provided by Ken Mascord
Painting of Salamander II, provided by Ken Mascord

One result of that was that I decided to find out what navigation was all about and enrolled in the Coastal and Ocean Navigation courses at TAFE.  I sold myself to Ken White as a navigator to sail his new Farr 1104, Salamander II.  I'm sure Whitey had his doubts about this upstart claiming to be a navigator when he'd never served as one ever. 

However, Whitey was a tolerant soul and I stayed on.  We were all learning on the job.  It took us a couple of seasons to learn how to race that beast, and for me how to navigate a racing yacht.  The racing was competitive, combative, and tough.  I once heard someone ask Whitey what his racing program was.  His simple answer was, "we race the book."  If a race was on the program, we raced it. 

It was at a time of transition when lightweight flyers like the Farr 1104 were coming on the scene and the traditionalists were displeased, so the IOR rule was tweaked to penalise such yachts.  That made it tougher, we had a rating that meant we had to outsail bigger yachts.  

We didn't have a lot of wins but those we did get were spectacular.  Two come to mind, we won a RSYS Gascoyne Cup getting a second over the line behind Helsal (the Adams version, not the flying footpath) and another RSYS race, The Montague Island Race. 

The Gascoyne Cup was a race in conditions that the Farr 1104 did not shine in, that is, light and variable.  However, we picked a few shifts and ran the opposition down through superb steering by Steve White and excellent crew work and the 20 NM tight reach from the leeward mark to a mark off Coogee.  We were changing from headsail to spinnaker and back again virtuously continuously for the whole leg and doing it without dropping speed.  In fact, we were outsailing bigger yachts who stuck with whatever sail they had at the start of the leg.  It helped that all the big yachts including Helsal were parked in a hole out to sea from Coogee.  We picked a breeze that carried us around the hole.  Helsal came through in the final leg up the coast and there's nothing an eleven metre yacht can do to hold out a 21 metre competitor. 

The Montague Island race was a blast, starting on Friday evening in a twenty five to thirty five knot northerly turning to north-west on Saturday morning.  We were half a mile away from the southern end of Montague Island when the southerly hit, so we had a short bash into that and then it was up with the kite and "let's go home.  As I recall it, Helsal took ten hours of the race record and we were just under the old record ourselves.  We were pretty happy with that win.  It was a race noted for gear damage but we had nothing go wrong at any stage.  I'd say it marked the point where we could claim we had learned how to sail Salamander II.

From 1984 MHYC Log

Ken Mascord One of the most capable ocean racing navigators in Australia, formerly aboard Salamander II and more recently Jim Hardy's, Police Car. Also part of the Radio Operators course admin-istration as lecturer and current MHYC Chief Safety Officer and member of YA of NSW Safety Committee. Ken recently became a part owner of a new JOG yacht and has been the prime mover in establishing a better understand-ing of the righting moment of these smaller ocean racers. 

Ken Mascord 1984 The MHYC Log 04

1985 Diamond Cutter II

Diamond Cutter II in 1985 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, photo by Richard Bennet. Photo provided by Ken Mascord
Diamond Cutter II, (c1985) photo provided by Ken Mascord

I did a season with Alan Sweeny on Diamond Cutter and later sailed on a few other yachts.  

In 1985, Sweeny entered Diamond Cutter II in the Sydney to Hobart.  It proved an interesting race.  

We started in a good northerly which stayed in all afternoon until the southerly came through at midnight.  We were off Jervis Bay, well out to sea; we'd been chasing a strong southerly current, so we set out to take full advantage of it.  South from Jervis Bay, the current swept to sea in an eddy, so we didn't have to keep heading so far to sea.  It wasn't a strong southerly and settled down to a good sailing breeze.  

All day, I watched the wind and the sky.  By evening, the southerly was fading.  The forecast predicted that it would continue easing and jiggle to the south east.  All yachties know, that's what a southerly does, right?  

I was reading signs that pointed to it kicking back in from the west so being on the western side of the fleet wasn't going to be the wrong side to be.  Some of the crew were annoyed.  I'd put them exactly in the wrong place.  But I'd seen this once before when I'd misread the situation.  Bout nine  pm that night when we were somewhere near Green Cape, the wind came in fresh and hard from slightly south of west.  We sailed across the paddock powered up with slightly sprung sheets and carried that breeze all the way down the eastern Tasmanian coat. 

I calculated that we were leading on corrected time from the morning after that westerly stream came in and held that position all the way to Tasman Island.  What the sailing gods give, they take away.  At Tasman Island, we sailed into a deadly hole and parked for four hours.  We managed a fifth place on corrected time but who ever heard of the yacht that came fifth.

Race Management

Ken Mascord with Ken White at a MHYC function 1989

My attention was turning to race management.  It was Hugh George who got me involved by getting me to join his crew for the first ever J24 National Championships run by MHYC, somewhere around 1977. The event was conducted in the Manly Circle and some extraordinary trouble was taken to set up first class racing for the fleet.  The RAN was recruited to assist in setting up very accurate courses.  This was in the days before GPS or even SatNav.  I was amazed when one competitor approached the committee boat while the courses were being set up and asked if the committee was going to set up racing in the immediate area.  Hugh gave a general affirmative answer that the racing was likely to be near here.  It was the competitor's response that surprised me.

"If you conduct the race in this area, I will protest the committee."

So, that was my introduction to Yacht Race Management.  I learned not to be surprised. 


People like Hugh George, Hugh Wheeler and many others taught me so much about race management and I am forever grateful.  I am also grateful for the support I received from the race management crews, all volunteers, that worked with me. 

One thing I would ask the Sailing (Racing) Committee to consider is the impact on race officers of the job that they must do.  Often they are called on to make decisions that are apparently impossible and often the racing community are unaware of the limitations on the race officer to deal with the circumstances that arise.  I feel that it behoves the committee to make themselves as aware as possible of what the job entails and that may mean getting out there often enough to experience what can happen.  In the days when I started doing race management, Flag Officers and Flag Officer's wives were regular members if the race management teams.  It's funny that while that happened, there was no shortage of volunteers to go out with the starter. 

Remember that on race day, it is the Race Management Team that represents the club.

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