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.