Fleetwood

by Lachlan Davidson, 2010

 

In about 1979 my wonderful mother agreed to buy my sister and I a Mini Quest catamaran. They are fourteen feet long, designed (by Charlie and Lyndsay Cunningham) to be built at home and to be raced by a single person. They have a trapeze and very fast and exciting, just the thing for a seventeen year old boy with five years sailing experience, a competitive spirit and a thirst for excitement. My sister didn’t get so much use out of the boat as she was leaving home and moving on.

One of the few factory-built Mini Quests, she is a fast, fairly light boat with a good sail (Black Sails company) ut came without a trailer or a name to speak of so we borrowed trailers and lifts until I converted our rusty old box-trailer and I named her “Fleetwood” because she is fast and made of wood, not because of Fleetwood Mac.

I love to race and my light weight and youthful belief led me to win some early races in light weather. The Easter regatta at Waranga was the first time I had raced Fleetwood and Michael Clarkson kindly offered to put her on the top of his boat “Virago” (also using Black sails) and I came home with the trophy ahead of about 5 other Minis. I knew I had a good boat.

Heavy winds found me out and always tested my courage and weight but I always preferred the tactical racing in light to medium conditions rather than the on-the-edge survival conditions over 15 knots. My courage showed in brave tactics rather than risking capsize or damage, though I did both at times.

My first state title series at Lake Wellington (1980?) saw me in front with one race to go (light conditions) and leading the last race with one leg to go when a wall of trailer sailors appeared between me and the finish line. I made a choice which cost me the race and the series and put a (necessary) dent in my ego. Second place it was behind a worthy Brian Samson and I didn’t win a State title until about six years later when there was a handful of boats and the class had all but died out. A somewhat hollow victory but I remain reigning Mini Quest Champion and, as there were never any National titles I jokingly called myself world champion as a talking point. A little pretentious as it was pointed out to me so back to just past champion for honesty’s sake.

Having sailed at Carrum for nearly ten seasons on my wonderful boat and having gone to regattas at clubs around the bay including One-of-a-kinds and multi-hull races I’d beaten large numbers of Paper Tigers, particularly in light winds and had a fantastic Champion of Champions race at the Sauna sail in Morwell once where every wind shift went my way only to be beaten on handicap by an Arafura coming home with a front), I’d had a fantastic time. It was time, however regrettably to move on. There were no Mini Quests to race against. I had no-where to keep her at our new home and Ken Lott, an exceptional Mosquito sailor had asked me to crew for him.

Very reluctantly we sold Fleetwood to a neighbour who then sold her again a few months later. Not what he was really looking for.

In the years to follow Ken and I made a great team though never were able to put it together for a State or National title, not through lack of ability or a bad boat. He made awesome boats. Eventually music and marriage stopped my sailing career and all I did was dream about it, always Fleetwood and often waking up literally in tears. I remember once seeing her come off the trailer and going over a cliff to smash up on rocks at the bottom. That was one of the worst dreams I ever had and I still recall the immense feeling of loss when I woke up from that one.

2003 Enter Fred. Fred (Fiona R.) had been a student at PLC and had become (along with her family) a really good and supportive friend after school had finished for her, particularly through my divorce.

We had kept in regular touch since then until a phone call at school from her asking me to play at her wedding. It went like this. My mobile phone rang and it was Fred. We had a brief chat until the phone went flat. Shortly after that the music secretary’s phone rang and I knew it would be Fred so I went to her phone and announced, “Hello Lachlan Davidson, World Mini Quest champion” (to be funny) and Fred said “Of course. Hey, Scott, my fiancee has a Mini Quest in his parents garage.” My interest was raised. As there were not many boats ever built I thought I might know this boat. “Wow. Do you know what number it is?” I said. Fred asked Scott and he thought 82 maybe. My heart skips a beat. Fleetwood is 81. “What colour is it?” “White” Fred replies. Fleetwood is white. Heart skipping many beats. Jane is staring at me. I ask the all-important question… What is its name?

Fleetwood!

I am actually in tears as I type this.

Well Jane erupts into copious “Oh my God,” I can hardly speak, and Scott and I (who have never met) begin talking about a shared passion. We were kind of like long lost brothers.

He had bought the boat from my neighbour though he was on his way to buy a windsurfer I believe.

He hadn’t raced her but had sailed fairly often at Balnarring until five years before (He’d had Fleetwood for nearly fifteen years) when she’d been put in his parents garage and the old trailer thrown away. He’d thought of selling her but hadn’t got around to it and, hearing my passion for her offered to give her to me. What a gesture! I sort of accepted in that I bought a trailer, adapted it to take Fleetwood, picked her up from his parents garage took her home, washed her off, bought a new mainsheet and some fittings but agreed that we would share her and that I would make her available anytime he wanted to sail her.

We’ve sailed her together at least once a year since and I’ve taken her in a couple of races and sailed her a few other times. In fact e were barrelling along in a strong wind at Balnarring with Scott out on Trapeze (asking a lot of a Thirty year old cat) when two dolphins swan with us between the bows. What a moment of blessing that was! When the kids are older I think I might just have to find a club to race her at again and see what I can do to the egos of a few Paper Tiger sailors who think this old girl is past it. The youthful competitor lives and waits for his time to come again but for now he is very, very happy so see his old friend in the yard every day.