Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wagging Off

Back in the dark days of 1977 three yachtsmen at the very prestigious Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron got togther and decided to have a fun race outside the organisation of the club.The course was around Green Island. It was that much fun that they decided to make it a weekly event, and as they were wagging off work, WAGS, and acronym for for Wednesday Around Green Sailing, or Wednesday Aftrenoon Gentlemens sailing, was created.

The event became more and more popular, and in turn was frowned upon more and more by the RQYS who thought that it was somehow disreputable. Entry was $5 and at the end of every year the money collected was spent throwing a party for the participants.

I started getting involved in about 1989, in a Cole 23 called Fiesta III. One of the smaller yachts certainly but not the smallest. John Bush was the organiser and with the aid of his famous "Black Box" handicapping system the organisation was simple. You raced, and if you won your handicap was adjusted so that you couldn't win again that year. No one took it seriously, protests were banned, and anyone who actually complained about performance was penalised.

I sold the Cole and a few years later came back and raced in my SS Defiance 30 "Carpe Diem". The race was still around Green Island and the 30 footer was a middle of the fleet boat. John was still the organiser and based on the theory that if it isn't broken don't fix it, organisation was basically the same. The only difference was that where the end of season party was a free drinks for everyone, because of gate crashers it was a ticketed affair. Fair enough.

In 2009 I came back in Dreamagic. At 44 feet I would expect to be up the front but things had changed somewhat. RQYS had realised that there are more people in the bar on a Wednesday afternoon than for the rest of the week combined. Having had a change of heart at the events value to sailing, they had taken over the running of this strictly amatur event and made a few changes.

The name of the event has been changed from Wednesday Afternoons Gentlemens Sailing to the more politically correct Wednesday Afternoons Go Sailing.
The entry fee is $10, which is not given back to the yachties but disappears into club revenue. With upward of 50 yachts a week competing, that is not a bad addition to revenues
There is a miriad of waivers to sign before we could go out sailing at all.
Although we are members of Cairns Yacht Club and Yorkeys Knob Boat Club, we can't race here more than twice before having to join RQYS at a cost of $800 plus a mamber nomination fee of another couple of hundred dollars.
There is a start boat and going over early, even by a second will incur a penalty.
40 feet is almost a minimum length for yachts. It's hard to find a white sail with all the spectra, mylar, lala being hoisted.
Because of the speed of the fleet now, around Green Island is too short so the course is extended to Hope Banks.

The crowd is still great, the bar is the place to be when it's over and there is a singer with a guitar to listen to as we re enact he events of the day over a cold beer. That said I can't help feeling nostalgic for the days when WAGS sailing was a pastime for most, a sport for a few and a profit making exercise for no one.

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