Skirmish – Brisbane Marine Pilots new 14.2m special purpose vessel off the entrance of the Mooloola River.Built the Wright Way

Brisbane Marine Pilots who service the busy port of Brisbane have launched a new 14.2m special purpose pilot vessel.
The pilot boat, designed by Bill Wright and built at the Bulimba boat yard of Norman R Wright and Sons and officially christened Skirmish by Mrs Lorraine Higgs, has been commissioned to work in the rough water environment off Mooloolaba.

Her unique hull design, including an extended forefoot spray deflecting chine and buoyant bow, tested in appalling conditions has startled both Bill Wright and experienced Brisbane Pilots coxswain Neal Higgs.

The performance was a new revelation for Neal Higgs who has 30 years experience at the helm driving Wright built Pilot Boats. He has worked in some atrocious conditions where personal safety has become a paramount issue with the safe transfer of a pilot to and from a commercial ship.

All the Wright built Brisbane pilot vessels Tempest, Amity and Spitfire, named after prominent land marks in Moreton Bay, have withstood the supreme test of reliability and safety.

However, the larger 14.2m Skirmish which is surveyed to work in any sea conditions up to 300 nautical miles off the coast is expected to be the choice when the nasty weather blows up.

“Skirmish is very people friendly with her innovative and independently mounted ‘floating’ wheelhouse providing a safe noise and vibration free environment for the crew and passengers,” Neal Higgs said.

Her twin Cummins 455hp engines which generate a cruising speed of 20 knots and 24 knots flat chat have effortlessly recorded these speeds during recent sea trials.

Both Neal Higgs and Bill Wright who were onboard for the Brisbane to Mooloolaba delivery voyage were impressed with the level of sea handling comfort.

“Normally you can predetermine how a boat should handle when put to the test but I was impressed with her nature in dealing with the head sea and dead straight tracking in the beam and following sea,” Bill Wright said.

“Skirmish is a perfect pilot boat and has come through her first encounter with bad weather where she had green water flowing down the deck while 50 knot winds created a rough working environment,” Neal Higgs said.  

As expected with her line of service Skirmish will be required to go to sea in all weather; from calm to fresh and frightening, to keep the Brisbane port open.

Among her other important sea safe features are a self-righting capability should the vessel be rolled by a growling wave, and the man-overboard recovery system enhanced with a thermal imaging camera and a custom designed retrieval platform on the transom.

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Fast sports boats head to Airlie Beach

High performance Brisbane small boat designer Allan Carwardine set a high standard in Australian Sports Boat racing when he introduced his super fast Stealth 8 to the regatta racing scene.

Stealthy which he skippered to a high list of impressive results in major events on Moreton Bay and during the Airlie Beach Race Week has continued to show her class under her present owner the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club skipper Bob Cowan.

Royal Geelong YC’s Cam Rae skippering the exciting Shaw 650 Monkey Business.Skipper Bob Cowan who regards Airlie Beach Race Week as the best place to test your pace is again among the early entries to contest the 2012 class championship over the Whitsunday Sailing Club courses from August 10-16.

They will not be alone in their chase to reaffirm Stealthy as the class pacesetter with Stealth rivals Guided Missile (John Rae) and Raptor (Mark Buchbach) also entered for what promises to be a very exciting series.

As expected the battle for the champion sports boat sailing team at the 2012 Airlie Beach Race Week has attracted another highly competitive standard including the Graham Sherring skippered 2012 Bay to Bay champion, the New Zealand designed Leech 650 Stay Tuned.

Southport Yacht Club skipper Graham Sherring is no stranger to racing on Pioneer Bay having scored a runaway win in the Sports Boat series with his ‘baby’ Egan designed Quantum Sails in 2008.

During that series four years ago he and his principal helmsman cousin Neil Sherring had a decided advantage of sailing in their own space but that will not be the case later this year with Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club’s Bob McCamley also lining up with his Leech 650 Slingshot.

Meanwhile Victoria’s Royal Geelong Yacht Club sailor Cam Rae skippering the exciting Shaw 650 Monkey Business also promises to race in the fast lane when rival NSW Shaw 650 Tickety Boo (Mike Hinchey) enter the tactical arm wrestle against Stay Tuned and Slingshot for the honour of being crowned the fastest 650 at Airlie Beach Race Week 2012. 

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Kelly Mathews’ magnificent obsession

The intense physical demands of ocean yacht racing once considered as a male only domain has thankfully changed with more female sailors matching the skill and determination on the spray drenched deck of an ocean racing yacht.

Teenage Sunshine Coast solo globe sailor Jessica Watson showed her unique personal endurance and determination to place the cause for women on water at the forefront of international media.

Similarly, the effort of Kay Cottee to sail around the globe alone has contributed to more female sailors sharing the space on the wet and windy deck in coastal yacht racing including the Sydney-Hobart and the Brisbane to Gladstone classics.

Brisbane sailor Kelly Mathews who has 16 Gladstone Race starts recorded in her personal logbook said, “it has been a tough grind to win acceptance”.

Her adventure on the wild blue sea started in 1993.

“I remember it well suffering a bout of sea sickness but never forgetting I had to tough it out and not let my crew mates down,” she said.

Apart from sailing with her parents and sister in a small trailer sailor in short course events on Moreton Bay Kelly remained determined to test her personal skill and endurance to win the respect as a highly competitive ocean racing sailor.

Progressively after serving her sea time racing on Utopia, Wide Load and Foolish Behaviour she eventually recorded a career best result when Townsville skipper Kerry Ramm helmed No Fearr to a convincing Courier Mail Cup win in 1997.

Kelly Mathews had made the grade but failed to rest on her laurels as she made friends with the elite sailors in a determined bid to win a crew berth alongside the best blue water sailors in the nation.

Kelly Mathews and Grant Wharington.“My big break came in 2001when Sean Langman asked me to crew on Grundig Zena. I again suffered with mal de mer (sea sickness) which is something I have learned to live with at sea.

“There are fond and frightening memories of this fresh wind race when Sean Langman focused his attention on making sure Grundig Zena, which had seawater and fish swimming in the cockpit, power-sailed to a record breaking line honours win.”

Her sailing success continued on Grundig Zena winning the line honours and handicap double in 2002 and line honours in 2003; then line honours with the Peter Hollis skippered Heaven Can Wait in 2006 and adding another line honours as the navigator with the Grant Wharington skippered super maxi Wild Thing last Easter.

When asked if she could improve on the success of five line honours and two overall wins the modest female sailor said, “I have an obsession with the Gladstone Race and besides what else can you do over the Easter Weekend?”