Sydney sailors join the S80 one design championship in Bunbury WA.

The S80 does not disappoint.  In the pecking order on Sydney harbour, at 8 meters long, it is seen as a petite yacht.  It is small and spirited.  It’s birth in WA in 1978, through designer Kim Swarbrick, was heralded as a revolution in one design racing which would amply meet recreation and performance needs. 

The Alcamy crew

At the end of last year, two S80 owners Lisa Cowell (Sister Act, WA) and myself (Alcamy, NSW) connected via the Women Who Sail Australian Network.  An invitation was issued to join the South West S80 Championships hosted by Koombana Bay Sailing Club (KBSC) on the Australia Day weekend.  With a keen crew gathered together from four Sydney sailing clubs (Tash Miller, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Belinda Parkes, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, Eloise Clarke and Skye Paton, both Royal Australian Naval Sailing Association, and myself from Balmain Sailing Club), we took on the challenge.  

Our South Western sailing community simply know what hospitality is:  KBSC warmly welcomed us and hosted an impressive championship with ten S80s competing in seven windward-leeward races over two days. Where is Koombana Bay you may ask?  The sailing club sits in a soft arc of crystal waters, nestling a dolphin colony, South of Perth.  The local produce is remarkable with honey by postcode, walls of cheese and olive stock, and impressive local meat and seafood.  A welcome challenge was created with difficulties in extracting the crew from gastronomic delights back to racing.

Day one of the championships was quite soft, a gentle zephir with sunny skies; while day two the breeze picked up and the course was relaid for one race to accomodate a tanker leaving the bay.  The 10 S80s provided great racing, and over the seven races the fleet got closer together.  We were a beautifully synchronised boat when we finished on Sunday afternoon: by then familiar with the course, elegant kite work, and the crew no longer exclaiming when a dolphin was alongside!   Some of our sailing challenges were the crab pots scattered around the bay and the differences in boat set up.

Big thanks to all the S80s for the great racing. Congratulations to the winner Phil Slee (s80 Miss Behavin) with the brightest, glossiest red hull leading the fleet. We finished second on consistency handicap but were winners on having a great time – we would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat.

Big thanks to Paul Andrews, Phil Slee, and Lisa Cowell (KBSC Secretary) for making it happen, and the KBSC Race Committee.

If you have or know of an S80s in Sydney, I am tracking them down hoping to organise a Sydney mini-regatta over autumn. Please get in touch with me at

by Ruth Lawrence
Balmain Sailing Club