Former Manly 16ft skiff sailing champion Joe Turner thought he had his day all mapped out when he woke Saturday morning. Breakfast at his cousin’s place – the Clancys – was to be followed by a trip to Warringah Mall to pick up a birthday present and then some time to do some work around the home before a quiet night with his young family. Before he was halfway through his bacon and eggs and orange juice, those plans were tossed out the window. Joe, a 16ft national champion, explained: “I was at the Clancys’ home and they said, ‘do you want to sail the kids’ swap day at Manly today?’

“I said I was in and (three-year-old son) Levi said he’d do it and then (wife and former national 13s champion) Tash said she wasn’t going to be left on the shore, so next thing we find ourselves on the water instead of the Mall. “We had no real intention of going and next thing we’re digging through old sailing gear looking for wetsuits, life-jackets and booties. “We were supposed to go birthday shopping but ended up on a 16ft skiff beating my brother (Daniel) and nephew Hamish, even if we didn’t quite go around the bottom mark.”

Swap Day, for the uninitiated, gives young kids the chance to go out with accomplished skiff sailors to get a feel for the thrills and spills of a 16-footer. The Turners won’t forget their experience in a hurry, overcoming a capsize which tossed Joe, Tash (from the well-known Ivshenko sailing family), Levi and cousin Alanna Clancy in the drink. Levi, wearing his special lifejacket, also spent time out on the trapeze and couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. Joe said: “He’s climbing all over my Moth at home as we speak and asking when we can go out sailing again. “It was a great day and a really good way to get the next generation interested in the sport.”

And it wasn’t just the kids wearing the broadest of smiles. The famous Barnabas clan has three generations of sailors in attendance while many others sported father/son or father/daughter crews. Manly 16ft club commodore Mal Page counted around 50-60 attendees, declaring: “It was a cracking day. The joy on the kids’ faces said it all to me. “I had a call from one set of parents who had a kid come down and, from all reports, he is now fully converted. “To see them enjoy that beautiful freedom you get from this sport was very cool.”

Page praised all the volunteers who either manned or provided skiffs and oversaw safety on what was a fitting end to the 2023/24 season.

Words Adam Lucius
Photos Sail Media