Adrian Heard Visits the RC Laser Fleet in Portland, Victoria
The RC Laser fleet in Portland Victoria is probably the largest fleet in regional/rural Australia. I arrived at Portland Yacht Club deep in the industrial heart of Portland Bay to be greeted by the wry smile of Gary Hein. “Welcome, you must be the bloke from Adelaide”, he says.
Gary and his son Brad are the front line in defending the standing of the Portland RC Laser fleet. And what a fleet it is.
I am amazed to see six neatly-rigged RC Lasers sitting in the protection of a comfortable club house, and I am told there are more boats to come. “We only use B rigs here”, says Gary, so I quietly slip my quiver of sails back into the car. Looking out into the bay, I am relieved to see that it is ideal B rig weather.
After rigging my boat in the clubhouse we are soon out on a floating platform with the course buoys set close by. The setting in a brisk south-easterly breeze is quite beautiful. Barring perhaps Dobroyd and Robb Point, this is one of Australia’s best RC Laser venues. There is a small chop present and boat speed and quick tacking are the order of the day.
Considering that they having only been sailing RC Lasers for a year, these guys really know how to race their boats. After being sandwiched between two boats at the start of the first race, I find the group friendly to compete with and generally respectful of the rules.
Back in the clubhouse after racing I get to know the group better. They are very interested in knowing about the wider world of RC Laser racing, but it is their story that captivates me most. It turns out that they virtually all sail trailer sailers and keelboats, but as Gary Hein put it ‘one night around a campfire and after a bit of drinking, fifteen of us decided to put in an order for RC Lasers’. What an amazing way to start a fleet. Since then David Woolner has further increased their numbers and added more competition to the group.
Portland is an amazing place and it is the home of probably Australia’s largest rurally based RC Laser fleet. Get ready, because you are going to hear a lot more about this fleet in the future. We’re looking forward to seeing the Portland crew at Mawson Lakes in October for the RC Laser National Championships.