When Ireland’s senior Dragon sailor Don Street (87) of Glandore bids us to pay attention, we always do, as Don’s experience in many areas of sailing is unrivalled writes W M Nixon.
But when Don suggests we all sit up and take notice of the sailing of Gordon Ingate of Australia, there are many of us already right there with the Guru of Glandore. For Gordon Ingate of Tasmania makes the well-tested slogan “Sailing: A Sport for Life” seem barely adequate, as he is still winning serious races at the age of 92, and everything about the man is an inspiration.
His most recent achievement was a clear victory in the Australian Dragon Championship 2018 in Victoria, which concluded at the weekend. Racing against a fleet of 26 boats, and crewed by Amy Walsh and David Giles, his boat Whimsical was anything but. His clear victory of 4 points including three bullets was about as un-whimsical as you can get.
But then, this perhaps greatest Corinthian sailor the world has ever seen seems to specialize in clearcut wins in boats whose names indicate a certain vagueness. He first leapt to international renown in the 1965 Admirals Cup, when he was one of the Australian team with his classic Robert Clark-designed Caprice of Huon
Caprice was an elegant veteran of 1948 or thereabouts, strongly built of the finest Huon pine. But Ingate and his crew had her in such perfect racing trim in 1965 that she cut a swathe through the fleet, particularly in the Solent racing where he made off with major trophies in Cowes Week. Two years later in 1967, he and Caprice were back again with team mates who matched his previous performance, and they won the Admiral’s Cup.
Thereafter, he was very much a force to be reckoned with at Olympic and America’s Cup level. But he’s at his best when racing his own boat tuned to his own very high standards, and racing in fleets which provide the proper settings for his skill sets. Grown-up sailing, in other words.
Thus it was altogether appropriate that when a celebrity was sought to fire the starting cannon for the recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, they asked Gordon Ingate to do the honours. The Australian commentator didn’t even have to think of saying who he was. And now he has won in the Australian Dragons Nationals. Yet again.
That said, our own Don Street is as full of enthusiasm as ever, and his latest evidence of eternal youth is a drive to get the Glandore Dragons to permit racing crews of four. This is so that any youngsters keen to learn about these wonderful boats can get a taste of it without initially being expected to play a crucial crewing role.
The ancient Howth 17s tested the idea some years ago. It worked so well that racing four up is now the preferred option for many boats. And it has been so successful in introducing newcomers to the class that the fleet is in better order than ever – not bad going for a class founded in 1898.