In late Janurary of this year Arther Brett telephoned me about the possibility of securing a support boat for something of a historical event. Michael Blackburn, Australian Laser Champion and Bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics had a plan to sail across Bass Strait. For those not in the know with dinghy sailing, the Laser class is a single man boat, approx 3.5 metres long and a sail area of just over 7 square metres. Having just completed our new Cheviot 32 about this time I thought "what a perfect sea trail for our prototype Rough-Up". Over the next coming month and a half we planned the trip, kept an eye on the weather and gathered all the necessary saftey equipment.
Michael planned to leave from Stanley on Tasmania's North West coast and travel some 117 nautical miles (211km) across Bass Strait to Tidal River at Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. I believed it would be in Michaels' best interest to see the Strait for himself before crossing it in his laser. We left Sorrento on the 2nd of March in the Rough Up for Stanley, placing the Laser inside the Chev 32.
That night upon arriving in Stanley a strong front came through from the SW and it looked like it would be possible to take off in the next day or two. We in fact waited six days in Stanley as a lingering low-pressure system brought winds in the region of 35-40 knots. Early Wednesday morning on the 9th of March, Michael pushed his laser off the beach at 3:00am, leaving the confines of the harbour at 3:30am. "It was very black, the blackest conditions I've ever sailed in. No moon, no stars and it was like sailing across black velvet. I couldn't see any texture on the water at all. I had 15 knots of breeze on a reaching angle doing 8.5 - 9 knots sailing in the darkness" Michael said, (the seas at times were large and with a constant SW wind). Michael averaged 8.6 knots with Rough Up's GPS indicating a top speed of 19.7 knots. Michael completed his voyage at 4:31pm on the beach at Tidal River having spent over 12 hours combating the seas of Bass Strait.
The Cheviot 32 excelled in the 20 knot Bass Straight conditions. Running at 3000 rpm, traveling at 15 knots, the Rough Up's 6LP Yanmar used only 22 litres of fuel per hour. It was a great test for the boat, and showed just how a boat like the Cheviot 32 can open up so many destinations for overnight cruising.
Congratulations to Michael for his great effort setting this new record.