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Culwulla III sails on -- 94 years later.

The outcome of the Australian IRC Offshore Championship, held as part of the 2001 Hahn Premium Race Week at Hamilton Island, had to be the racing upset of the year, perhaps the century.

THE CLASSIC YACHT CULWULLA III, portrayed in a magnificent oil painting that hangs in the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Sydney's Pittwater, has made an extraordinary winning comeback to competitive racing -- at the age of 94. And not against other veteran yachts in an historic wooden boat regatta, but against the cream of modern IRC-rated yachts at the highly competitive Hahn Premium Race Week, held at Hamilton Island.

Called Eun Na Mara since 1914 and now owned by Victorian yachtsman Nick Chapman, this beautiful sloop, designed to the 10-metre class rule by famous Scottish designer William Fife, caused the racing upset of the century by becoming the 2001 Australian IRC champion yacht.

Capitalising on her low rating and ideal sailing conditions, light to moderate breezes and flat water, Chapman and his highly competitive crew outsailed the 39-boat IRC fleet with a remarkable score of DNF-1-7-6-1-1-2-5-2.

Eun Na Mara finished a massive 24 points clear of the successful modern 50-footer Heaven Can Wait, with the state-of-the-art Sydney 38, Asylum nine points further back.

As one would expect, the veteran yacht was generally at the back of a fleet that included such boats as Brindabella, Line 7, Grundig Xena, Another Duchess, and seven Sydney 385. But with excellent tactics and sail trim she outsailed several boats around the courses through the Whitsunday Islands.

Eun Na Mara, a fine-looking gaff-rigged cutter, was launched in Sydney on 16 February 1907 for Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron member AC Saxton, who named her Awanui. He subsequently sold her to Walter Marks, Commodore of the RPAYC from 1914 to 1921 and one of Sydney's most competitive yachtsmen.

Re-naming the yacht Culwulla III, in 1910 Marks made a bid to regain the Sayonara Cup, an inter-colonial trophy taken from Sydney by the Victorian yacht after whom the trophy was named.

To do so Culwulla III had to sail to Port Phillip. To give his crew plenty of practice, Marks sailed from Sydney to Hobart, then Hobart to Melbourne, some 1073 nautical miles. While in Hobart Culwulla III won the Carnival Race and the 90-nautical mile Bruny Island Race.

In Melbourne Culwulla III regained the Sayonara Cup for New South Wales. But in 1914 Marks sold the boat and she was re-named again, this time as Eun Na Mara (Bird of the Sea) and in 1910 she went on the register of Melbourne's Royal Brighton Yacht Club with the sail number B1.

Despite changes of ownership, clubs and states over the years, Eun Na Mara still has the sail number B1 on her mainsail, with current owner Chapman the honorary treasurer of Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

Chapman found Eun Na Mara in Perth, where then owner and prominent Royal Geelong Yacht Club member Neil McAlister, had taken the yacht as part of a relocation package with his company - something subsequently and specifically removed from company contracts! McAlister continued to actively race Eu Na Mara in Perth, including winning the Fremantle to Bunbury Race. Chapman sighted the classic yacht while representing Victoria in the Lexcen Cup in Perth and made an offer to buy her back for Victoria.

"When we bought her in 1996 she was pretty tired," Chapman recalls. "We sailed her in Royal Brighton Yacht Club twilights and used her as a holiday home at the Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club in the summer.

"Over the past five years we have re-fitted and optimised the old girl," adds Chapman, a successful helmsman in classes that include Cadet dinghies, Lightweight Sharpies, Dragons, Etchells and J24S.

While Eun Na Mara still retains the classic lines of a William Fife-designed 10-metre class yacht, there is not much left of the original boat. The original hull, built in Sydney was cedar-planked but this was replaced with Huon pine in the 1920S. And she now carries a masthead Bermudan rig on an aluminium mast with state-of-the-art Lidgard sails, controlled by a hydraulic backstay.

"But she still has the classic hull shape, with most of the original frames and the lead keel," says Chapman. "She is still a wonderful, really an amazing boat to sail.

"She was fairly rated under the IRC handicap category, but what benefited us at Hamilton Island Race Week was the 10-12 knot tropical breezes and the flat water that suited her perfectly."

Vital to the success of Eun Na Mara at Hamilton Island Race Week was her crew, the majority of whom are former Lightweight Sharpie and J24 sailors. Their trimming and sail changing skills, supporting Nick Chapman's skill on the helm, saw this 94-year-old classic yacht sailed to the optimum under the IRC category. It was an upset, however it was certainly no fluke.
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Title Annotation:Hahn Premium Race Week
Author:Campbell, Peter
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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