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Pulled over on the HarbourThursday, 13 Jan, 2011
Training for the Olympics is not just about time on the water, but also getting in physical shape off the water. While my weight seems to be the biggest issue in racing at the moment evidenced by my results in the last two light wind regattas, I came across a new hurdle, the other day, on Sydney Harbour. It was Monday afternoon, the Harbour was clear from traffic except for an occasional ferry every half an hour or a small fishing boat pottering around, and I was happily doing laps of the harbour, up to Manly and back down towards Rushcutters bay when the unthinkable happened… I decided to do one more half a lap up to the wedding cake (a white lighthouse in the middle of the harbour) when I noticed a Maritime boat hovering near by. At one stage I thought he was following me, but once I got to the wedding cake I turned around and headed back down wind fast. After a few gibes I looked back and the maritime boat was trying to keep up with his sirens blaring red and blue. The though crossed my mind to out run him and get back to the beach, but I still had about 5km to go, so I stopped near Shark Island.
A man named Paul popped his head out of the window of his illuminated vessel and said to me "Are you aware of the restriction areas for windsurfers on Sydney Harbour". (No Hi or Hello, or nice weather today!) To which I replied, "Not exactly but I stay clear of the ferries." Well… apparently there is a map of restrictions for windsurfers and kite surfers on the Harbour excluding us from sailing anywhere between the Sydney Harbour bridge up to Bradley’s Head, and in the shipping lanes all the way up to Manly and out the Heads. After having this explained to me I told him that I was campaigning for the Olympics, but this little fact didn’t seem matter to him "It’s a safety thing, and we can’t let one windsurfer out here off the hook because others will follow". While I understand his point, this same day I saw a stand up paddle boarder, a kayaker, a moth and a water skier all in the shipping lanes. Windsurfers have much more manoeuvrability than small dinghies or paddle craft and we are faster than most craft on the water so we can get from a-b very fast and hence out of the way of ferries, ships or any kind of danger. What I don’t understand is; why are windsurfers and kite surfers discriminated against? During the working week, Sydney Harbour has hardly any traffic and it is one of the greatest places in the world to sail and train, I would know having been to 40 countries over the last 12 years. Being restricted to small bay areas makes windsurfing very difficult having to tack or gibe every 30 seconds because we run out of water or wind. After explaining all of this to him he asked if he could post me the map of restrictions. I opted for the email option, and gave him my address, then he asked for my name, to which I told him, but thinking in the back of my mind "oh am I being put on record, or will I be fined?" The lady also on board didn’t say a word, just looked at me suspiciously and wrote down my information. Afterwards I asked if I could get back to my beach which was still 5km away which meant that I had to sail in some illegal areas, to which he said "That’s fine" and let me go on my way.
So now I am faced with the situation of having to sail in some of the most sheltered areas on the harbour which is very boring when you have to put in 3-4 hours on the water each day. I can sail up and down the full length of Sydney Harbour 4 times in that amount of time; just think of how many hundreds of laps I will have to do of my little bay area (restricted zone) just to fill up the time. I suppose my tacks and gibes will improve enormously! I have decided to write to the powers that be to try to lift the restriction for those training for the Olympics. Even if we have our sail numbers registered with the Maritime authorities, that wouldn’t matter, just as long as we get to do the training beneficial to an Olympic campaign. I’ll let you know what happens!