'Scariest sailing ever'

ROARING winds, menacing storms, broken masts and a royal presence - just a taste of what the World Masters Games provided for four Bundaberg Sailing Club members.

Local sailors Michael and Gail Bayer, along with Rick Haywood and Ron Penwarn have returned home from the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney where they sailed in the over-35 and over-45 Tasar dinghy competition.

What they encountered was far more than a leisurely cruise on the harbour, severe storms and unpredictable winds made for a treacherous campaign.

The four local sailors were not in the hunt for medals, but were happy to make it back to Bundaberg with themselves, and their boats, in one piece.

“Ron (Penwarn) said it was the wildest, scariest sailing he has ever done,” Bayer said.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday racing was marred by unsafe conditions, but officials gave the thumbs-up for racing late on Wednesday afternoon.

Bayer's ocean instincts told him to hold off, and when a huge storm swept over the bay, decimating the fleet with several broken masts and sails, he knew he had made the right call.

“We got 25 knots constant, boats with broken sails, a tiger class yacht washed up on a reef and another yacht with a broken sail out at Shark Island,” sailing co-ordinator Adam South said.

One of the unlucky crews - and this is where the royal connection comes in - was Prince Frederik of Denmark and Australian sailing partner Chris Meehan, whose Tasar capsized in the strong winds.

It was not until the Thursday that Gail and Michael felt comfortable in the conditions, cruising through the start and leading Prince Frederik around the top mark.

“It was interesting watching boats barging each other around the turning marks and others ramming the start boat. Both Bundy crews managed to keep out of trouble,” Bayer said.

The husband and wife crew were placed 10th after three races, while Haywood and Penwarn were 41st, they eventually finished in 12th and 36th spot.

A cold front on Friday brought a repeat of the dangerous conditions.

The Bayers opted for dry land, and although Haywood and Penwarn braved the seas, they admitted later they wanted to turn back on a few occasions.

“But congratulations to them for being one of few crews to complete all the races,” Bayer said.

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