Harry receiving Military Cross 1967.
By Author not yet known - Unsourced, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19614178
The Sunshine Coast Ocean Regatta (SCOR) is being held on the waters off Mooloolaba from Thurs Oct 13th to 15th and welcomes Harry Smith and his boat ‘Mayhem’ to the starting line. Despite being 83 years young, this true gentleman gifted with an inherent skill and love of sailing will be a hot favourite to take home the silverware. This is Harry’s story:
Harry, now aged 83, started sailing in Cadet Dinghies in Hobart in the late 1940s. He and friend Ian Coward of ‘Quest’ – a campaigner for this year’s Sydney to Hobart race- then sailed with the Sandy Bay Dinghy Club in Sandridge Sharpies and Rainbows. ‘You get to learn how to sail well in the Derwent River with nasty wind gusts coming off the mountains and hills around Hobart,’ says Harry. With his Father’s help, Harry built a Rainbow and won the Tasmanian Championship in 1951, just before being conscripted into the Army National Service in 1952.
Harry then enlisted in the Regular Army and served 24 years until leaving in 1976 after a serious freefall parachuting injury when trialling a new type French ‘Papillon’ parachute which failed to open properly. He saw the ‘odd angry shot’ during active service in Malaya and again in Vietnam where his Delta Company 6RAR fought the battle of Long Tan in 1966. After many years of work after the Official Secrecy period ended in 1996, Harry recently obtained approval of the awards he recommended for eight of his soldiers for gallantry; scrubbed because of a reduced quota system and the personal opinion of senior officers far from the action. Harry was awarded the Military Cross in 1966, downgraded from the DSO, and later upgraded to the Star of Gallantry for his command and leadership at Long Tan.
But even in the Army Harry was able to sail with Army crews. In 1964 with a 2 Commando Company crew he raced a RN Surf Whaler in B Class at RBYC with good results and took out the ANA Regatta Williamstown to Geelong race that year. After Vietnam he raced 16ft Corsairs in Perth, taking out the State Title in 1972 before skippering Rolly Tasker’s 48ft ‘Siska 1” on loan to the Army, breaking Rolly’s record for the Fremantle to Bunbury race. Greg Pullin, who still crews with Harry, also sailed in Perth and Harry named his Cavalier 345 ‘Tamika’ after Greg’s adopted grand daughter.
In the UK in 1973 Harry sailed a Nicholson 43 at Cowes most weekends during his attachment to the RAF Parachute Trails School at Salisbury. After overseas training in the UK and USA he was appointed CI of the new Army Parachute School at Williamtown NSW and bought a Folk Boat which he raced at Port Stephens. Harry then fitted out a Swanson 32 and raced her both at Port Stephens and later at RPAYC after moving to live at Newport, Sydney, in 1976.
In 1978 he embarked on a ‘once only’ cruise to the Whitsundays, but continued cruising for some 34 years, with six months up north as far as Thursday Island and racing the other six months in a variety of yachts such as a Townson 34, a Cavalier 345, a Masrm 31, and a Cavalier 395. Harry’s wife Felicia took out the Hawkwind Cup at MYC in the Cavalier 345 ‘Tamika’ in 1994. In 1995 he bought a Jarkan/Lyons 40ft racer which he named ‘On Silent Wings’ and raced her at MYC (Mooloolaba Yacht Club) and in the Brisbane to Gladstone race until he sold her on to Ian Griffiths and partners. Sadly, renamed ‘Midnight Special’, she was sunk in the ‘Fatal Storm’ off Eden in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race.
Along the way Harry gained a Coastal Master Grade 4 ticket in 1984 and delivered many yachts and cruisers up and down the coast, as well as working as a sailing instructor with Whitsunday Rent-A- Yacht; driving a 40ft game boat out of Airlie Beach; and beachcombing every beach from Cooktown to Cape York for five winter seasons, finding many Japanese glass floats and other items washed overboard from boats at sea, which included a lifebuoy from a yacht lost in Bass Strait which drifted up to a Cape York beach. His personal logbook shows he has sailed 150,000 nautical miles up and down the Coast between Sydney and Thursday Island, a distance equal to six times around the World.
After five years living at Airlie Beach 1988 -1993, Harry then moved back to Mooloolaba and then spent thirteen years in Hervey Bay 2003 to 2015 where he raced with local clubs, returning to Mooloolaba in late 2015 with his 2005 built Sydney 36 yacht ‘Mayhem’ which takes out a fair share of placings at SCYC (Sunshine Coast Yacht Club).
Harry raced SCOR (the Sunshine Coast Ocean Regatta) in 1995-6 and looks forward to competing in SCOR 2016. Despite his age he intends to continue sailing while he remains fit. He admits it is enjoyable therapy to keep the demons of war at bay. He hopes that yachting at Mooloolaba might eventually see a larger fleet and more local people wishing to crew as was the scenario in past years before the split at MYC circa 2005.
Please visit www.scor.com.au for more information regarding the upcoming Sunshine Coast Ocean Regatta. We welcome & encourage your entry.