Sixties radical Wistari sails into middle age
By GREGOR MACTAGGARTmactaggartg@gladstoneobserver.com.au
GUESTS from as far away as Brisbane, Yeppoon and Mackay made the trip to Gladstone to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Harbour City's finest sporting identities, Wistari.
Built by Noel Patrick on a shoestring budget and plenty of community support in 1965, Wistari became not only a great boat but a symbol of Gladstone's history.
In fact when the boat was launched in 1965, the majority of the Harbour City's population at the time turned out for the special occasion.
Wistari's 40th birthday celebrations brought together a number of past and present crew members, supporters and of course the Patrick family.
Noel's son Scott, who took over as skipper after Noel's passing, is only now recovering after some big celebrations at the Port Curtis Sailing Club.
'It was a fantastic night, what started as a small celebration turned into a great reunion for everyone.
'There were people who had not seen each other for over a decade and they came from everywhere to be part of it. To reminisce about the old times was great, it was just a top night,' Patrick said.
Considered quite radical at the time of building according to Scott, Wistari proved to be one of Queensland's finest boats with the guidance of Noel Patrick and the backing of the Harbour City.
'Dad used a common design to build Wistari, but the opinion was that the boat was a bit radical ? but at the end of the day it was proved to be well ahead of its time,' he said.
In the early days, Wistari struggled to win races due to the rating system at the time which penalised the boat heavily before the Golden Era of its success in the 1970s.
Scott said it was in this decade that Wistari built his fine reputation with three of his four victories in the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race (1971, 1976-77) and wins in the Gladstone to Cairns, Gladstone to Mackay and Gladstone to Bundaberg Yacht Races.
'The 1970s were Wistari's best era, Dad spent a bit more money on improving the boat and the rating system changed which favoured him,' he said.
Wistari won his fourth Brisbane to Gladstone in 1982 and still continues to take part in the race to this day.
The boat is certain to line-up for the 38th time in the 2005 race and Scott is looking forward to continuing the strong family tradition for another few years yet.
'Ross and I enjoy the race, it has been great to have my nephew Andrew on the boat in recent years and I will definitely make sure Wistari is racing when my son Tim, who is 14, is old enough to race.
'So we have got at least a couple of years left,' he said.