Fifty years on the high seas
YACHTSMAN Peter Charles has had some exciting – sometimes too exciting – experiences at sea in his 50 years of sailing; so winning a race to Indonesia ranks as a pleasant change.
His adventures have included being attacked by pirates.
Mr Charles has recently returned home to Bundaberg after serving as navigator on the yacht Boussole that took line honours in the race from Darwin to the Indonesian island of Ambon.
What made the win remarkable was that after 620 nautical miles of sailing the Boussole beat its nearest rival by 90 seconds.
The race, held from July 24 to August 1, was the 12th time Mr Charles had competed in it.
“It's the only bluewater open ocean yachting race in Australia,” Mr Charles said.
He said he planned to do the race again next year in one of his own yachts.
“I think I'll do it in Shady Lady,” he said. Shady Lady is a 36-foot ketch moored off Bundaberg.
“I'm hoping I'll spark some interest from more people to do the race,” he said.
“There are so many yachts in marinas here that don't go anywhere.”
Mr Charles said for the last two days of the race the Boussole was shadowed by the Chaconne, the yacht that finished second.
“I got sick of the sight of it,” he said.
The final run to the finish line took the yachts five miles up a river, where the Chaconne made its move.
“He nearly pipped us on the final approach to the line,” Mr Charles said.
“He went out into the middle of the river and we decided to hug the coastline,” he said.
Mr Charles said the Ambonese people put on a fantastic reception for the 16 competitors in the race.
“There were heaps of dinners and tours,” he said. Mr Charles, who was originally from the south-west of England, came to Australia in 1967.
He has sailed 40,000 miles single-handed, and he also delivers yachts to other countries.
His next task is delivering a yacht to New Zealand for the owner, a trip he estimates will take about 10 days.
“The owner has been talking about coming along himself or getting another crew member, but I'm happy to do it on my own,” he said.
Back in 1987 Mr Charles was sailing from the UK to Australia when he was boarded by pirates near Sumatra.
“They stripped the boat of everything and stabbed me in both legs,” he said.
“I was left to drift for four days before I was rescued by a freighter that took both me and my yacht on board.”
He has also been rescued at sea by an American freighter after his yacht started to break up in a heavy storm.