This unassuming trophy was first competed for at the end of the 1983-84 centreboard season in Laser dinghies loaned by the Laser fleet sailors, and is probably the most sort after centreboard trophy in the club. Look at the winner names and you can see where some of our gun sailors got their pedigree from.
The main instigator was Kendal Barry-Cotter, who wanted to give the parents/volunteers a chance to race each other. After negotiating the terms and getting agreement from the Laser fleet sailors, he dropped in the last condition; “You will need to supply a trophy”!
Not only had we poor, young Laser sailors agreed to loan our prized possessions, we had to supply an appropriate trophy. We had all thought the idea of seeing the parents out hiking and capsizing a great joke, so we decided the trophy had to be cheap, something that related to the club and a bit of fun.
After packing up our boats and enjoying a hot shower, some of the Laser sailors were rostered on to roll up the launching mat. As chance would have it, there was a bit of driftwood washed up on it and it was agreed that it would be an appropriate fun trophy. I agreed to dry it out, varnish it and make up a name plate from brass at work.
It turned out to be harder than I expected. After two days hanging in the garage it was still wet so desperate measures were called for. When Mum was out I put it in the oven for a few hours to dry out. I really should have kept a better eye on it as Mum wasn’t too impressed with the smell the next time see used her oven. Then it was given several coats of Dad’s prized two pot epoxy. Yes, more grief when Dad next went to paint his washboards, and there wasn’t enough epoxy but it was worth it. Then, I fitted the brass nameplate and it came up a treat. I’m not sure when the plinth was added, but thirty years later it still looks good as new.
So race day came around and when Kendall and the other fathers asked if we had the trophy, we said yes and we would present it after the race on the lawn. The scuttlebutt at the time said that Kendall and some fathers had been out practicing after work each night and were taking it a little bit too seriously. We all looked forward to presenting the “trophy” to the winner!
Part of the original agreement was that whilst the parent/volunteers took over our boats, we took over as the Race Officers for the race, supervised by one of the parents who were not competing. Everything was going to plan, the 5 minute gun fired, countdown to start gun, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and Kendall, in his enthusiasm was very close to the line, might be alright but maybe not, back to the countdown 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Gun, individual recall Kendall! Oops. We might have stuffed up the countdown, but it was great fun just to see Kendall have to return and restart way behind.
Despite his valiant effort to regain lost ground, Kendall finished second and Richard Links was first.
At the presentation, we uncovered the “Driftwood Trophy” for the first time and presented it to Richard. All on the lawn had a good laugh about the looks of the trophy and Kendall was heard to say he was glad he didn’t win, but it was all in fun because he kept trying until he won it a few years later.
After I finished racing Laser dinghies and started on keelboats and fleet racing, I was pleased to hear the “Driftwood Trophy” was still being raced for each year and glad that something that symbolised the “fun” component of our sport, still was relevant.
For a number of years, the history of the trophy and its maker was acknowledged in our trophy list as “Unknown Benefactor” and until recently, I was happy to leave it as such till I realised that by not owning up to my part in its history, I was not acknowledging its origins and the reason we all go sailing in the first place; that is to have FUN.