All set for a classic time

Festival sets about restoring the fun

Visitors to this year's Classic & Wooden Boat Festival in Sydney will see maintenance work taking place on HM Bark Endeavour that would win the approval of Captain Cook himself.

The festival – which organisers say will be bigger and better than ever – will held at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, on the weekend of March 8 and 9.

Museum shipwrights will remove Endeavour's 24m mizzen mast (the aft mast) for a thorough overhaul on the wharf beside the vessel.

This will be the first time a complete mast has been removed from Endeavour since the beautifully crafted replica of Captain Cook's ship was launched in Fremantle WA in December 1993.

“It's a big job,” said Endeavour's Master, Captain Ross Mattson. “We'll have traditional sail-makers, riggers and shipwrights here, checking and repairing the various components, stripping the mast back to the wood and oiling it again.

“We know there's a small patch of wood rot. We'll cut this out and replace it with a specially selected matching piece of slow-growth oregon pine, just as they would have back in the 18th century. It'll be good as new.”

The Classic & Wooden Boat Festival will have all the usual colour, entertainment and fun of this biennial harbourside celebration, with a new accent on the restoration of wooden vessels.

Another feature will be the acclaimed 18-foot skiff Taipan that the youthful designer Ben Lexcen, then known as Bob Miller, designed and built at Brisbane's Norman Wright boatyard in 1959, when he was just 23.

Taipan has been beautifully restored in the past 12 months with funds contributed by Sydney's sailing community.

Lexcen, who would later become world famous as the designer of the mighty America's Cup winning yacht Australia II, made his skiff extraordinarily lightweight in design and construction and gave it centerboard and rudder endplates that anticipated Australia II's famous “winged keel”. Taipan blitzed its opposition, changing the shape of racing skiffs and dinghies in Australia forever.

Lexcen's skiff will be on display on the festival weekend, and the museum curator who co-ordinated its restoration, David Payne, will talk on how it was researched and the restoration accomplished.

The major part of the festival, again, will be more than 100 privately owned heritage vessels, from graceful yachts and streamlined speedboats to tugs and other workboats, many of them with their owners on board to talk about the history of their vessels, restoration, maintenance and the pure enjoyment of boating.

The non-stop entertainment program will include live music, a deckhand's line-throwing competition, children's activities and crafts and a festive marketplace with display of boating products on sale.

The festival will be held at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, March 8-9 from 9.30am to 5pm. Admission will be $18 adults, $9 children and concessions and $40 families. These special rates will allow visitors to see the festival and inspect the ships HMB Endeavour, tall ship James Craig, navy destroyer HMAS Vampire and submarine HMAS Onslow at a discounted price. For more information, p (02) 9298 3337 or visit

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