The 21st Annual Cock of the Rock won’t be the last
by Jane Grljusich
When the racing categories include “anything that floats”, you know you’re in for a good time, and that’s exactly how Fremantle’s infamous Cock of the Rock sailing race was started by Fremantle Sailing Club (FSC) member Matt Duff 21 years ago.
While it wasn’t my first time around Rottnest’s Phillip Rock for the annual event, held each year on the Sunday closest to April Fool’s Day, it was my most informative in preparing to write this article.
I absorbed all the details of the iconic race, even after the obligatory beer at the bar before setting off, one sheet to the wind.
IN THE BEGINNING
“The Cock of the Rock was started as a fun event for the heavy, slower, vintage, less competitive cruising yachts, including ferro cement, home-made, steel, wooden and small inexpensive family boats,” Matt told the Herald.
“Historically Saturday afternoon club racing Division 4 was for the aforementioned categories, but 20 years ago the Rear Commodore Sail wanted to lift the standard of the fleet and Division 4 became a sports boat category, the courses were set as windward-leeward, which didn’t suit the clunkers and bilge keelers, or the shoe string budgets boats, so the Cock of the Rock was conceived.”
And no-one is excluded.
“There is an exotic category for the fast, expensive, upper end, professionally-crewed, big-budget, carbon fibre, offshore glamour machines,” says Matt.
“There is also room for the 40 starters expected to compete in the Fremantle to Exmouth Race rally in early May.”
And they all turn out in droves for the “funnest” sailing race of the year.
In the annual Cock of the Rock there are only two official rules – you must go around Phillip Rock at some stage (you can start any time, some boats even leave early and have a nice stay at Rotto), and you must cross the finish line as close to 3pm as possible on the Sunday closest to 1 April (for the first time last year’s event had to be delayed to December due to COVID-19).
The experience of setting off on Matt Duff’s pride and joy, Salacious, a 55-foot Hartley Tahitian ferrocement boat that he hand built in 1979-83, just as the annual Commodore’s Cup (the highest echelon of sailing club’s across WA race each other inshore) was to begin, certainly sheeted home the purpose of the Cock of the Rock race.
Piling through the SNS 34s (34-foot Sparkman Stevensons – the same exotic craft sailed by solo circumnavigators Jon Sanders, David Dicks, and even the British Prime Minister Edward Heath to win the Sydney to Hobart in 1968) cotesting the Commodore’s Cup – in a five-tonne boat with a hull made out of chook wire, sand and concrete, we felt proud (crewing on the only ferrocement boat left at FSC, we knew we’d won our category already).
“The race represents the diversity of the club,” Matt said.
“We also support the Junior and Dinghy sections and our young sailors are so successful all of the WA Institute of Sport squad are members of FSC. Our dinghy sailors have competed in every Olympic Games for over 20 years, including Gold medalists Tessa Parkinson and Belinda Stowell. Representing Australia in Japan this year, they’ve already selected Matt Wearn, with likely inclusions Nia Jerwood and Monique DeVries set for Tokyo, but I digress.”
STRICTLY FOR FUN
Matt says the Cock of the Rock is strictly for fun and different from other sailing events.
“With everyone back at the same time we have a band and a party to celebrate regardless of the economic outcome. After all, we’re a not for profit (or loss) sporting club, so to avoid disappointment, we keep our expectations low,” he said.
“Achieving the finish time is all important, so to be at the line at the appropriate time after passing the small rock, appropriately christened and named Phillip, crew may be chucked overboard to ensure the 3pm deadline is achieved.”
And the scramble for the infamous annual Cock of the Rock t-shirt is a sight to behold – this year adorned with the words “riste den rompe fjaera” or “shake your tail feather” in Viking, they are collectables and as rare as hen’s teeth.
Last year’s peacock edition was a nod to Willem de Vlamingh who discovered Rottnest in 1696 and featured the Dutch words “gevangen tussen been rots en een harde pauw” (caught between a rock and a hard peacock) is much sought after. Previous years have featured bush chooks, spatchcocks (a tribute to 12 French journalists killed in the Charlie Hebdo shooting).
“This year is a willy wagtail, a family of which has taken up residence on the Sunset Deck at FSC, so the 21st Cock of the Rock is the Willy of the Rock,” Matt said.
“A t-shirt is presented to each competing boat sponsored by the generosity of friends and members whose logos appear on the back of the shirts.”
These include AB Inflatables, AETS, AGF Finance, Krazy Tees, Diverse Engineering, Vic Sail, Yachts West, NGT Logistics, Barter Holdings Marine Surveyors, Epic Civil and Saracen Gold mines.
“This year’s event was the 21st Cock of the Rock and it might be time the bird left its nest and stood on its own two feet, should anyone wish to take over ownership of the race – have I got the ship for you – Salacious – guaranteed first place-getter in the concrete division and I’ll even pay the GST.”
21st Cock of the Rock Starters
1 Salacious – Skipper Matt Duff
Winner of the ferrocement category
2 Sadiqi Ra
3 The Longboat
5 Flying Sorceress
6 Mean Feat
7 Giddy Up
10 Crazy Horse
13 Lil Ozy II – Skipper “Ozy” Osbourne
Winner of the power category
14 Even Star
15 Kondili (Disguised as “The Edge”)
18 Capella Star – Skipper Vickie
Winner of the steel category
24 Kind of Blue
27 Edwin Abbot Boat
29 Rock Lobster
31 Sea Wolf
33 Miss Saigon – Skippers Terry
and Louise Baker
Winner of the wood category
37 Southern Star – Skipper Noel Murphy
Winner of the exotic category
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