Peter Charles had followed the route many times before, and he enjoyed the 2011 Darwin (Australia) to Ambon (Indonesia) Race on Shady Lady, but he never could have guessed how quickly he was about to lose his precious 81-year-old boat.
When Charles arrived in Indonesia, he was delighted to accept a third prize in the cruising division on behalf of Shady Lady and his crew, Judy O’Donoghue and Mark Clancy. Things couldn’t have been better. They had followed the rhumb line through the Arafura Sea to the Indonesian island of Sermata, then through the Banda Sea, passing close to the Island of Damar, and on to Ambon.
The boat had had an impeccable history. In 1937 it won the Trans-Tasman and held the record for 12 years. It had also done a lot of Whitsunday rallies over the past 17 years, winning sometimes. However, the boat was new to Peter.
“I’ve only had the boat about a year and this will be my first major race on her,” he told race organizers before the start.
After enjoying Indonesia, the Shady Lady set off for the return journey to Darwin. Judy Donoghue was replaced by Catherine Clancy, Mark’s wife, for the trip back. All was going well for a couple of days until one morning Mark Clancy headed into the galley to make a coffee – only to find water gushing into the boat at an alarming rate.
Very quickly, the heartbreaking decision had to be made to abandon the yacht and, within 10 minutes, the three were in a dinghy watching Shady Lady sink.
“I couldn’t watch it,” Peter Charles told reporters later, “I looked away and, when I looked back up, she was gone.”
“After 81 years on top of the water,” he added wryly, “trust Peter Charles to lose it.”
It took just 30 minutes for the Shady Lady to sink into the depths of the ocean, 290 nautical miles north of Darwin.
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