Travelling north on Still Dangerous with Ivor Burgess - Beneteau Oceanis 45

Ivor Burgess, quite simply put, is an inspiration to every sailor. He started sailing at 50 and now at 78 he and his crew are about to take Still Dangerous, his Beneteau Oceanis 45, on their seventh trip to the Whitsundays for both Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach Race Weeks.

Still Dangerous at any age

Still Dangerous at any age

Ivor is the elder statesman on the crew with the youngest being a sprightly 70. A keen rugby and squash player in his younger days, Ivor was searching for a sport he could participate in as he got older.

Ivor discovered sailing when a good friend took him along on a sailing trip to Tonga. He’s been totally hooked ever since.

“I went sailing a few times and I thought, ‘This is a great thing to do. It’s something that you could do at any age,’ and, of course, now I’m 78 and I’m still sailing and still enjoying it.”

But it’s not just the wind and water that Ivor loves – it’s the amazing friendships he has forged since becoming part of the sailing community.

“I really enjoy the sailing lifestyle. It’s a great thing because most of the guys that are on our boat are retired and we’re all together and it’s not just the sailing, it’s the social life that goes with it as well. We have team dinners and Christmas dinners. It’s a really nice, matey thing to do.”

This year’s trip

This year’s trip

Ivor and his crew like to take their time and enjoy the journey. This year’s trip north will take around three weeks, stopping each night along the way.

“We try and stop every night. I would say that 80% of the time we stop, we’re in the marina with restaurants and facilities and showers and toilets and things like that. The other 20% of the time, we stay somewhere, for want of a better word, in the wilderness.”

They will arrive in the Whitsundays in time for Airlie Beach Race Week and Hamilton Race Week in August.

“We’re very relaxed about it; we’re not looking for any dramas in our lives. We go when the weather is right and we take our time. The first question that everybody asks is, ‘How long is that going to take you?’ and our standard answer is, ‘as long as possible.’”

First stop

First stop

When Ivor says they take their time, he’s not joking. The first stop is The Basin, just an hour away from their berth at the RPAYC.

“Everybody laughs about this; our first stop is The Basin in Pittwater… we stop there and check all of our safety equipment, we check our life rafts … and we make sure everybody knows where everything is on the boat. We sit down there and we have a couple of wines and a nice dinner and get ourselves in the mood for sailing.”

The route

After The Basin, the real sailing begins. Ivor and crew plan their stops around the weather, good marinas and the best places to find fresh seafood. Some stops include extended stays at their favorite locations.

Stop 1

The Basin – Safety check and mental preparation.

Stop 2

Newcastle – seven-hour sail from Pittwater.

Stop 3

Port Stephens – dinner at the seafood restaurant on the marina owned by a brother of the crew.

Stop 4

Laurieton/Camden Haven – moor overnight on the river.

Stop 5

Trial Bay/Crowdy Head – anchor in the bay for protection from the winds. Another option is to sail straight to Port Macquarie.

Stop 6

Coffs Harbour

Stop 7

Yamba or Iluka

Stop 8

Southport – a couple of days’ break and planning.

Stop 9

Overnighter to Mooloolaba – important stop for a meal at The Spirit House and visit to the fish co-op.

Stop 10

Overnighter to Wide Bay Bar, Fraser Island. Moor at Garry’s Anchorage.

Stop 11

White Cliffs

Stop 12

Hervey Bay – a new stop added this year.

Stop 13

Bundaberg – good restaurant at the marina.

Stop 14

Pancake Creek – near Gladstone.

Stop 15

Yeppoon – try the banana beef at restaurant on marina at Roslyn Bay.

Stop 16

Pearl Bay – protected bay north of Port Clinton. Great for spotting marine life including dugongs, sharks and manta rays.

Stop 17

Percy Islands – choose an anchorage depending on the weather.

Stop 18

Mackay – great marina.

Stop 19

Hamilton Island/Airlie Beach

Preparation is key

Ivor chooses to outsource the maintenance work on Still Dangerous to get her ready for the big trip. He stresses that you need to start the process early to get everything done in time. “You have to plan months ahead because you may not be able to get the boat slipped if you haven’t booked at least two months prior.”

Ivor ensures the following areas of his boat are thoroughly checked:
1. Rigging – mast, lines, halyards, stays.
2. General service – including lights and system checks.
3. Engine service.
4. Antifouling, rudder check, anodes changed and underside of boat inspected.
5. Safety equipment service– Ivor recommends Cat3 for coastal cruising.

Gourmet Sailing

Gourmet Sailing

Provisioning on Still Dangerous really is a gourmet affair. Ivor recommends provisioning for one week and then restocking as you travel up the coast. All of his crew are good cooks and each brings a signature dish they can prepare.

“We’ve all got our little specialties. We all make different things; all home-made. We don’t buy the prepared ones, we make them ourselves and freeze them.”

The menu is wonderfully varied from Osso Bucco to seafood laksa and even home-made corned beef for sandwiches.

Still Dangerous vintage drop

Still Dangerous vintage drop

Wine is, of course, a very important provision. Ivor and crew stock ten cases for their trip. Six of these cases, sourced from their favorite Hunter Valley cellar doors, are printed with their own Still Dangerous label. But as Ivor points out, the wine isn’t just for the crew.

“On the way up, people are very kind to us and help us out if we have a problem … it’s nice if we can give them a token of our appreciation, a bottle from the boat. People really like it and it’s personal to them when it’s got a picture of our boat on it.”

Plus there’s one other advantage … extra kudos, “We always like to get one up on other boats. When we go to another boat for drinks, we always take our own personalized wine. They look at us with amazement!” Ivor laughs.

Creature comforts

Creature comforts

As Ivor points out, when traveling north you are close to the coast and never far from good food and restaurants.

He does include a few creature comforts that are a must for the trip:

  • Cushions for the cockpit – for your back and to sit on.
  • Warm bedding – so you’re comfortable and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Sun protection – preferably a Bimini.
  • Liqueur coffee – a special treat and like the wine, only drunk after the day’s sailing.

Race Weeks

The Whitsundays winter race season offers several different race weeks, all in stunning locations. As a seasoned contender, Ivor points out that each event has its own distinct personality. “They’re all good, but they’re all different,” he says and cautions, “by the end of it you’re exhausted, not necessarily from all the sailing!”



Hamilton Island Race Week, or Hammo as the regulars call it, is the event on every sailor’s bucket list. It’s a glamorous event that Ivor likens to our very own little Riviera.

“I would say that one word for Hamilton Island race week is glamorous. Everything is laid on there for you. It’s beautiful; they have the fashion shows, the welcome cocktail party … it’s an incredible social event.

The racing is also very intense and very good as well … you get bigger boats there because you’re not going around buoys, you’re going around islands.”

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach

Ivor says some may disagree, but for him, Airlie Beach Race Week is for the pure sailor – it offers great racing and wonderfully warm hospitality.

“Airlie Beach is a great town to be in; it’s very welcoming when you go out there for race week. It’s very good racing – you get some very interesting racing.”

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island Race Week is a three-day sail from Hamilton Island, just off the coast from Townsville.

Ivor says this event stands out for the pure natural beauty of the surroundings and the incredible hospitality.

“The people are so welcoming … they do a barbecue on the way up to Magnetic Island, where there’s an overnight stop … Townsville Yacht Club invites all the skippers and their wives for dinner and they send a ferry over for them. They’re very welcoming.”

And then, there are the unforgettable encounters with the locals …

“We were racing around Magnetic Island on a very windy day … it was blowing 23, 24 knots … we were heading for the island and we look and we’ve got whales on the left, like 20 meters away. Somebody says, ‘Look there,’ 20 meters on the right, we’ve got whales. We’re going about 7 or 8 knots, powering away straight for the island with whales on the left and whales on the right. So we decided to go to the left and luckily, the whales just disappeared under the water. We waited for the bumps, but we didn’t get one.”

Handling a 45-footer

Handling a 45-footer

Ivor had several boats before choosing his current Beneteau Oceanis 45. He’d had his eye on a 45-footer for some time before he finally took the plunge and upgraded from his 42-foot yacht.

Initially, Ivor and his crew were nervous about the step-up in size; they didn’t think they could physically manage a larger boat that required them to climb the boom to chuck away sails or jump from the deck to the wharf when the stern was dropped.

It was a discussion with Flagstaff Marine’s Shane Crookshanks that led Ivor to the solution to his problems – the Oceanis 45 – customised to his requirements.

“We talked to Shane and we said we’d really like to buy a 45. One of the motivating factors was that it was going to have three cabins and the other motivating factor was me, as the owner. It was probably going to be my last boat and I just wanted to have a good profile I suppose,” Ivor laughs.

Shane’s solved the problem of climbing the boom to pack away the sails by fitting a self-furling sail – automating the whole process.

Ivor’s other concern was getting on and off the boat …

“We were a bit worried about having to jump off the side of the boat; it was a bit high for us.

Shane came up with a different back to the boat … a bit more like a Beneteau Sense, where your platform lifts up either side and we just walk off… For us, at our time of life, that suits us perfectly.”

Ivor now has a yacht perfectly suited to his requirements – it’s comfortable, safe and stylish. There was just one more concern – would it be fast enough?

Choose the right race for you…

Choose the right race for you…

“We were a little bit worried about whether the boat would be fast enough,” says Ivor.

“Six years ago, in our old 42-footer, we were beating the 45s in some of the races on the stretch that we were racing in.”

As it turned out, Ivor and his crew didn’t have to worry. “The first year, we won the non-spinnaker division at Hamilton Island in that particular boat, the 45,” Ivor says proudly.

Ivor also points out that it is important to enter the right division of race so the sailing is enjoyable. “At our age, we have to go into non-spinnaker, which is, by the way, a pretty competitive division.

The reason we go into non-spinnaker now is we tend to be much more relaxed about sailing. We used to do spinnakers and things like that but one day we saw these people going past … they had a glass of wine in their hand, they were sitting back and the boat was sailing along beautifully and they all looked relaxed and happy. They told us they were in the non-spinnaker division … and we said ‘that’s for us.’”

Tips for first timers

Tips for first timers

Ivor has invaluable advice for sailors planning their first trip north:

Break up the journey …

“Take your time and do it in little bits. Just do it in 24-hour pieces.”

Keep planning …

“We never leave port until we know we can get into the next port safely. So you don’t leave where you are until you’re sure you can get safely into the next place you’re going to.”

Only go when you’re ready …

“If you’re not ready, you don’t go. You don’t arrange to meet people on the way because it all depends on the weather. Don’t stress yourself out by being on a time limit. That would be the worst thing you could do because then you take risks and you go when you shouldn’t go.”

Watch the weather …

“We try not to go out in rough weather. We try to go when the wind is behind us or at the side of us … 25 knots would be the maximum behind us, not more than that.”

And always remember …
“It’s supposed to be a pleasure, so you don’t stress yourself out. It’s a wonderful thing to do. We never get tired of it.”

Please contact us for more information on the Beneteau Oceanis range, and see our other boat owner stories.