Lasting legacy of a sailing stalwart
Jack Baxter’s life was full of sailing. America’s Cup and Sydney to Hobart campaigns were highlights among so many international and national regattas and off-shore races. His passion and influence will long be remembered. On March 4, Mr Baxter passed away peacefully aged 79 surrounded by family.
In 2012, Colin “Scruffo” Edwards paid tribute to the sailing career of the man who put the Princess Royal Sailing Club on the map.
The Princess Royal Sailing Club crew didn’t know it at the time, but when Jack Baxter came to Albany in 1960, they were to get a stalwart of great proportions.
Baxter, a schoolteacher at the time, had an insatiable appetite for all things sea, and the local club was to enjoy his involvement for some 45 years.
His early sailing at the club was with former Katanning farmer Laurie Caldwell on his boat, Fleetwing.
This combination lasted some 13 years before Baxter met another total sailing enthusiast in local Terry Bridge.
It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the pair in a yacht named Mistress. The boat itself was made from pine wood salvaged when the historic Freemasons Hotel on Stirling Terrace was demolished.
The pair raced in eight Fremantle to Albany yacht races, winning three and placing in most of the others. Boat-building was a skill of the pair, which came to light when they built the Sidewalk Cafe.
They were successful, again winning three more Fremantle to Albany races, but the lure of the Sydney-to-Hobart ocean classic surfaced quickly. It was a case of sailing the boat from Albany to Sydney and then taking part in the big race in 1991, when they finished second in their division, before sailing home to Albany.
Perhaps for Baxter, his involvement in the Alan Bond challenge, in his mission to win the America’s Cup, was a great highlight.
After serving as a navigator in early races, Baxter missed out in the eventual success of Bond’s epic achievement with Australia II.
Baxter learnt plenty about tactics and general sailing skills on Bond’s boats and when he returned to Albany, he passed on plenty of experience to budding sailors at the Princess Royal club.
Before he joined forces with Bridge, Baxter got the chance of sailing the Sydney to Hobart in a yacht called Ondine.
Ondine took line honours and was 12th overall on handicap.
Perth yachtsman Peter Briggs took Baxter onboard in one challenge in the Sardinia Cup, as navigator, and later on in his career, he competed in the Cupper Cup on Freight Train in Hawaii.
By this time, Baxter’s skills in all facets of sailing had made him a most sought after crew member for races worldwide. It was Baxter’s idea in 1991 to have the best of Australian skippers compete in the initial Masters Regatta.
In his time in Albany, Baxter was vice-president of the Great Southern Tourism Association and executive officer of the Maritime Heritage Association.
He left the city for Fremantle in 2004. He was farewelled at a funeral service in Fremantle on Wednesday.
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