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Yachtsman Thorold (Thorry) Gunnersen AM passed away on
4 February 2018 at his home at Davey’s Bay, Port Phillip,
Victoria. He was 77 and well remembered as the owner/
skipper of Gumblossom and Tilting at Windmills.
Thorry came from a family of maritime heritage, with his
great grandfather Gunner Gunnersen a merchant sea captain who
sailed the Norway to Australia run and imported some of the
first Baltic timber into the country. Gunner settled in Australia
in the 1870s and established the family timber business in 1879
which the family continues to run to this day.
Thorry started sailing from an early age, joining Davey’s Bay
Yacht Club in the 1950s. He soon progressed to offshore cruising
with his father Harvey aboard the 36ft schooner Tah o e, providing
the first impetus of a passion for offshore sailing adventures
which he carried all his life.
Moving to the UK in the mid-1960s, Thorry purchased Trine in
1965, a 32ft Norwegian Troll class motorsailer which was cruised
with his first wife Sue and toddler daughters Sarah and Jenny.
Cruising included the Channel and inlets of western Europe,
including a cruise from Norway to Salcombe, UK.
Returning to Australia in the 1960s, Thorry joined the Royal
Brighton Yacht Club and was an active member with his new
boat Cimba II, a 25ft Top Hat sloop which he cruised in the Bay
and Bass Strait. At the club, a lifelong friendship was struck with
Professor Peter Joubert, who introduced Thorry to racing and
mentored him in its technical aspects.
Thorry crewed with the Professor on many offshore racing
campaigns, including five Sydney Hobart races aboard Billabong
in the 1970s and 1980s.
Thorry went on to purchase the Joubert designed Currawong
30 Gumblossom in 1988 and went on to campaign her in regattas
around Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including
tightly fought Sydney Hobart division races with sister-ship Zeus
II. Gumblossom was cruised across the Tasman to New Zealand
in 1990, with Thorry subsequently awarded RBYC’s inaugural
cruising yachtsman of the year.
In the early 1990s, Thorry commenced the commissioning
of the one-off John Dory 42 sloop Tilting at Windmills. Designed
for Thorry by Professor Joubert, her development included two
remote control scale models raced on Albert Park lake as design
elements were tweaked.
Thorry went on to campaign Windmills in numerous Sydney-
Hobart and Melbourne-Hobart yacht races between 1994 and
2015, the boat revelling in the strong winds and large seaway
that often featured.
In the tempestuous 1998 Sydney-Hobart race, Thorry steered
Windmills through the storm-force sou’westerly and finished 2nd in
CHS division. The 2003 Sydney-Hobart was one of Thorry’s racing
highlights, with a 2nd Overall (IMS) placing. The race featured a
blistering spinnaker run off Tasmania’s east coast, with valuable
gains as Windmills held steady with storm kite running before a
35-40 knot northerly.
A racing schedule was mixed with extensive cruising, including
the Pacific Islands, the Great Australian Bight and twice to New
Zealand in 2000 and 2003 for the Americas Cup. Cruising in New
Zealand included Bay of Islands, Queen Charlotte Sounds, and a
circumnavigation of the South Island which featured Fjordland
and Stewart Island.
Cruising in Europe followed in 2007-2010, including the
Baltic east to St Petersburg, the UK and the Scotland Hebrides,
Sweden and Norway. His Norwegian cruise of 2009 took Windmills
north along the western Fjord coast and into the Arctic Circle to
Tromso at 70̊ North. For this cruise, which spanned four months
and almost 4,000nm, Thorry was awarded the Royal Cruising
Club’s ‘Romola Cup’ in 2009 for most outstanding cruise of any
duration. In its 100th year, it was the first time the cup had been
awarded to an Australian yachtsman.
Through his sailing life, Thorry developed many friendships
in the sailing community, with hospitality by new and old friends
extended during his voyaging to the various ports of call in
Australia, Pacific Islands, NZ and Europe. He was an active member
of many yacht clubs, with participation in events variously held
by Royal Cruising Club (UK), Royal Brighton YC, Sandringham
YC, Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, Davey’s Bay YC, Cruising
Yacht Club of Australia and Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club. He
was held in great respect and affection by his crew, with crew
tenure generally spanning several years and, in some instances
20 to 30-plus years.
Crew were given invaluable experience in all aspects of yacht
management, being handed responsibilities in preparation,
administration, victualling, weather and navigation, whilst Thorry
oversaw a great attention to detail and fastidious maintenance of
his boats. He willingly imparted his knowledge and experience in
racing and cruising strategy, sail trim, helming and heavy weather
tactics. He will be sorely missed, with condolences to wife Joanne,
sister Helen, children Sarah, Jenny, Nils, Lissa and Sverre, and
his twelve grandchildren. Thorry has made his last sail change.
h John Alexander & Andrew Roberts
THORRY GUNNERSEN AM
29/11/1940 – 4/2/2018
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