Easily three race days a week race officer Steve Kidson is perched in the driver’s seat of Offshore. He’s one of the CYCA’s key volunteers.
Steve’s the commanding voice on the VHF when it comes time for crews to focus on the race start and leads a small team on Offshore’s aft deck as they carry out each step of the race start and then finish tasks.
Meet the 58-year-old ocean racer who thrives on delivering a quality experience for CYCA sailors, each and every race day.
Why this role?
As I had been out of sailing for a while and wanted to get back involved, I started volunteering about 15 years ago.
I didn’t know anything about race management when I started; I started by just picking it up as I went along.
I was enjoying doing it, so I decided to do a race officer course with Denis Thompson.
What are your skills?
I am an accredited National Race Officer.
You can learn the rules in the classroom, but really learning the craft of a race officer, you have to be out on the water.
Good eyesight is needed so you read sail numbers!
You need to have an eye for the weather and pick up changes.
Also good people skills are needed to be able to manage a team and talk to the competitors.
It’s a mixture of technical and people skills.
My skills have taken him to Hamilton Island Race Week for the last 10 years, the Festival of Sails in Geelong, Sail Port Stephens and a number of other smaller events around the Harbour.
What skills does your team need?
I am lucky at the CYCA that the people I work with are experienced and have been together for some time, so we know what each other’s jobs are.
It’s good to have people like that so all I have to worry about is running the race.
There’s a lot of paperwork so people who can deal with detail are good as there is a lot that goes into running a race including cross-checking and making sure all boats are accounted for and you know where they are.
How do you support new team members?
We throw them in the deep end and see how they go! No, really, we put them with someone who is experienced and can run through the different processes.
We’re not out here for sight-seeing; we run races.
On the lighter side, there is plenty of camaraderie and we get to share some jokes and spend quality time with fellow race officials.
Sometimes we have vigorous debates about the rules of sailing or politics or current events.
When did you start sailing?
I started sailing when I was maybe eight or nine. I learnt to sail on a Sabot on Lake Macquarie with my cousin. It was just for fun.
My uncle bought the boat; he thought it was a good idea for us to learn to sail, and we did.
Are you also racing?
When I came back to racing I started with on Shaaron Walsh’s boat Trim, then sailed on a few other boats.
Currently, and for the last about five years, I have been the navigator on St Jude.
I like to think I bring something extra to the St Jude campaign as a result of what I do here. And, competing at that level, I think, that helps me being a race officer.
What is your profession?
I own my own cabinetmaking and joinery business.
You know, there’s nothing better than being out on Sydney Harbour on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
By Tracey Johnstone