SAIL AWAY: Melinda Henshaw and Robert Dickson.
SAIL AWAY: Melinda Henshaw and Robert Dickson. DEIRDRE SMITH

Low water but it's plain sailing

OLYMPIC contenders aren't usually concerned with drought but Robert Dickson was shocked when he looked at the dam where he raced in the 1984 Olympic kayak qualifying trials.

"It's the lowest I've seen, " he said.

"You wouldn't get eight lanes in there now.”

His partner, Melinda Henshaw was testing our her inflatable yacht on Storm King dam and she was equally concerned.

The wind played nice and there was enough water underneath, "but I hope I don't run over a fence”. Mr Dickson's family property is at Wylie Creek and the cattle are now being hand fed. The farm used to have a fattening paddock at Tenterfield, "but you wouldn't fatten anything there now”.

Unlike Mr Dickson, who admits that he "rowed the worst I ever rowed, the day the family was here to watch me”, Ms Henshaw did qualify for the Olympics and competed for New Zealand in the 470 sailing class in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Mr Dickson worked as a lifesaver on the Gold Coast and the pair met at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show.

Now a long way from the sea, the pair have become agents for Tiwal inflatable yachts. A French design, the yacht fits into the hatchback of a car and can be inflated and ready to sail in 20 minutes.

Once inflated, it measures 2.8 metres long, equivalent to many popular one-handed or training dingies.

The mast, boom and even the trailer are all collapsible, meaning that the yacht can be launched single-handedly.

There are no medals at stake but as Ms Henshaw catches the breeze on Storm King she looks just as happy as if it were Sydney Harbour.

Gaining selection for the 2000 event was the result of a three-year campaign that involved 'a lot of time and a lot of passion'.

"Sailing was never a simple sport,” she said.

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