Around Tasmania on a Sailboard

By Musch, Rodney | American Cinematographer, July 1987 | Go to article overview

Around Tasmania on a Sailboard


Musch, Rodney, American Cinematographer


Armchair adventurers the world over will be able to watch nautical history being made on TV when three Australian sailboarders pitch their skills and powers of endurance against nature while circumnavigating Tasmania, Australia's smallest and only island state.

The two one-hour episodes were made by the Tasmanian Film Corporation, a small but aggressive firm staffed with enthusiastic filmmakers.

The 1200 kilometer sea voyage, which took 35 days to complete, was made by two men and one woman and often became a test of mental and physical endurance for both sailboarders and the film crew who accompanied them from start to finish.

Said Ian Shadbolt, the corporation's 29-year old manager: "When Ric Burnup walked into my office and announced that he wanted to circumnavigate Tasmania on a sailboard, I knew that the project had the potential to make a first-class international tourism and sports documentary as this feat had never been attempted before.

"Also the Bass Strait to the north and Tasmania's west coast have a reputation amongst sailors as being one of the worst stretches of water in the world. Fierce gales can spring up within a very short time."

Shadbolt suggested to Burnup, who lives in tropical Cairns, North Queensland, that he wanted more than one person in the film and one of them, preferably, to be a female. Burnup agreed and selected a sailboarding friend, Golly Walton, a fellow with whom he had sailboarded from Australia to New Guinea, and 14-year old Elise Warring, a Cairns fashion designer who had started sailboarding only-15 months before, but had already won several long distance races.

Shadbolt tried in the meantime to find major sponsors to finance the project, but to his surprise was met by a total lack of interest.

When it became clear that no major sponsors would be forthcoming, Shadbolt decided to take the gamble and go ahead with the project - making the Tasmanian Film Corporation the major sponsor.

His gamble is already paying off, as an Australian TV network has bought the two episodes which are being screened this year.

But watching two hours of sailboarding would glaze the eyes of even the most enthusiastic sailboarding nut, so the film also deals with a number of side issues such as historic locations and sites, convict ruins, sea fishing, and pleasure boating. There is an interview with a deckhand whose employer, an abalone diver, was taken by what is believed to be a Great White shark; a monster universally dreaded by abalone divers.

Filming the circumnavigation would require a cameraman who is an adventurous spirit, willing to temporarily shed most home comforts, and is a boating enthusiast, so that the film can be approached by him with an acute sense of appreciation. Without understanding and commitment from the film crew for the project the film could lack the edge to make it outstanding instead of just another documentary.

Cameraman Russell Galloway, who has been with the corporation for many years, was a natural choice, as he is a keen sailor and also has experience in scuba diving.

Sound recordist Julian Scott had not as much sailing experience but proved himself most capable during the whole project and production assistant Wendy Rimon's organizing talents were frequently severely tested. "The job would already have been complicated enough, considering the circumstances we had to work under, had we just concentrated on the filming," Galloway said. "As it turned out, the camera crew couldn't escape from becoming deeply involved in the logistics for the whole party.

"Especially on the west coast, when the going got really tough on a number of occasions, we ended up being navigators and had to carry out a whole range of support activities which were totally unrelated to filming but without which the film simply wouldn't have been made."

Wendy Rimon, who followed the party along the shore in a four wheel drive, was forever sending film back to the Tasmanian Film Corporation for processing and remembers ordering numerous drums of fuel for the two boats and lots of gear. …

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