DAY JOB: At the biggest sewing machine in Australia sailor Andrew Landenberger designs and makes sails underneath his Grafton home.
DAY JOB: At the biggest sewing machine in Australia sailor Andrew Landenberger designs and makes sails underneath his Grafton home. Tim Howard

Smooth sailing: Olympian's winning return from surgery

SAILING: Olympic silver medalist Andrew Landenberger has made a successful return to sailing after injury, taking out the Laser division at the Big River Sailing Club's annual Single Hander Regatta for 2016.

Landenberger, who won a silver medal in the Tornado class at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta with Mitch Booth, has been recovering from a knee reconstruction.

"It's the first time I've been in a boat sailing for about three years," he said.

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Landenberger has also enjoyed success as a coach, most recently at the Rio Olympics, where he coached Lisa Darmanin and Jason Waterhouse to a silver medal in the new Nacra 17 Multihull division.

It was his role as coach that finally did for his knee, which he had managed with a brace for about 20 years.

"In the boat chasing the big catamarans off shore, you're doing about 30 knots and getting hurled about," he said. "You're banging your knee all the time.

"It got so painful I was not enjoying my sailing. Now it's pretty good, it's solid and I don't need the brace any more."

His son, Andrew, 16, also competing in the Laser division, has impressed his dad.

"He's got a real passion for it," Landenberger said. "He can really sail. Now I need to teach him how to race."

Club officials hailed the regatta a resounding success with 36 entries in four divisions.

Of these entries, 30 were travellers coming from as far as Drummoyne in Sydney and Wangi on the central coast of NSW.

Club publicity officer Lea Foster said many of these travellers have commented that they make this annual pilgrimage because they find Big River to be such a welcoming club.

Impulse sailor Keith Briers has said that while the sailing was great, the excellent food provided by Big River volunteers made the whole experience even more enjoyable.

The Northern Rivers threw some "curve balls" weather-wise, with conditions varying from lulls to squalls from the north-east throughout the three races on Saturday while Sunday started with little to no wind for the two morning races and built to a strong southerly for the two races following the lunch break.

Strong wind from the NE and S at Big River always makes for exciting sailing with sudden, gusty "bullets" catching sailors off guard and sometimes resulting in spectacular capsizes.

In the OK Dinghy division there was an epic battle for the highly coveted, perpetual Rum Bucket Trophy with Tim Davies snatching the prize this year.

In the Impulse division Mike Robinson came out on top.

Division 4 comprised a small "mixed bag" of Sabres and an RS Aero sailed by Jason Purcell who recovered from a couple of capsizes during Saturday's squalls to sail strong races on the Sunday and top this division.

Big River rallies again in two weeks for another great weekend of sailing with the Bridge to Breakers regatta (November 5 and 6), which is open to a wider range of dinghys, catamarans and yachts.

Expect more good food and great fun.

More details can be found on Big River Sailing Club's website and Facebook pages.