Yachtsman and adventurer Mick Morris circumnavigated the world

Won the Scandinavian Gold Cup: Mick Morris.
MICK MORRIS, 1924-2014 Mick Morris was best known as an Australian yachtsman and adventurer with a larrikin wit. In 1947, when he joined Jack Earl on Earl's yacht Kathleen Gillett, the team embarked on one of greatest yachting adventures of the time, achieving the second global circumnavigation in Australian maritime history. In the following three decades, Morris emerged as one of the most successful yachting helmsman in ocean racing, who twice won the prestigious Scandinavian Gold Cup for Australia in the 5.5-metre class keelboats, during the halcyon years of Australian yachting. Lyell Mclean Morris, always called Mick, was born on February 13, 1924, in Ashfield, son of Horace Morris and his wife, Olive (nee Korff, descended from the family after which Coffs Harbour is named). The family moved to the country town of Barraba for a few years during his childhood but it was not until they returned to Sydney, and settled in Huntleys Point, that Morris' passion for sailing was awakened. As a 16-year-old school leaver, he joined the river sailing club and advanced quickly to win the club championship in 1940.
Passion for sailing: Mick Morris enlisted as crew on Norman Hudson's big gaff schooner Mistral.
When World War II spread into the Asia-Pacific region, Morris was eager to enlist but, since he was still underage, he worked for a year as a legal clerk before joining the army in late 1941. Once enlisted, his maritime skills were soon discovered and he was transferred to the Army Water Transport Unit at Chowder Bay. After basic training, he was deployed into the Pacific and put in sole charge of running a fleet of sailing luggers, with supplies, up and down the treacherous south-east coast of New Guinea, to provision the Australian and American units that were fighting desperate battles at the eastern end of the Kokoda Track. In his personal notes, Morris recalled that his vessels were constantly bombarded by enemy fire when approaching the coastline, often requiring him to steer the boat with one hand and return fire with the other. He noted that once, in retaliation, he even had the "satisfaction of shooting down a Nakajima bomber". By all accounts, it honed his skills as a helmsman and gave him a heady taste for adventure. At war's end, Morris returned back home to his job as a clerk and was soon after reunited with Phyllis Finn, his childhood sweetheart from Huntleys Point, who had grown into a "flame-haired beauty" and had distinguished herself as a graded tennis player during his five-year absence.
Eighteen-month voyage: Jack Earl's double-ended ketch Kathleen Gillett.
Despite his return to the stability of post-war Australia, Morris' sense of adventure drew him to enlist as crew on Norman Hudson's big gaff schooner Mistral in the second Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 1946. Barely back from Hobart, Morris' budding romance with Phyllis was tested when he announced his intention to pack his kit and sail around the world with Earl, a famous maritime artist and founder of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, in Earl's double-ended ketch, Kathleen Gillett. The 18-month voyage started in June 1947 and offered adventures including meeting Errol Flynn in Jamaica, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, being piloted through the Panama Canal and sailing the glorious Tuamotu Archipelago of the South Pacific before their victorious homecoming in Sydney Harbour in December 1948 as the second Australian yacht and crew to have circumnavigated the globe. Once back, Morris hung up his wet weather gear and asked Phyllis to marry him. The couple spent the next decade on dry land raising their children, while Morris achieved his first successful ventures as a property developer.
Success at the helm: Mick Morris sailed Norman Rydge jnr's Koomooloo.
By the early 1960s, when Morris was ready to test his sea legs again, he joined the Sydney Yacht Squadron, where he sailed skiffs and Dragon-class keelboats with his three young sons. It was not until Morris teamed up with well-known yachtsman Gordon Ingate that he was steered towards the larger, 5.5-metre class keelboat. Between Ingate's vast experience and Morris' derring-do, they made a formidable team with the ideal skill set to take on international yachting events. In 1960, they narrowly missed being selected for the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 5.5-metre but, when Morris crewed for Ingate in 1969, they were selected to represent Australia in the Scandinavian Gold Cup and the 5.5-Metre World Championship in Ingate's yacht, Pam, which had to be shipped over to Norway especially for the races. Never one to let an opportunity pass by, Morris noted; "Pam was shipped on the scan line, chock-full of flagons of Hardys wines – a gigantic success in Scandinavia where grog is prohibitive in price." When Ingate and Morris sailed Pam down the Norwegian coast, with Ingate at the helm, Morris noticed the predicament they were in: "We were up against a field of 5.5s skippered by kings and crown princes, Olympic gold medallists and Americas Cup winners." But, despite the elite competition, they sailed Pam into the history books and bagged the prestigious Scandinavian Gold Cup for Australia, which earned them a place, as honoured guests, at the royal table of King Olav V of Norway with Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja. A few days later, the Pam team followed up with a respectable fourth place in the World 5.5 Championships, held off the Swedish coast. Still in high spirits, Morris left Sweden and headed for Britain, where the Admiral's Cup trials were in progress at Cowes. His entry into the gilt-edged world of large ocean racing yachts began when Norman Rydge jnr, the commodore of the CYCA, asked Morris to helm his 43-foot yacht in the trials, and again in 1971, aboard Rydge's Koomooloo. This time, Morris's success at the helm landed Koomooloo in the first three, within sight of the Admiral's Cup, until the rudder blade broke during the 978-kilometre Fastnet Race, only 80 kilometres from the finish, and forced the Australian team back into third place overall, behind Britain and the US. Morris was disappointed but undeterred and, by 1973, he had turned his focus back to his specialty, the 5.5s, and took the bronze medal at the helm of Ron McLean's Antares, in the world championships in Sweden. In 1975, Morris reached the pinnacle of his international yachting career when he won the Scandinavian Gold Cup in Antares and followed it up with a stellar performance at the world championships at Neuchatel. "It was a great trip," Morris said, "and the kids came as well, to both Sweden and Norway, where meeting kings and queens was a great excitement for them." In 1979, Morris challenged for the cup again in his own 5.5-metre, Robbie, but victory eluded him. Over the next decade, Morris sailed dragons and crewed in a few Sydney to Hobart Yacht races, often taking his sons and daughter with him, but his international yacht racing career was complete after being at the forefront of Australian yachting during three golden decades of Australian pre-eminence in the sport. In 1987, Morris moved to Queensland where he and Phyllis enjoyed visits from their family. He continued his many building and sailing projects well into his senior years. Mick Morris is survived by Phyllis, children Peter, Geoffrey, Michael and Vanessa, their spouses, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
SourceEve Kaufman, , 15th July, 2014
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