18ft single sculls: Queensland’s heyday

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18ft single sculls: Queensland’s heyday

by Frank Quealey Jul 25, 2020 10:56 PM PDT

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1949-1950 Australian champion Culex III (Lance Watts) and Myra Too at the 1951 Giltinan World Championship on Sydney Harbor – The Beautiful Days of Queensland © Frank Quealey

With the Brisbane 18 Footers’ Sailing Club celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020, now is a good time to reflect on the ‘golden days’ of Queensland 18 foot races when they made such a significant contribution to the development and development. sports achievements.

The designers, boat builders and sailors of the Queensland 18 Footer won more Australian Championships than the NSW teams had done until the late 1950s. The result of their ideas and innovations was no not only changed the style of the boats, but also forever shaped the future of Sydney 18 Footer racing.

A big statement, but one that is hard to deny.

Since the first official Australian Championship of the 1912-1913 season, competitors from Queensland have won 20 of the first 35 championships held up to and including the 1957-1958 regatta.

Since the original Mark Foy event in January 1892, there has been little or no change in the Big Boat Age, which lasted until the 1930s, but what followed in the first half of the decade is what changed the future of Sydney’s 18 foot racing scene. .

The first fifteen Australian championships were dominated by two skippers. Legendary NSW skipper Chris Webb won four official titles between 1914 and 1927. Colin Clark of Queensland won three between 1918 and 1923.

Things started to change in the early 1930s when Brisbane’s fleet began to shrink, as boat owners were reluctant to replace old boats with new ones, due to rising costs and the difficulty of maintain the large number of crew members needed to navigate them.

Queensland designers began to apply the principles of aerodynamics to boat building, which resulted in a radical new type of 18-Footer. The new boat, Aberdare, was a heelless skiff with a width of 7 feet and a depth of 2 feet. It had a lighter hull and smaller rig and carried a crew of 7-8 men, compared to the 12-13 required in larger boats.

Out of the wind, Aberdare produced great speed with the mainsail, hitting the jib, ringtail and leading spinnaker, and was so fast that it was quickly dubbed “The Galloping Ghost”. Skippered by Vic Vaughan, Aberdare won four consecutive Australian Championships between 1933-1934 and 1936-1937, and was a dominant figure in the 18-foot races.

The success of the new concept marked the beginning of the end for ‘big boats’, but when the Sydney Club (Sydney Flying Squadron) refused to register the new narrow beam boats for their local sailors, a group of those who wanted the new boats formed their own club, which was originally known as the NSW 18 Footers Sailing League (now known as the Australian 18 Footers League).

It was then that the future of Sydney 18 Footer racing changed forever.

Queensland began rebuilding its fleet after WWII, and in 1945 decided to race with 6ft boats. This time, the roles of the two Sydney clubs have been reversed. The League opposed this decision, but it was approved by the SFS. The first of these 6-foot searchlights, designed by Norman Wright and Lance Watts, began sailing in Brisbane in 1946.

These boats were cheaper to build, lighter than previous 7ft wide boats, only required a crew of 5-6 versus 7 or 8, and they were fast.

Eventually, Australia’s top three 18-foot clubs came together, but most of the new ideas and top contenders for the championship came from the designs and hangars of people such as Lance and Harold Watts and Norman Wright.

Wright saw the benefits of the ideas used on New Zealand champion Giltinan Intrigue and used them when he built the Jenny VI, which was a 3-layer molded hull. Jenny VI became Queensland’s first Giltinan Champion in 1956.

Chinese hulls were approved and in 1959 Norman Wright designed the first new 3-handed boat. The new boat was banned in Sydney but was allowed to compete in international and interstate competitions.

The Brisbane club wanted to build their fleet and asked Norman Wright to design a cheap and easy to build 18. Bob Miller (later known as Ben Lexcen) had a sail loft in the Wright hangar and a joint effort with Wright produced a whole new design.

The new boat, the Taipan, was a light ply chine, two-thirds decked, with a large genoa, interior rigging, no bowsprit, smaller sail area, designed for a crew of three, two of which were on the trapeze . She also had very flared tops and a narrow 4ft 3in beam on the spine. Taipan had a smaller rig (similar to that used on a Flying Dutchman class boat) and foldable spars.

Taipan immediately created drama when Miller took the boat to Auckland for the 1960 Giltinan Championship. The skiff was decked well beyond the allowable area at the time, so Miller was forced to do so. extensive reconstruction work before the start of the regatta, which reduced the deck by about fifty percent. Taipan became vulnerable in turbulent conditions and only finished fourth, which included two non-arrivals.

Despite the issues in Auckland, there was no doubt about the design, so Miller teamed up with Wright again to build an improved, lighter and stronger version. The new boat was called Venom.

The rules of the time had not changed. NSW clubs have maintained their ban on this type of boat, although it is still allowed to compete internationally. When Venom contested the Giltinan World Championship in 1961, she dominated the race and easily won the series, but sadly that was the last big impact the Queenslanders had on the 18-year-old.

Two-time 16ft Australian champion Neville Buckley won six straight Queensland Championships at TravelLodge-Queensland and was competitive in the very strong international fleet of the 1970s, but Bob Miller’s Venom in 1961 is still the last winner of the Queensland. at Australian or international level.

Now, four-time Australian 14ft single sculls champion David Hayter is leading a group of young sailors determined to put a name from Queensland back on the championship winners list.

As long as there are no restrictions at the Covid-19 border between New South Wales and Queensland, the Australian 18 Footers League will support a unique regatta that will take place in Brisbane on October 3-4.

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