The Kulmar family, 1976 champions JJ Giltinan

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18ft single sculls: the Kulmar family, 1976 champions JJ Giltinan

by Frank Quealey Jun 10, 2020 11:09 PM PDT

The Kulmar family – From left to right, Paul Ziems, Paul Kulmar, the late Les Kulmar, Stephen Kulmar in the garage under the Kulmar family house (2014) © Frank Quealey

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The Kulmar family – Stephen Kulmar with the Giltinan Trophy after Miles Furniture’s victory in 1976 © Frank Quealey

The Kulmar family – The Miles Furniture winner after JJ’s victory in 1976 © Frank Quealey

The 128 year history of Australia’s 18 Footers is famous for having generations of a family competing for many years. Sometimes even two generations are competing together or against each other at the same time.

What sets the Kulmar family apart from the traditional ‘family’ involvement is their unique achievement at the 1976 JJ Giltinan World Championship when their single scull, Miles Furniture, won the title in Sydney Harbor.

Miles Furniture was designed by the Kulmar and built by the late Les Kulmar (Sr.), with the help of brothers Stephen and Paul Kulmar, in the garage under the family home. Stephen Kulmar was the skipper, Paul Kulmar was at the front and their brother-in-law Paul Ziems completed the team as an assistant.

The path to the 18s for Stephen and Paul Kulmar was typical for young sailors. They started at Sabots, moved on to Manly Juniors, then Flying Elevens (season 1966-67) before Stephen later moved on to 12ft Skiffs while Paul opted to stay in the Flying Elevens.

The 12ft Skiffs in the 1970s were extremely numerous and talented, but the Kulmars managed to reach the top.

According to Stephen Kulmar, “During the four seasons of the 1970-71 season we designed, built, rigged, modified and sailed a new 12ft Skiff. We were encouraged to explore new concepts, but this is that in 1973-74 season, when we took a completely drastic approach with a tiny little deep V point and glue design (which we built in a weekend) that we really broke through. ”

Despite the presence of contenders like John Winning, Iain Murray, Michael Coxon and Rob Brown, the Kulmars have won all major titles. Stephen recalls: “Vagabond was unbeatable from the start, winning the NSW (Sydney Harbor), Inter-Dominion (Auckland Harbor) and Nationals on the Parramatta River, all in one season.”

No wonder the Kulmars decide to move into the 18 the following season.

Stephen explains: “We decided to switch to 18 Footers and try our luck in the ‘big league’. Paul Ziems, our brother-in-law joined us after a successful career in 16 Footers.”

“We were able to find a sponsor who supported us wonderfully, Laurie Miles of Miles Furniture, who was a port resident and loved following us all the way on her motorboat. Miles Furniture was a family business, and the synergies and culture were very much compatible with the value of the Kulmar family. ”

“Another important member of our team was acclaimed surf photographer and Miles Furniture advertising director Jack Eden, who took on the additional role of covering the 18 footer during this boom time.”

“Our first Miles Furniture was an attempt to improve our thinking, incorporating the deep idea of ​​V Vagabond stitching and glue into an 18 footer. We also added an aluminum frame for structural support which included fenders. external. ”

“We re-built the hull at home in the garage, and rigged it out on the front lawn (avoiding telegraph lines) as we did with all of our boats. We also continued to work with Bruce Hewish. , our 12 Footers sailboat. ”

“Our first attempt was not good. The boat was too small and lacked power below 15 knots, but our sponsors were happy with our efforts and ready to go.

The climax of the team’s 18-foot career came only after finely-planned design and then continued development throughout the 1975-76 season.

“To compete and win we had to rethink and take a more scalable approach to match the Bruce Farr designed KB, which was superbly driven by the great Dave Porter.”

“We thought we could do better with a slightly smaller, lighter, flatter boat. We spent the winter months in the home workshop garage, designing and building our second Miles Furniture. ”

The fair reward for the careful planning, construction and continued development of the boat was a victory at the 1976 JJ Giltinan World Championship in Sydney Harbor, when the Miles Furniture team defeated defending champion Dave Porter, in KB .

The regatta was held in light winds most racing days and defending champion Dave Porter started off impressively in KB with a 2m victory over Miles Furniture in race one. Although not known for her abilities in very light winds, Miles Furniture fought back with two wins in the next three races and launched into the final race not needing to finish worse than a place behind KB to win the championship.

A large crowd watched the final race and they weren’t disappointed as Miles Furniture and KB had a great battle throughout. David Griffiths’ Ansett Airlines narrowly won the race, ahead of Miles Furniture, but his second place was enough to give the Miles Furniture team the championship victory.

It was a wonderful effort for the team, who also won 4 of 5 rounds, to win the Australian Championship on the Brisbane River one month away from the World Championships.

Stephen Kulmar points out, “the quality and quantity of the fleets we have sailed in were full of talent with brothers McDell and Russell Bowler from New Zealand, as well as Dave Porter, Mike Chapman and Dave Griffith pushing us into the Sydney fleet. . ”

“In all, the family designed and built five 18-footers, four 12-footers, a Flying Eleven and a Manly Junior, in the family garage workshop in Hunters Hill. We installed them all on the lawn of the family home, avoiding mom’s roses and overhead telegraph lines. ”

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