Class History/Memories

Champion from NSW

One of the site moderators recalls an important influence in NSW Sailfish. You might also like to have a look at Peter’s story about his time in the early days of Sailfish in NSW in the following Comments . . . .

The photograph in the gallery of “Argone”, in beautiful trim, being sailed by Peter Chapman brings back memories. I’m pretty sure that image was taken during the 1969/70 National Titles held at Narrabeen Lakes.
In December 1969, my Australian Sailfish was in build. The president of my then club, Blue Mountains Sailing Club at Wentworth Falls Lake, NSW, suggested to my father and I that we should drive down to Narrabeen during the titles to check out the top boats. I have a photo, taken by my father, of Peter Chapman adjusting the rigging of “Argone” on the beach before a race. He was wearing the same Canterbury-Bankstown football jersey as in the photo in the gallery.
Peter Chapman was one of the first, if not THE first, in New South Wales to build and race a Sailfish. He sailed in the first Australian Sailfish National Titles at Elwood, Victoria in 1968/69, finishing third. He won the 1969/70 National Title at Narrabeen.
Peter then did not sail in another national championships until the 1972/73 series held at Cairn Curran. That series was my first ‘away’ regatta.I sailed as a junior. I was pretty shy and awestruck, but I remember him as being very approachable and friendly.
In those days, the juniors started five minutes after the Open event. I remember watching from behind some truly epic tactical battles between Peter, Rob Champion and Pat Carroll. Whilst we had some light days, that series was predominantly sailed in heavy winds. Peter broke a mast in one of the early races. I remember him cheerfully and relaxedly pop-rivetting fittings onto a new alloy mast he had somehow procured, working into the night to have it ready for the next day’s racing.
In those days I had pretty well no idea about mast bend control. I remember clearly after one race Peter wandered over to me on the beach and very generously and kindly chatted about problems that he had observed with the rig of my boat. His advice led to some immediate changes and immediate improvement. Subsequently, it led to a major re-positioning and re-angling of my diamond stays, an alteration that served me for my following five seasons in Sailfish.
Peter came third in that series at Cairn Curran. It was won by Rob Champion, with Pat Carroll second. He didn’t sail in any subsequent Sailfish titles, which was a great pity.

Chris Cleary

Peter Chapman, 1969-70 titles 001 (2) 2.jpg
Peter Chapman, Argone, Narrabeen Nationals, 1969/70. [By Ken Cleary, Narrabeen, 1969]
A few things to note:
Boats are rigging up on the North side of the lake next to Wakehurst Parkway; this is where the club was based at the time. Jamieson Park and Collaroy Plateau are in the background.
Sailfish 193 with the hand painted Z on the sail; no idea who that was.
June Bowles, Neil’s wife, and Evelyn Carroll behind Peter.

2 thoughts on “Class History/Memories

  1. Jeff Cole has written with details of his Australian Sailfish, boat number 1870. Jeff has been and is a stalwart of the Inverloch Classic Wooden Dinghy Regatta, attending not only with his Sailfish but also with his Iain Oughtred-designed MacGregor sailing canoe. We look forward to meeting him at next year’s regatta.

    1870 was home built by my cousin and I in around 1962/63 for use at his parents semi-permanent campsite at Blairgowrie. Next door site to the Cunninghams who were doing wing sail experiments for the Little Americas Cup so we did get some professional advice. Owing to a somewhat light weight centreboard case build it soon developed a leak after hitting too many sand bars and every 40 minutes or so we’d have to beach it or sink. My aunt though it a good idea as we couldn’t go too far from land.
    Having worked it’s way through nieces and nephews with a reduced sail I retrieved it and restored it in time for the 2014 regatta. The mast was in a mess but I still had the original numbered sail. Found a better mast and boom in my solicitors garage would you believe, his son had had one. Needed a part new top deck and some holes patched, New centreboard case fitted and for the first time since about 1964 it didn’t leak. Nose is an odd angular shape but I suppose it was in the drawings gleaned from a Popular Mechanics magazine.
    Before 2014 I hadn’t sailed it for over 30 years, and whilst I didn’t remember it being impossible to gybe, I did remember being regularly washed off the deck in any seaway at all.
    The last thing I ever expected was that the old boat (1870) would find a few companions. My front end is not orthodox it seems but as far as I remember it was as the drawings, which were not actual plans from the designers. Maybe that’s the reason.
    Jeff Cole


  2. To the moderators delight Peter replied to the October 26 post . . . . .

    Some NSW Sailfish history received from Peter Chapman

    I built Sailfish 733 in 1966 and sailed against Moths, 16 foot skiffs, even Ben Lexen’s Contender prototype on Middle Harbour, Sydney in 1967 taking 6 months to be able to consistently gybe without capsizing.
    I then heard that Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club was racing Sailfish so I joined and with my 6 month experience head start in tough Sydney Harbour conditions, I was pretty hard to beat but had some good tussles with Neil Bowles and Jimmy Birch. I won 2 State Titles and since my home built boat was a little heavy, I got 1440 professionally built and went to the 1968/69 Nationals at Elwood.
    Jack Carroll kindly allowed me to stay at his house where we had a great time and he passed on a lot of tips. I found Port Phillip a challenge after the Narrabeen Lakes on a strong day and could not sail as square downwind as the locals in high seas. In a race I won, I got a DNF for not going back far enough to restart so I finished 3rd overall. The following year the Nationals were held at Narrabeen.
    I got called up to National service and was due to be shipped to Vietnam in 1970 but got leave to sail in the 1969/70 National titles. A big contingent of Victorians came up including Jack Carroll and his son Brian. Local knowledge is an advantage so I won those Titles.
    After National Service I entered the Nationals at Cairn Curran Lake in 1972/73 after Jack Carroll kindly organised a boat for me to charter. I was having a good series until I had a high speed capsize downwind and broke the mast. After a frantic night of mast building, I started the next race and finished 3rd overall so I was happy with that.
    I have to thank Ian Milton who introduced me to this site and many thanks to the guys who have put all this together, great work. Ian Milton and his father built something like 8 Sailfish over the years and Ian competed for a number of years winning four Junior National titles between 1978 and 1981 and an Open National title in 1982/83. Ian has just finished restoring a Sailfish he got for a song to original pristine condition which I have seen and it brought back a lot of memories. I have to thank Chris Cleary for his kind comments in his article. I remember Chris as a keen Junior who showed a lot of promise and went on to realise that promise winning 3 National Titles. I rejoined Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club 4 years ago sailing a Laser so it is the circle of life to be sailing a skiff type boat on the same Lake I sailed a Sailfish nearly 50 years ago.



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