The Ballarat Years

In the late seventies Ballarat became a real powerhouse of the Sailfish in Victoria; the following are Dan Flynn’s memories, including his memories of a real treasure to the class, our own Ray Cross . . . . .


I was recruited to a new Sailfish fleet starting at Lake Wendouree in about 1977.

Ray Cross, Chris Drury & Peter Coburn were the prime movers.

Early meetings to discuss the formation of a fleet were held in the upstairs ‘youth area’ of Ballarat YC.

A number of boats were built in the back shed of Ray’s mother’s house.

Ray was very generous. If anyone needed a new boat and had a few dollars for materials Ray would build one, everyone providing the labour.

This new fleet of ‘ironing boards’ with bendy masts and pumped up teenagers took Ballarat Yacht Club by storm. The hierarchy didn’t know what to do with us 🙂

As soon as the boats were built, launched and capsize drill practiced, we were ready for racing, wherever we could find it.

In 1980 a group of us headed to Lake Macquarie to take on the big guys from Narrabeen Lakes. There was Ray with a trailer on the back and a Sailfish on the roof of his Sandman panel van, plus Peter Coburn had a ute and Greg Barwick with four boats on a trailer on the back of his Gemini van.

The long trip was made listening to cassettes of Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues & Ronstadt…

The Ballarat boys did well, especially the 3 mentioned above. 

The absolute highlight of my sporting career to date was winning a heat on Lake Macquarie. It was a light shifty wind, well suited to my fibreglass ‘Ugg Boot’.

Regattas at Eppalock, Bolac, Cairn Curran & Learmonth  were fiercely competitive. At these and Parkdale we met the Carrolls, Ginnivans, DB & Rohan & Havachat 🙂

My brother Ron sailed Aardvark at these regattas and brother Peter sailed Stanley Crocodile.

Never was there such an affordable youth racing scow, with close racing and friendship accessible to ordinary kids like us. Well done Jack Carroll on a great design and class leadership !

Dan Flynn.


2 thoughts on “The Ballarat Years

  1. The descriptions by Dan (above) and Chris (below) of the generous contributions by Ray Cross to the Australian Sailfish are well made. Even to the New South Wales brigade, his importance as a mentor to the Victorian contingent at national titles was very evident.
    An abiding memory for competitors at the 1976-77 Lake Learmonth National Championships will be of Ray being struck in the face by a flailing boom shortly before one heat, being hastily patched up and then presenting for the start looking like a Rugby League second rower, with his head swathed by an encircling white bandage. In high winds which increased in strength throughout the race, Ray gave a heroic display of heavy weather sailing to come from behind to win the heat.


  2. From Chris Drury, some background to Dan’s recollections of sailing on Lake Wendouree . . . .

    The Sailfish story at Ballaarat YC picks up a few years before Dan’s time at the club. Back in 1971 I was watching the yacht racing on Lake Wendouree as a kid. I remember seeing two Sailfish sailing in the miscellaneous class. There was a purple boat named Impulse 2, and a white one called Piranha. As a 12 year old, I decided that a Sailfish was the boat that I wanted to sail.

    Piranha was the first Sailfish in Ballarat; its skipper, none other than a young Ray Cross. Impulse 2 disappeared and Ray left school and got a job in Melbourne where he continued to race. For the next couple of years there was no Sailfish activity at the club. Then, in November 1976 Ray turns up to say hello. He had On Target tied to the roof of his panel van. He had returned to Ballarat to get some practice on Lake Learmonth ahead of the Nationals. A few of us juniors at the club took an interest in the event and in particular Ray’s performances. It was that event that inspired the 1977 group of Ballarat youngsters. Ray was instrumental in getting the fleet together. Using his contacts in Melbourne he had 3 second hand Sailfish in Ballarat in time for the 1977 Lake Bolac Easter regatta. My performance is what Chris Cleary would describe as carnage. At the presentation they gave me a random prize but I am sure it was a sympathy prize.

    Over that winter Ray built Stanley Crocodile. This boat was going to be his big tilt at a championship. But instead of using the best gear for himself he lent it for a year to Peter Coburn. I think, for Ray, having some competitive club racing at Ballarat was more important than winning a championship. In the years between 1972 and 1976 Ray had picked up a lot of useful knowledge from the Melbourne boys and when he returned to join the Sailfish racing at Ballarat, he was always willing to share his experience.

    From there, the story of the class at Ballarat continues with Dan in the original post.


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