The sad news has reached us that Ben Castle died January 17, 2018 at Mona Vale, NSW after a long illness.
Ben was a major figure in the history of the Australian Sailfish Class Owners Association and an important figure in the history of sailing at Narrabeen Lakes in Sydney.
On April 24, 1967, the meeting to establish the NSW Division of the Australian Sailfish Association was held at Ben’s home on Collaroy Plateau. Ben was the powerhouse behind this new division. He became its first president and publicity officer. He was also a key figure in the re-activation of Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club (NLSC), which occurred at the same time as the formation of the NSW Sailfish Division. The Australian Sailfish was the class of boat around which the club was re-formed.
Ben subsequently organised and competed in the first National Sailfish Titles to be conducted on Narrabeen Lakes. That was in 1969/70, and he competed on his home-built Sailfish, “Gus”, sail number 1414. He also organised the following two National Titles sailed on Narrabeen Lakes, and was an advisor to the Race Committee for the titles after that, in 1975/76.
Ben was president of Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club from 1967 to 1972. In 1968, Ben was one of a number of members who loaned the monies to purchase the old Green Boatshed on The Esplanade, Narrabeen, which subsequently served for many years as the storage facility for start/rescue craft, equipment and a few member boats. Ben also contributed to the lobbying of Warringah Shire Council for approval and funds for the building of the current clubhouse. For his services to Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club, Ben, in 1970, was awarded a Life Membership.
Ben’s interest in competitive sailing extended well beyond Sailfish however. He raced in 16 ft Skiffs, Fireballs, VJ’s, Moths, and keelboats in the Junior Off-Shore Group (JOG). He served as Chairman of the unlikely sounding Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club Offshore Division, which competed in a series run by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in the early 1970’s.
Ben was a Health and Building Inspector with the Warringah Shire Council. With his friend, Noel Hall, he formed the Warringah Shire Council Sailing School in 1978. It ran from Jamieson Park, the home of NLSC, up until 1996. Ben was Principal Instructor. He employed a number of the now-ageing NSW Sailfish brigade as instructors over the years – many of us had the most wonderful summer holiday job for several years.
Ben Castle will be remembered by sailors in and beyond the Sailfish fraternity as an athletic, energetic and enthusiastic man, full of ideas and optimism and restless drive. Those of us associated with the Sailfish class generally, and with Narrabeen Lakes sailing specifically, owe him a very great deal.
It was an enormous privilege, therefore, to have Ben attend our NSW Class Reunion in April last year at Narrabeen Lakes, on the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the NSW Division. It gave us all great pleasure to welcome him and thank him, and his attendance that day is a major highlight of the Sailfish ‘revival’. We are very grateful to Ben’s partner, Marjorie, for her generosity in making the arrangements that allowed Ben to attend.
The Sailfish fraternity extends our condolences to Marjorie, and Ben’s wider family and friends, for their loss upon the death of Ben.
[The Australian Sailfish website gratefully acknowledges the research and documentation of the history of NSW Sailfish and Narrabeen Lakes Sailing Club by Ian Milton, and its value in preparing this post].