Meanwhile, in Wisconsin . . .

Where the weather is much cooler than it is in Australia right at the moment, what better way to spend your time than by building an Australian Sailfish. You can get a hint of the weather there by the snow shoes in the background of one of the photos.

Joe ordered his plans in mid November and isn’t wasting any time on it,

Deckplank down, frames on, keel on, bottom stringers drying. [By Joe Schena, Wisconsin, January 2019]
Bow detail. [By Joe Schena, Wisconsin, January 2019]

A new Cleary boat

Here’s some good news to help get us all ready for Inverloch, Chris has launched a new boat!

The new build is named Westerly, number 2218, and in what is now very much a Cleary tradition was launched at Wentworth Falls Lake this last week.

Westerly, Australian Sailfish 2218. [By Ian Watson, Wentworth Falls Lake, 19 January 2019]
Westerly, Australian Sailfish 2218. [By Ian Watson, Wentworth Falls Lake, 19 January 2019]

I for one am really looking forward to checking this one out.

An Essential Sailfish Gadget

From Chris Drury, October 6 2018:

 “Irreducible complexity is a term to describe a structure that performs a function but cannot be made any simpler or it will not work. Remove one single component from a mousetrap and it is no longer a mousetrap.

The Australian Sailfish is a sailing boat that could be described as irreducibly complex. It is a sailing boat that in many aspects can’t be made any simpler or it won’t work. So, this is not the class where one would expect to see novel gadgets. It is not the class to see many gadgets at all really. But when Sailfish are lined up along the beach, you can be sure that this gadget will be well represented. It’s probably not unique to the Sailfish class, but it doesn’t seem to be that common in other classes.

There is a reason why this gadget is so popular with Sailfish skippers. Picture being on your Sailfish in a stiff breeze and for one reason or another, the sail needs to come down. Try scrambling to the fore deck of the boat to untie the halyard and lower the sail. If you are lucky you can get half the job done before the boat capsizes and is completely upside down.  Then you have to finish the job feeling around beneath the boat. Or you climb on the centreboard. OK, the mast is now horizontal, so from the centreboard you lean forward to get to the halyard but then the bow goes under, you fall off and the boat is upside down again.

Our safety rules state that the sail must be able to be lowered from the deck. The circus described above is hardly compliant and is certainly no fun. Enter the gadget, drum roll please – Enter the quick release; there, wasn’t that worth the build up?

The quick release is a fastening device at the top of the mast with a chord or wire down to deck level. One tug on the chord and the head of the sail is free to come down, no more circus. This gadget is so simple that there is no need for any more words, just a few pictures. So here it is. The humble quick release.”

(The author of this article says he will not answer any questions about “the circus” for fear of self incrimination.)

Blowed if I Know 3456

IMG_4233.JPG        IMG_4234.JPG

IMG_4235 copy.jpg

So, enthused, ready to make your very own, not sure where to start? Read on, for the latest (??) from our March 1978 Australian Sailfish Newsletter!

“Here is a simple device invented some (many!) years ago by Peter Kilevics and used on many Sailfish since then. Read the steps and refer to the images below for clarification, I would recommend a dry fit first to test everything out.


  1. If you are using an aluminium mast, make up a wooden plug to fit into the top of the mast, slather with glue (epoxy or whatever) and fix in place. If using a wooden mast this step is not required.
  2. Cut a 6 mm (¼”) slot fore and aft in the top f the mast. This should be 25 mm (1”) deep at the front of the mast and 37 mm (1 ½”) deep at the back.
  3. Fashion an L shaped lever as shown from aluminium plate about 4 mm (3/16”) thick.
  4. Fit the lever in position with the long side sitting flush down the front of the mast. Drill a hole through the mast, the block plug and the lever and secure with suitable nut and bolt.
  5. Drill another hole in the mast about level with the lowest point of the lever. Make a loop in one end of a 150 mm (6”) long piece of stainless steel wire, push a bolt through the loop and the mast, bend the wire around front of the mast and lever. Twist the wire around the opposite end of the bolt and then secure with a nut.
  6. Run a length of cord, or wire, to the deck to use if required to release the sail.”

Here are two variations of the instructions above:

Stanley Crocodile 3330

Quick Release Engaged                                  & Released

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Jack’s Toy 3461

Quick Release Engaged                                  & Released

image-1.jpg          image.jpg

As you can see, the photos above show a version of the Peter Kilevics system. What is not immediately obvious is that the lever in the photos has a notch cut in the top to hold the shackle, or cord, or wire at the top of the sail and the system in the article has a slight dip in the section that sticks out the back of the mast for the same reason.

Another option for an aluminium mast:

The sail quick release on Super Trooper (3365) is basically a spring-loaded pin at the top of the mast that is connected to a cord running internally down the mast and out a small hole just above the base. When the cord is pulled the pin retracts releasing the shackle at the top of the sail.


For those with wooden masts who don’t want to cut them about, this variation from Ken O’Brien is worth checking out:

  1. For my quick release system I used a Wilchard Quick Release Snap Shackle, bought from Anchor Marine. It comes with a very short release line, which I removed, and then had trouble finding a fine rope to fit through the hole, so probably better to attach your rope to the one provided.
  2. The release line loops up through the top eyelet of the release shackle.
  3. Using this system, the quick release could be added without any modification to the mast, except for adding cleats at the base to hold the release line.
  4. One design consideration is that when the quick release is used, the release line should remain attached to the top of the mast, and not come down with the sail, when it would get tangled.
  5. Another consideration is that this snap block is very sensitive, and could release through mast flexing . To overcome this, I have attached a short length of shock cord along the release line, arranged so that the shock cord needs to be stretched before the release line operates. This takes a little bit of experimentation to get the pressure right.

Wooden Mast Step 1                                          Wooden Mast Step 3

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Wooden Mast Step 5


There you go, one of those things that you hope you never have to use, but you will be SO glad you have it on that fateful day when you really need it.


Of Dollies & Cradles

(colour photographs by Royce Powe and Chris Cleary, text by Chris Cleary).

As we all know, the natural habitat of the Australian Sailfish is the water. On shore is a harsher environment, with threats to finely finished hull surfaces from rigging area grit and passing traffic. And the lift from rigging area to water, and vice versa, is also fraught, both for the boat in the event of an unexpected gust of wind, and for ageing baby boomer backs and knees. The transfer also requires a random passer-by agreeing to be press-ganged into providing the lift.

When I started out in dinghy sailing, most small dinghies were rigged on an old blanket thrown on the ground. The visiting Victorians at the 1971-72 National Titles showed me for the first time the value of a boat cradle, both for transporting the boat on roof racks and for rigging the boat on the beach. Many of the Victorians had the same style of cradle – quite long, and fabricated from metal.


w&c_bc cadet sailfish beach
Brian Carroll, Elwood, 1968 with one of the long Victorian cradles of the time. [Carroll family album]
I subsequently built a wooden cradle for my boat.

Over subsequent decades however, the beach dolly has become predominant as both the platform on which to rig a boat and the means by which it is transferred to the water. Made of aluminium or stainless steel, they can be happily immersed in water, making launching and retrieval a one-person job. And, very cleverly, boat dolly and boat can often be wheeled directly on and off a waiting boat trailer. For a craft pre-eminently suited to car-topping like the Sailfish, however, the beach dolly is less attractive – it will take up a prohibitive amount of room in the car.

A brilliantly improvised version of the beach dolly was unveiled to the Sailfish fraternity at the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club 4OAK Regatta in March of this year by Royce Powe. Astoundingly, Royce made the journey south to Lake Macquarie from Yeppoon in Queensland, a 3000 km round trip. He competed in the event in his lovely newly built ‘Woody’. She was rigged and transported to and from the water on Royce’s clever homemade dolly shown below.

Royce's dolly 2.JPG

Royce's dolly 1.JPG
When rigged, Woody can be securely tied to the arms of the dolly

As Royce describes, it was made from an old sailboard boom he had in his shed. There is some adjustment available in the overall length of the dolly. A length of alloy tube was used as an axle.


Royce's dolly 3.JPG

Royce's dolly 4

Royce carries ‘Woody’ upside down on roof racks attached to his ute. He throws the dolly in the tray of the ute. The dolly does, however, come apart, which would allow it to be accommodated in a station wagon. For a sedan, the arms of the dolly (the sailboard boom) would probably have to be carried on the roof with the boat.

Royce's dolly 5.JPG


In no way matching the ingenuity of Royce’s dolly, the cradle I built in the 1970’s has nevertheless given very good service. With the revival of activity in the Sailfish fraternity, I decided to build a new one, slightly remodelled to fit my current car, a Subaru Outback. Brian Carroll has the same vehicle and so used my simple plans to build one of his own. Greg Barwick, who doesn’t have an Outback, also built one for the restored ‘Stanley Crocodile’ to nestle upon.

The cradle plan is shown below. Some dimensions, notably the overall width and the notches for the roof racks on the sides, are specific to the Outback and will need to be altered for other vehicles. A peculiarity of the current Outback  model is that the rear roof cross bar is at a slightly lower level than the front one. I wasn’t aware of that initially, so my boat rode a little bow high until I closed the rear notches.

The timber used clearly doesn’t have to be meranti – Brian, I think, used pine.

Sailfish cradle 2.jpeg

My battered old cradle is shown below. It has been remodelled since this photograph was taken, and is now seeing service as the cradle for a newly built sailing canoe. Note the notches for mast (port side/on right of picture) and boom (starboard side). Because the end-grain is unsupported, the outer edges of the rear notches have long ago been chipped off.

Two lengths of tubular insulating foam (available from your local big box hardware store) are slit and placed over the V of the cross-pieces. I then cover the foam with carpet tacked to the frame.

Cradle 7 (2).JPG

This is the new cradle, colour-coordinated with the boat. Note the U-shaped ply reinforcing the mast notch to avoid the problem mentioned above. This is replicated at all four notches. The elliptical plaque (seen just below the chainplate) was required to control splitting in the timber which occurred soon after I got it home. This too was repeated at each end of both sides.

Cradle 2 (2).JPG

Cradle 1 (2).JPG

The triangular stiffening at corners is shown below. The brass cleat is one of four used for tying the cradle to the roof racks – not a convenient position but is dictated by the peculiarities of the Outback roof rack design.

Cradle 3 (2).JPG

Cradle 5.JPG

In an effort to replicate some of the benefits of a beach dolly, I’ve also fabricated an axle and wheels to strap onto the rear cross-piece of the cradle. It’s not as good as a proper dolly because I’m not so happy to fully immerse it – for a start, it won’t sink – but it gets the boat close to the shoreline and shortens the carry.

This is the underside of the structure:-

Chris' dolly 2

A length of galvanised tubing was bolted to timber with U-bolts to serve as an axle. Alloy tubing could also be used. The wheels are 25 cm in diameter, with pneumatic tyres. The timber can be a piece of pine, say 70 mm x 35 mm (I used 90 mmx 45 mm, but it doesn’t need to be that heavy). It was 118 cm long, but this will vary with the width of the cradle built.

This is the top view :-

Chris' dolly 1.jpg

There are simple wooden cleats that receive the outer portion of the rear cross-piece of the cradle. Shock cord then holds the components together. Note the aluminium strap on opposite sides of both ends of the dolly to prevent it capsizing around the axle when it is awaiting the placement of the cradle. They are then rotated out of the way.

Chris' dolly 6.jpg

Chris' dolly 4.jpg

All of this is quite easy to build, but it is nevertheless quite complicated in comparison to the brilliant simplicity of Royce’s wonderful piece of improvisation, which is very light, very strong and very easy to dismantle. Congratulations to him.








San Francisco Update

After a few delays caused by work, travel and the cool, damp winter that settles over San Francisco, Kellee is once again pushing ahead with her build. With the bottom going on the next step will be to turn the hull over and start to think about footstrap and traveller reinforcing block positions.

When it really starts to turn into a boat, always a great time in a build. [By Kellee Kimbro, San Francisco, 1 June 2018]

Lots, and lots, and lots of clamps makes things so much easier, and what build could go wrong when there are a couple of cases of beer involved! [By Kellee Kimbro, San Francisco, 1 June 2018]

If you’re going to San Francisco . . .

Yeah, I know it was corny, but how could I resist?

In August last year we sent a plan to San Francisco. Kellee has been in touch a couple of times for advice and information and has now started  building. You can follow the progress on her blog here:

San Francisco Australian Sailfish Build

Don’t be scared off by the sight of an Alcort Sailfish in Kellee’s first post, that is where her journey started, so it does belong there. But when you look a bit deeper, there is Brian Carroll on Jack’s Toy.

Really looking forward to seeing the finished product out on the water.

News Flash! News Flash! (Again).

Last week, a newly completed Australian Sailfish was launched into the tropical waters of Keppel Bay at Yeppoon in Queensland. It was the second Sailfish launch in the space of seven days. Given the demise of the Australian Sailfish as an active class in the late 1980’s, this is extraordinary.

The new boat is ‘Woody’, built by Royce Powe. It is the lovely boat featured on this website in the Queensland section of the Gallery.

The proud builder with his boat on the impressive rigging area at Keppel Bay Sailing Club [By Royce Powe’s father, Keppel Bay, Qld; 12 Oct 2017]

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And on the gently shoaling beach. Looks like boating paradise. [By Royce Powe’s father, Keppel Bay, Qld; 12 Oct 2017]

Congratulations to Royce. Such a beautiful example of the Sailfish class might inspire other builds in the Sunshine State.

It is interesting to note that, in the early 1960’s, Queensland was the first state to which the Australian Sailfish class spread after it originated in Victoria. This blogmeister can feel in his bones the stirrings of  a Northern Sailfish Revivalist Tour, a caravan of baby-boomer Victorian and New South Wales disciples travelling north, probably in mid-winter.



News Flash! News Flash! Unique event at Paynesville.

Yesterday, Saturday 7 October, in a breezy 10 to 18 knots of gusty wind, Brian Carroll launched his newly built Australian Sailfish on the Gippsland Lakes at Paynesville. In a lovely tribute to his father, the new boat was named ‘Jack’s Toy’.

This boat would have to be the first Sailfish built in Victoria since the 1980’s. The sail was made by Brian, proprietor of Unique Sails, Paynesville.. He reports that it is a light hull, requiring lead correctors  to meet minimum weight.


Jack’s Toy, Sailfish 3461, rigging photos. [All the above by Brian Carroll, Paynesville, Victoria, 7 October 2017]
Congratulations Brian! The boat looks great. It  will be wonderful to see her at the Classic Dinghy Classes Invitation Weekend at Cairn Curran Sailing Club at the end of next month.

Brian on board Jack’s Toy at it’s launch at Paynesville. [By Danuta Sowa, Paynesville, Victoria, 7 October 2017]

Plans! Plans! Plans!

Over the last year we have had well over 40 requests for plans of the Australian Sailfish. Just quietly, this blew Chris and I away, you have exceeded our wildest expectations.

If you requested a set of plans and have started, or even completed a build, we would love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter if you are here in Australia, or in Canada, the USA or Europe, if you have a story to tell about your build, or photos to share please get in touch via the Contact page.

Brian here in Victoria and Royce in Queensland have been incredibly generous with information and photos of their builds, and each time we can put up a new blog about a build or add photos to the Gallery it supplies guidance and inspiration for others.

So go on, we would love to hear about how your build is going.