From one of our early Sailfish skippers:
My friend Robin and I met skiing at Mt Buller and he had a diving friend, John, who also was interested in sailing. John found 3 identical boats on the beach at Blairgowrie Yacht Club, near where he had been diving and one was for sale, a 15 foot Swordfish, designed by Uffa Fox and built in England. The boats had been brought out for the children of a prominent Transport Company owner who weekended at Blairgowrie. The hulls were laminated strip ply constructed by a famous aircraft constructor, De Havilland, in the south of England.
One boat was bought between John and Robin, and I was invited in and had to supply the trailer which I could do, as my neighbour in Cheltenham worked for a trailer manufacture, and I bought the parts and assembled them. My 1956 Hillman had a tow bar so it was all go. We repainted the Swordfish and re-rigged it and sailed it on Port Phillip at Parkdale, handy for me and the other two who both roomed in Brighton. John used to go home to the country every now and then and used to retain the rudder so we could not sail the boat without him. Robin and I got fed up with this and bought Sailfish plans, the boats being small enough to transport on a roof rack or trailer.
After the boats were finished they were stored at Cheltenham (mine) and Robin’s at his new home in East Brighton, where we had built them. The finishing of our mutual build was interrupted by Robin getting married and going to NZ on honeymoon, his wife having come from NZ. My chosen colour was Rosewood, similar to Queen Anne furniture and Rob’s was a clear varnish. I had the masts made by a firm in Highett, Botterills, and I think the sails came either from Blockey the Boat builder or Frank Hammond who had a loft above Blockeys in Chapel St St Kilda. My boat, No 120, was exhibited on the Sailfish stand at the Melbourne Boat Show in the Exhibition Building around 1963 together with other Sailfish.
Parkdale was the spot to see Sailfish and I endeavored to learn how to sail mine there having watched Jack Carroll give enlightening exhibitions each Saturday. I joined the club and entered my first race, wearing my plastic “Taft” life preserver vest and set off for the start line in a respectable 10 – 12 knots with a not too lumpy sea. However I never quite made it to the line in time having difficulty keeping the boat upright and pointing the right way. The race went on and I was blown back towards Mentone and became overpowered and desperate to stay afloat and not damage my lovely hull. The crowds lining the beach top car park thought I was waving to them and waved back, but by then I had dropped the mast and was floundering and trying to keep afloat and get myself and boat safely to shore. Eventually I staggered ashore and dragged the boat and rig back to Parkdale, loaded it onto my car and went home thoroughly disenchanted. No one at Parkdale took any notice! Some time later I must have sold the boat though I have no memory of who bought it or for how much. Rob’s widow has no recall of what happened with his either and neither of us have any photos of those days sadly.
My next boat was a Mirror dinghy, bought after getting married, then followed a Bluebird and much later a Columbia 27 in which I got a 2nd in the annual Geelong race in the Cruising Non Spinnaker Division. In 2006-07 I won the Columbia Championship at RMYS where I had been a RO for about 15 years. I left RMYS and joined RBYC and took the boat there to a nice pen where it still is. Columbias don’t seem to do much anymore and I’m out of racing but still watch results and read the yachting press. Hence finding out about the Sailfish again and opening old memories!.