Getting started

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!.


February 2019 Header Photo

This month, Jack Carroll, co-designer of the Australian Sailfish turns 90. So this month’s header is a way to reflect and document some small part of that journey.

From the left, Debonair, Australian Sailfish number 2, built by Jack and his good mate Bruce Scott in 1956 when they just wanted a simple boat they could easily go out for a sail on.

Then there is Jack on Radiant, number 88, off Parkdale Victoria sometime around 1964.

Jack on 1803, at a National Title at Narrabeen Lakes, maybe 1971/72, one of the rare moments in time that Jack didn’t actually own a boat and had to borrow one.

Then we have Jack on Slipstream, number 3000, off Black Rock, Victoria followed by Jack also on Slipstream at the 1977/78 National Titles held on Lake Macquarie.

The final photo is Jack at Toronto Amateur Sailing Club in 2017. He is holding the division 2, 4 of a Kind trophy won by the Australian Sailfish crew.

Photos from the media file, all accredited in other sections.

Famous T shirts

Well, nearly famous T shirts, almost, a bit.

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1981 T shirt, back view. [By Dale Watson, January 2019]
Mid 80's shirt back.JPG
Mid ’80’s T shirt, back view. [By Dale Watson, January 2019]
2017 Inverloch return T shirt, front view. [By Greg Barwick, January 2019]
2018 Toronto 4 of a Kind Regatta, back view. [By Greg Barwick, January 2019]

Come on, get into the cupboards and look, there have to be more of these out there!

A Bit of Class History

From someone who was there and “cut their teeth” on an Australian Sailfish:


I didn’t start sailing till I was 34, much too old, and it was on a Sailfish I built in about 1964 for my eldest son. He was still much too young so I decided to give it a go and sail it myself. I called the boat “SEA PEPPER” (forgotten the sail number) and the name was beautifully sign written by Bruce Scott. An aside – no other club had boats with names painted on their hulls like Elwood, thanks to Bruce’s skill. I still have the piece of my Sailfish foredeck, with name, hanging on the wall, and framed by the stringers.

I joined Elwood Sailing Club as it was the closest, and found there were some other Sailfish there. I was a member of Elwood for about 25 years from 1964 to 1987, where I sailed the Sailfish, then after about 6 seasons I went into Herons, then NS14’s, and finally crewed on a Compass 750 for 5 or 6 years, out of Royal Melbourne.

A few of the Sailfish names – Jack of course, Jim Fyvie, Lindsay Phillips, Jim Robinson, Chard Iverson, Karl Weiderman, David Wood & Les Twentyman. These skippers were roughly my age, but they could all sail! I thought there was no way the hull would stand the stresses imposed, so I had strengthened it up around the mast step and the chainplates. Jim Fyvie thought that it was a bit of furniture as it was so heavy. I was thrilled when it was referred to as “Hot Stuff”. They all encouraged me to attend opening days at other Clubs, and to attend the Regatta Circuit – Cairn Curran, Eppalock, Paynesville, Warranga Basin, Lake Boga, and Yarrawonga. It was the Sailfish Association and the camaraderie exhibited within it that planted the bug that still infects me to this day.

The Association Monthly meetings were not to be missed, as they often featured a speaker of prominence and experience. I am still in wonder as to how the Committee were able to get such speakers to come to a group who sailed, and I quote Brian Carroll “this silly little boat”. Just a couple of examples – the speaker who as a 9 or 10 year old was taken to a Dutch Port to be crew on a square rigger, a cabin boy. He related some 50 years experience before the mast. He recalled a major hull design that enabled the crew to sleep dry. Their quarters were moved from the stern to amidships. They were no longer pooped. The other was John Bertrand, they must have told him a Sailfish was going to win the America’s Cup. Two items he spoke about were Line Sag and how to take advantage of it and Fleet Sailing, how to use other boats in the fleet to determine if you are taking a lift or knock.

It was only after qualifying as a Level 1 Coach, that I came to understand the importance of balance and trim, and together with the words that Jack Carroll had said to me years earlier “it’s the hand on the tiller that wins the race” (still remember him working the waves when beating to windward), and not the lightest, slippery hull, or the new HOT sail, which many skippers blame for their performance, (or lack thereof). It took me years to understand this, but when I did, I realized I was learning how to sail.

At my local club Ian Wayth, an Arrow skipper, hails from around the Castlemaine area, and sailed a Sailfish at Cairn Curran. Not only that, but he was at the November Cairn Curran Regatta of the Big Blow in the mid ‘60’s and it was only recently that we discovered we had sailed the same class at the same memorable Regatta. A sudden, very strong change from a northerly to a gale force southerly caught all unawares and saw the likes of Quickcats cartwheeling from the starting line towards the  Club. The Sailfish skippers that hadn’t left shore crouched behind their boats so as not to be peppered by pebbles, which were blowing with the grit and sand across the beach.

I still can’t believe how lucky and fortunate I was to come across the Australian Sailfish Association, and by another stroke of luck, join Elwood Sailing Club, the home base of the Class at the time, and the home of the top skippers.

It was the Australian Sailfish, the Association and it’s members, taking me into the fold and encouraging me to attend Regattas, that are still my fondest memories of sailing, recalling the Association, and the members who made it.




September 2018 Header Photo

Heat start at the 1979/80 National Titles held on Lake Wendouree, Ballarat.

From the left, 3054 behind the starting boat, skipper unknown; 3390 Muffin, Chris Drury; 3352 Holy Handgrenade, David Spiers; 2159 Silent Running, Warren Jones; 3336 Mutated Tomato, Craig Ginnivan; 3366 Mud Shoveller, Peter Coburn; 3363 Reed Rat, skipper unknown.

Photo from Drury family album, December 1979/January 1980, Lake Wendouree, Ballarat.

Names from the Past – Martin Kortlucke

Text by Chris Cleary.

One of the many interesting people associated with the Australian Sailfish contacted me by email a month or so ago. “Call me”, the message requested. Which I did – it was Martin Kortlucke, in Brisbane.

As a consequence of some health issues, Martin needed to part with his Sailfish which had been moored in his garage for many years. “Free to a good home”, he said. This website passed the information onto our Brisbane contacts, and Warwick Norton snapped up the boat within a few days (see blog entry dated July 19, 2018).

I first met Martin at the 1972-73 Sailfish National Championships, held on Cairn Curran Reservoir near Maldon in central Victoria. His boat was ‘Zorba”, boat number 1154. He had sailed the boat on the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay, but the titles were the first time he had ever raced a sailboat! He came 14th.

He was tall and rangy, and very strong. The ’72-73 titles were dominated by heavy winds. In one heat, a shackle on his forestay broke soon after the start and his mast came down. In rough water he was able to fit a spare shackle, haul up the mast and sail again and recommence the race. I clearly remember the race officials shaking their heads in wonderment as they described his efforts at the briefing the following day. He was given a prize at the awards night. This is the entry from the March 1973 Newsletter:

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[Extract from Australian Sailfish Newsletter, March 1973, page 8]
Martin also attended the 1973-74 championships on Narrabeen Lakes the following year. He came 9th.

As a child, Martin had become fascinated by the sea and sailing and the square-riggers. His very first sailing trip was in 1971 on the barque ‘Endeavour II’. This ship sailed to Australia from Canada to take part in the 1970 James Cook Bicentenary celebrations. He signed on as crew for a five week trip to New Zealand, the first leg of its return voyage to North America. In high seas the ship was wrecked on the Parengarenga Bar at the northern tip of the north island of New Zealand. Along with the other 13 crew, he had to swim two miles to safety. An exciting introduction to sailing!

Undaunted by that, he was determined to learn to sail. He was advised to buy a Sailfish. “If you can sail a Sailfish you can sail anything”, he was told. ‘Zorba’ was his first. He subsequently built his second, using what was then the relatively new technique of wood/epoxy sheathing. The boat acquired by Warwick was his third Sailfish.

Martin is a Mechanical Engineer, now retired. He has always been intellectually inquisitive. Over his sailing life he has built seven boats of various types, all of them technically adventurous. One of them was a Phil Bolger 30 ft gaff-rigged ‘folding’ schooner. Martin built it as a bow section and a stern section so they could be carried together on his boat trailer. To go sailing, the two sections were bolted together amidships.

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Martin and the amazing folding boat, folded. [Kortlucke Family album, date unknown]
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And here it is on the water, looking very sweet. [Kortlucke Family Album, date unknown]
Martin was the 1982 National Champion in the 14 ft Calypso class catamaran, with his wife, Nola, as crew. Over his sailing life he has also had extensive ocean racing and boat delivery experience off the east coast of Australia, almost exclusively in multihulls. He sailed in the Brisbane to Gladstone race on seven occasions, and has raced the Sydney to Brisbane, Gladstone to Cairns and Townsville to Brampton Island races among other events. His boats have taken line honours and set records on a number of occasions. I remember Martin showing me over the ocean racing trimaran he crewed on when I visited Brisbane many years ago. ‘Devils 3’ was a 37 ft lightweight fibreglass flyer. I found it very disconcerting that the sides of the central hull seemed barely opaque. Martin wasn’t troubled at all.

He is well-known in Queensland boating circles, has been a longstanding member of the Wooden Boat Association of Queensland and was editor of the association newsletter for an extended period.

This website thanks Martin for his generosity in passing on his Sailfish, and wishes him all the very best.