Getting started

From the exotic Central Coast of NSW, Chris Leyland remembers his start in sailing and his first forays on an Australian Sailfish. Read on . . . .


Before entering High School, I crewed on a Manly Junior, sailing in the crowded Manly Harbour, bobbing between Hydrofoils and Manly Ferries. In my first season, we won the B division series. During that same year, Dad purchased a Flying 11, which we raced at Narrabeen on a Sunday. It was an old boat, a glass hull, before any official glass F11 hulls and although we had fun, it wasn’t a fast boat. It wasn’t long before Dad was crewing for me! His . . . . eh-hmm “weight” was a distinct advantage in heavy air and we had lots of great father/son times, but it wasn’t long before I yearned to be more competitive.

The hot shot class at Narrabeen, full of excitement, speed and seemingly endless enjoyment, was the Sailfish. To a thirteen year old, this was something that had all the aspects that I was looking for, but sadly I didn’t have the money to get one; thirteen year olds are usually pretty broke, but there were a couple of second hand boats available.  There was a FAST proven boat, sailed by Jim Sayers, whose boat “Fury”, sail number 1257, became available and it took no convincing to take it for a test sail. Jim had done well in Club, State and National racing and it was a good looking light blue and white boat, with matching light blue and white mainsail.

It was suggested that I race it one Sunday, although I had only previously had a 10 minute test sail on it, in very calm conditions. That first race Fury lived up to all its glory, but sailing it took some getting used to. I started counting how many times I capsized and was up to 35 times before giving up on counting. That was in the FIRST LAP!  Only 3 more laps to go. . . but I did finish and was the last boat in, much to the starter boat crew’s dismay! At least a skinny teenager could easily right this boat, even time after time. . . after time, after time. BUT I was well and truly “hooked”!

It took a little while, but I eventually acquired Fury, partially via a birthday present and an agreement to find a part time job and pay off the balance (a delivery boy at a chemist only made 75 cents for an entire afternoons work! Talk about slavery).


Chris on Fury. [By Bob Leyland, Toronto, 1976]

It didn’t take long to get the hang of sailing Fury and not long before I was starting to move up the the fleet and learning how to gain some advantages over rivals. Because I was light, I was fast in light and drifter conditions and from time to time turned a few heads and by the end of my first season I was starting to become competitive. I had some idols in the class, some of who are still around now!

Sailfish became very important to me, Brian Carroll actually helped me to consider a career path in sail making (after making a model yacht sail, during a BBQ at our place one Narrabeen nationals). I became the last apprentice at the Miller and Whitworth Sail loft and I ended up doing a lot of research into tuning and getting Fury and my future boats to also go quickly.

Once again, I would like to thank Messrs Barwick, Cleary and Milton, for their efforts in getting not only this site up and running, but for the establishment of a “focal point” in the resurgence of the Sailfish class.

Apart from reading the newly posted Blogs, articles and news items, along with the odd new photo or video that surfaces and with your stories, (hint, hint) I look forward to the day when the site announces a “newly formed racing division” is once again regularly racing at a sailing club.

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Chris’s last point is well made – dredge through your memory while you still can and send in your own experiences in getting started in Sailfish for us all to enjoy. I would very much like to make this an ongoing series but that means I need input.


Vimo Too, Sailfish 808

This in this morning from Russell Ker . . . .


Hi, quick intro, my Sailfish was Vimo Too, number 808. I sailed at the Beaumaris yacht club from 1968 to 73. I, sadly, have no photos of my old boat. So I am hoping someone has a photo of 808, from the early seventies and could forward it on to me. I sailed in the Nationals and State titles 72/73? (Cairn Curran, Eppalock and Parkdale). Great to see this site has appeared, looking at the old pictures and newsletters from the early seventies has brought back some great memories. I still manage to get out on the water, Haines Hunter and a SUP, times have changed!




So, how about it then? Does anyone out there have a photo (or two, or three) that we could forward on to Russell? If you do, get in touch through the Contact page and we will organise to send it on.

South Coast of NSW . . . .

From Bill on the south coast of NSW . . .

I built 1276 in 1968 in my bedroom, much to my mother’s horror, intending to race it at Narrabeen. Just as I finished it the Dept of Education in their infinite wisdom, posted me to Gunning, an hours drive from Canberra. I sailed it there with the ‘Y’ in 69 and also competed in the States. Sold the boat the next year after building an Arrow cat. That boat began a sailing career which has lasted almost 50 years. Last year I was given 1271 which was on the way to the tip from Callala bay sailing school. The hull is in good condition but all fittings have been removed. I have the sail and a mast to be rigged.


I love it when we find more boats that we didn’t even know had been built and here we have two. Anyone out there remember Bill Jauncey at the 1969 State Titles?

Western Districts Sailing

From Andrew Mclure some memories of Camperdown and Derrinallum . . . . .

I sailed Hot Stuff number 3354 for a number of years in the early 1980s having purchased the boat from Dean Clementson who sailed at Camperdown Yacht Club. I sailed the boat at Derrinallum Yacht Club and won the senior club championship with it at age 14. It was fantastic to sail and I have fond memories taking it to all the Western Victoria regattas as my father was president of the Western Victoria Yachting Association. In those days Camperdown had a large fleet of Sailfish.

The boat was in a shed on my parents farm, however when they sold the farm some 5 years ago I believe the boat was left behind and I am sure it no longer exists as the new owners of the property knocked down all the sheds and so it was probally destroyed in the process. No better boat flying down wind than a Sailfish.



And just by the way, the Clementson’s were a big part of the growth and success of Sailfish at Camperdown, giving generously of their time and equipment. The photo in the Victorian Gallery of the trailer with four Sailfish behind the Gemini van, that trailer was loaned by the Clementsons, enabling a few junior sailors the experience of going to a National Titles that they otherwise would not have had. And it was a brilliant trailer to tow, loaded like that and you hardly knew it was there.



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.

Class History/Memories

Champion from NSW

One of the site moderators recalls an important influence in NSW Sailfish. You might also like to have a look at Peter’s story about his time in the early days of Sailfish in NSW in the following Comments . . . .

The photograph in the gallery of “Argone”, in beautiful trim, being sailed by Peter Chapman brings back memories. I’m pretty sure that image was taken during the 1969/70 National Titles held at Narrabeen Lakes.
In December 1969, my Australian Sailfish was in build. The president of my then club, Blue Mountains Sailing Club at Wentworth Falls Lake, NSW, suggested to my father and I that we should drive down to Narrabeen during the titles to check out the top boats. I have a photo, taken by my father, of Peter Chapman adjusting the rigging of “Argone” on the beach before a race. He was wearing the same Canterbury-Bankstown football jersey as in the photo in the gallery.
Peter Chapman was one of the first, if not THE first, in New South Wales to build and race a Sailfish. He sailed in the first Australian Sailfish National Titles at Elwood, Victoria in 1968/69, finishing third. He won the 1969/70 National Title at Narrabeen.
Peter then did not sail in another national championships until the 1972/73 series held at Cairn Curran. That series was my first ‘away’ regatta.I sailed as a junior. I was pretty shy and awestruck, but I remember him as being very approachable and friendly.
In those days, the juniors started five minutes after the Open event. I remember watching from behind some truly epic tactical battles between Peter, Rob Champion and Pat Carroll. Whilst we had some light days, that series was predominantly sailed in heavy winds. Peter broke a mast in one of the early races. I remember him cheerfully and relaxedly pop-rivetting fittings onto a new alloy mast he had somehow procured, working into the night to have it ready for the next day’s racing.
In those days I had pretty well no idea about mast bend control. I remember clearly after one race Peter wandered over to me on the beach and very generously and kindly chatted about problems that he had observed with the rig of my boat. His advice led to some immediate changes and immediate improvement. Subsequently, it led to a major re-positioning and re-angling of my diamond stays, an alteration that served me for my following five seasons in Sailfish.
Peter came third in that series at Cairn Curran. It was won by Rob Champion, with Pat Carroll second. He didn’t sail in any subsequent Sailfish titles, which was a great pity.

Chris Cleary

Peter Chapman, 1969-70 titles 001 (2) 2.jpg

Peter Chapman, Argone, Narrabeen Nationals, 1969/70. [By Ken Cleary, Narrabeen, 1969]

A few things to note:
Boats are rigging up on the North side of the lake next to Wakehurst Parkway; this is where the club was based at the time. Jamieson Park and Collaroy Plateau are in the background.
Sailfish 193 with the hand painted Z on the sail; no idea who that was.
June Bowles, Neil’s wife, and Evelyn Carroll behind Peter.