David Spiers on 3352, Holy Handgrenade at the National Title held on Lake Wendouree, Ballarat, in December 1979/January 1980. David went on to claim third place in the titles race, behind local boy (well, he was then!) Chris Drury and Ian Milton from Narrabeen.
Many of us who have been around the Australian Sailfish for a while know a bit about Jack Carroll’s involvement with designing the boat and the development of the class. But not all of us know that Jack was just one half of the team that brought our great little boat into being. The other half was Jack’s very good mate Bruce Scott.
When Chris Cleary and I sat down with Jack in September of 2016 to gather some of the class history that led to this website, Jack said that it was Bruce who turned up one day with some American sailing magazines that showed the Alcort Sailfish saying “this is what we need Jack, something like this”. From that discussion came the Australian Sailfish.
Peter Scott, Bruce Scott’s son, has supplied a bit of background about his dad, so here it is, with only minor editorial meddling from me:
I’ll note down a few thoughts that come to mind about dad:
I do recall dad describing his early days of sailing when he lived in Glenhuntly and towed his boat with his push bike from there to Elwood sailing club via North road and often having passersby help push his boat up the hill near Brighton Cemetery. Trip one way is around 7 km – quite the ride.
He accomplished so much in his life and whatever his interest changed to over the years he always took them to their limits. All of which always included all of the family.
His interest in sailing was always with improving designs and his craft as a signwriter had him doing the names on most of the yachts at whichever yacht club he was sailing from. Each one done with such detail and pride in his work.
His artwork also extended to detailing various models that are still within the Melbourne Museum. Donald Campbell’s Bluebird and a hot air balloon that had him painting with one hair on the brush to get the details are still there.
He also had a fascination with travelling around Australia, which took him away from sailing.
Filming and retracing the early explorers across Australia was his focus for many years. Little things like having the 4×4 customized to utilize any spare space to carry supplies, designing a bull bar made of car leaf springs to bounce any stray kangaroos off the front of the vehicle if needed.
There were also the modifications he did to our home to accommodate another interest – movies. In the early 70’s he knocked out walls and closed in the front veranda to build a home theatre complete with 30 real leather theatre seats salvaged from a theatre that had closed down. I recall having movie nights 3 to 4 nights a week where friends and their associated social groups would book a night. He actually managed to get movies before they came out in the city theatres!
Then came the years of self-sufficiency – moving to a country property in Neerim South mum and dad seemed to lead the way in the alternate lifestyle, conducting pottery days, shearing days, log cabin building days, wool spinning days and so on.
Bruce also ran the very first Australian Sailfish National Titles held at Elwood in 1968/69 acting as Officer of the Day for the entire series and Jack still has Bruce’s detailed committee notes for that event.
A national Titles heat at Narrabeen, probably 1971/72.
I can see 3000 Slipstream, Jack Carroll, 669 Stampede, Brian Carroll, 3077 Trebor II, Robert Jefferies, 1250 Bounty, Neil Bowles, 3100 GTK, Pat Carroll, 1496 Alvacore, Alex Cordukes, red and yellow tipped sail second from right, James Champion.
Who else can you recognise? Let me know and I will update the post.
From the mid 1970’s through to well into the 80’s Toronto Amateur Sailing Club became a strong centre of the Australian Sailfish in New South Wales. While many people contributed to this, I think it is fair to say that the genesis was Tony Bytheway, who built and then loaned many of the boats that got people sailing. When he wasn’t doing that he was helping others build their own boats – almost the Ray Cross of the northern state, when I think about it.
Here, in Tony’s own words, is the story of many of those boats:
1225. My very first set of Sailfish plans I bought as a youngster. It was many years later before I finally got around to building a ‘Fish and by then those plans had been “misplaced”.
I found page one, with the number on, just last year whilst searching through some sailing paraphernalia looking for some Sailfish souvenirs. I’m keeping that number; I’ve asked Jack to make up a numberplate for me and I’m going to nail it to one of these half finished boats in my collection. Was maybe thinking of calling it “Resurgence” in honour of our class making a bit of a come back.
My second choice for a name is one I’ve had in mind for many years and was reminded of it after watching Ian Urban getting the feel of “Bruce” at Toronto 4oak – “Slippery when Wet”. I have a lot of boats in my collection so I’ll probably use both names somewhere.
2143 – “Sherwood Green”. The first Sailfish I ever built. Sailed it for a year then loaned it to Graeme Remington for the next year after I’d built my second ‘Fish, 1476. “Sherwood Green” was sold to Chris Turton who sailed it for a year or so and then sold it on to parts unknown.
1476 – “Steam & Fly”. “Steam & Fly” was sold to one of Chris Turton’s friends who sailed it for a year and wrecked it, the remains of the hull is part of my collection, the rest of “Steam & Fly” was lost decades ago.
The next year I was issued a block of five numbers on behalf of the Toronto club as there was a fair bit of building going on.
2161. A young lad by the name Ben Durie started building a ‘Fish after school with some guidance from me and with materials he bought through me. He lost interest about halfway through the build and added school pressure didn’t help either. He gave the lot back to me with the arrangement that when I finished the boat and sold it I would repay him for what he’d spent on the materials. That boat is still part of my collection, unfinished. Unfortunately Ben passed away from cancer in his mid forties. When I finish his boat I’ll name it “Little Ben”
2162. Another incomplete ‘Fish in my collection. (I’ll get to it one day, I just gotta live long enough!).
2163 – “Bluefin”. The boat I built after selling “Steam & Fly”. I sailed it for a season or so but it was badly injured during a championship series at Toronto. “Bluefin” was hit by a houseboat during the morning heat which must have softened it up a bit. Then dropping off a big wave whilst gybing during pre start tactics in the afternoon, the hull split from nose block to centreboard case and swallowed half the lake. I sailed it gently back to shore as a submarine. It now lounges in my shed with all its friends.
2164 – “The Licorice Stick”. Many of us know this one! Built by a pen pusher (Tony’s good mate Graeme Remington – Greg), it was his first attempt at building a boat. He then painted it his favourite colour (black) and went out and thrashed us all two years in a row. (Graeme won the National Title two years running, first at Toronto in 1980/81 and then at Lake Mokoan in 1981/82 – Greg). “The Licorice Stick” is still lurking in a shed somewhere in the Castlemaine area.
2165 – “Jim”. My first prototype fibreglass Sailfish. For the life of me I cannot remember who I sold it to or where it ended up.
2172 – “Silver Stream”. Ian (Nobby) Naylor. Another after school project. Sailed quite successfully at club level at Toronto. Was stolen from the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club clubhouse one winter in the mid 80’s. Hasn’t been seen or heard of since.
2173 – “Matrix” Sailed by Mike Turton. (Chris’s younger brother). This boat was originally found in an old farm shed up the Hunter valley, rigged with a cadet rig of some sort because Mike was a scrawny little bugger, then registered through the Toronto club. Whereabouts unknown.
Tony also has the only known surviving mould to build a fibreglass Australian Sailfish from and as you can never have too many Sailfish, he has also recently added the Geelong boat, 3111, that was advertised on the site last year, to his collection.
So there you have it, Tony’s not inconsiderable contribution to the history of the NSW Sailfish Association and sailing in the Toronto area. A careful read of the above reveals that Tony has many part built or part restored Sailfish in his collection but what he doesn’t have is the space to work on them. It would be great if someone had some space for Tony to start the restoration work, some of these boats are classics.
Race start at the 1980/81 Toronto National Titles.
Sorry about the quality, this is what sometimes happens when you digitise old photos but you can still pick out a few well known boats in the bunch 2169, 3340 Co-Operate, 2149 Red Pepper, 3399 Pertinacious, and of course 3000 Slipstream among them.
Now less than two weeks away, so get cracking and get packing!
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].
A heat start at the 1980/81 National Titles, photo taken by John Milton.
Unknown Victorian skipper on Tony Bytheway’s boat 2165, Jim; Warren Jones on 2159, Silent Running; Chris Drury on 3390, Muffin; Ian Milton on 2171, Deceptive Benz; Scott Hammond on 3399, Pertinacious; others unknown, but if you can recognise any of them let us know.
This Title was eventually won by Graeme Remington on 2164, Licorice Stick, who is tucked in behind 3390 and 2171 in this photo.
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).
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.
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.