The Bytheway Boats

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.

2143 Sherwood Green. [Milton Family album, Lake Macquarie, date 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.

2165 Jim with Jack Carroll on 3000 Slipstream in the background. [Milton Family album, Lake Macquarie, 1980/81 National Titles]
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.

The classic shot of 2165 Jim on Lake Macquarie. [By Warren Broadbent, Lake Macquarie, Dec. ’82/Jan. ’83]

Toronto Memories

People and boats at Toronto National Titles – new memories being made next week, don’t miss out!


Photos from the Milton Family album and from the Norton Family album, Toronto 1980/81 and Toronto 1982/83. Click on the individual images for a closer look.

Ben Castle has crossed the bar

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 Castle, WSC Sail School Jan '80.jpg
Ben at the WSC Sailing School in 1980.

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 on laser 2001.jpg
Ben showing how it should be done, even in a Laser. [Castle family album]
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.

Ben, centre, straw hat on his knee, at the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the NSW Sailfish Association, with just a few of the people whose lives he influenced.

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.


Ben Castle in 1999. [Castle family album]


[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].

Lake Boga Sailfish

Through the eighties Lake Boga Yacht Club became a strong centre for Sailfish in the north west of Victoria, and a lot of this was due to the efforts of Ray Hale, and the involvement of his daughter Julie. With the Association going out of action in the late eighties, these boats and their history were lost.

Just before Christmas I received an email saying that the sender had tracked down a couple of Sailfish, so I waited about thirty seconds, and followed up on the lead. Rod, the sender, is looking for a wooden Cherub to restore and during his search made contact with Phil Robin, the Lake Boga Yacht Club Commodore who mentioned that he had two Australian Sailfish at the club that were looking for a new home.

So I called Phil, we had a bit of a chat, but with Christmas looming we decided to follow it up further in the New Year. Both boats are complete as far as we can tell, both have been stored under cover, which is great news, and Phil expects that both will be available for new homes in 2018. The details are yet to be sorted out, Christmas getting in the way and all, but I do know that the two boats are 3409, Sharkie,

3409 Sharkie. [By Phil Robin, LBYC, December 17 2017]
and 3411, name unknown.

3411. [By Phil Robin, LBYC, December 17 2017]
The 3409 plan number was sold to Barry Middleton and the 3411 plan number was sold to Bruce Truelove, both in August 1981.

If you have any information on either of these boats please get in touch, I would love to be able to give a bit more history to them both, and all going well, keep an eye out on the website Classifieds in January for more.

And if you do happen to know of a wooden Cherub that is looking for a new home, let us know, it would be nice to return favour for Rod.

What a Ripper!

In early November the website received an email from Al Martin, letting us know that he had just been given a Sailfish that was in need of restoration. The boat had been stored in a shed in Campbell’s Creek for over 20 years and was Jamie Robinson’s old boat 3333, Ripper. Those of us who were around in Victoria in the early eighties might remember a green hull with a green (!!) Frank Hammond sail. From what we know, 3333 went from Jamie to Scots College where it was used as a trainer and then to the shed in Campbell’s Creek.

Check out the spreaders. [By Al Martin, Drummond North, 15 December 2017]
Al came over to Cairn Curran a few weeks ago and introduced himself, although without his Sailfish, as it does need a bit of restoration work, and then yesterday he emailed me some photos of Ripper rigged up at his place. To quote Al:

“3333 seriously has 20 plus coats of paint on it – lots of red lead and then orange – thus the cracked look -(Its often over 50 celsius in the sheds up here) there is a small amount of edge dammage and a small but quite professional  hull patch underneath”.

This might be a good time to invest in sandpaper stocks, there might be a lot required to take Ripper back to a sound base!

And he even has a keen Sailfish sailor waiting for Ripper to be ready to launch, his niece is dead keen to have a go!


Almost ready to go, just a bit of sanding and a lick of paint needed. [By Al Martin, Drummond North, 15 December 2017]
So we are looking forward to seeing 3333 back on the water with us some time soon.

Geelong boat has a new home

While he was in Victoria for the inaugural Classic Dinghy Invitation Weekend at Cairn Curran, Chris Cleary took the time to pop down to Geelong for a closer inspection of the Sailfish that was on our Classifieds page.

He came, he saw, he bought. 3111 is the number, but with no name that we can find, and we have no other knowledge of the boat at this stage. It is on its way back to Lake Macquarie and into the hands of Tony Bytheway, which is a name many of us know well.

If any of you out there know anything more about 3111 we would love to hear from you; Tony in particular wants to be able to put together a bit of the boat’s history. So shake out the dustier sections of your memories and get in touch!

Another Great Find!

For those of us of a certain age, and who cut our sailing teeth at Narrabeen, the name Cordukes is built into our sailing story. Alex and his son Phillip were regulars at State Titles, National Titles and pretty well every weekend of the sailing season at NLSC right through the seventies, always there and always ready to lend a hand.

During October we received an email from Ameli to say that he was the current owner of Chop Chop registered number 1932, and that he had bought it second hand in Leichhardt in 2004 in a bric a brac shop. Chop Chop was owned by Phillip Cordukes, and both this and Alex’s boat, Alvacore, 1496, were built by Alex. Astoundingly for this sort of find, Chop Chop is complete, right down to the cane battens, well, alright, maybe one is missing.

Chop Chop, Sailfish 1932, rigged and ready for action, almost. [By Jenny Cleary, Hawkesbury, 4 November 2017]
Chris Cleary inspected Chop Chop last Saturday, Nov 4. He reports that her new home port is Milsons Passage, a stunning little collection of cottages and boatsheds on the riverbank 5 km upstream from the Hawkesbury River Bridge, north of Sydney. The place is only accessible by boat. Her new skipper is Ameli Tanchitsa. He is pleased to also report that the boat is in remarkably good condition. Although the hull will ultimately be sanded back and revarnished, it could be sailed as is. It just needs a mainblock, a mainsheet of adequate length, a pair of diamond struts and a new starboard chainplate.

Chop Chop
Ameli and Chop Chop on the banks of the Hawkesbury  [By Jenny Cleary, Milsons Passage, 4 November, 2017]


Apart from the many memories of sailing against Phillip, and Alex, at Narrabeen I have one memory that stands out; we stayed at Bundeena one Easter and the Cordukes were nearby with both their boats, so Phillip and I spent a great day sailing on Port Hacking in quite big seas, surfing waves past the ferry at times!

A familiar sight to many of us, note the spring retainer clip for the rudder and the registration tag. [By Jenny Cleary, Hawkesbury, 4 November 2017]
This find is great news for a number of reasons, firstly because it is a boat that many of us know and have fond memories of, and secondly because it does show that there are still boats out there, some like Chop Chop complete, just waiting to be found. So get out there and start looking, this gives us all the opportunity to choose to build or to restore, whichever we prefer.

November Header Photo

Steven Floyd leads Chris Cleary at the 2017 Inverloch Classic Wooden Dinghy Regatta, photo by Hayden Ramsdale.

Chris was the class’s most successful National Champion, winning three National Titles in a row in the 1970s and Steven won the last National Title contested (so far?). To have them both there with their respective title winning boats was something special.

Held every Australia Day weekend ICWDR is a major wooden boat event on the calendar, which saw 11 Australian Sailfish front up this year.

Regatta season is almost upon us, so best get ready. Cairn Curran is coming up on the weekend of 25th and 26th of November, then a month off for Christmas and then back to Inverloch over the Australia Day weekend. There are a number of other events in 2018 including Geelong and Paynesville and we will have more on them later, so there is no shortage of choice as to where you want to see or sail your Sailfish.

October ’17 Header Photo

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.

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.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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.