The Cairn Curran Years

Following the formation of a Class Association in 1962 the Australian Sailfish moved from being a boat primarily sailed out of Elwood and Parkdale and began it’s rapid expansion to inland Victorian clubs and to other states. Arguably the most successful of these new Victorian clubs was Cairn Curran, which produced a group of young and very successful skippers who all seemed to be prepared to test the outer limits of what could be done within the class rules.

Names such as Oliver Parnaby, Leigh Marriott and Robert and James Champion sprang up and consistently featured in the results for State Titles and inter-club contests. These boats were all at least a bit different from the mainstream Bay boats, and whatever they were doing it certainly worked.

One of these successful skippers was Leigh Marriott, who built his first boat Nemo, plan number 842 and had success right out of the blocks, winning the Victorian State Junior Title in 1966/67 and the Open and Junior Title in 1967/68. It should be noted that Oliver Parnaby, also from Cairn Curran finished third overall and second in Junior in the 1967/68 State Titles as well.

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Using what he had learned Leigh then built Mrs Vicious, plan number 1375, and yes, there is a story behind that name, but it is not my place to tell it. Again Mrs Vicious was not your average Australian Sailfish, featuring a “soft” i.e. not fully battened sail and a timber mast that was oval in shape. This mast was unusual and may have been influenced by the OK Dinghy thinking of the time, as it was wider than it was deep, in effect the oval ran from side to side, not from front to back. This meant that the mast would bend backwards rather than sideways in a blow exhausting wind from the top of the sail while keeping drive low down in the rig. As it happened this was a good choice.

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Leigh brought Mrs Vicious to the first Australian Sailfish National Titles, which were held at Elwood. In pretty extreme conditions and in a very closely matched fleet Leigh went on to record a close victory over Peter Raisin from Queensland and Peter Chapman from NSW. We hope to make the Event Report written by Bruce Scott available on this site soon.

Cairn Curran went on to produce another successful pair of skippers in the Champion brothers, Robert and James. Robert won the 1969/70 and 1970/71 Junior National Title, placed second in the 1971/72 then went on to win the 1972/73 National Title, held at Cairn Curran. He also placed second in the following three Nationals. While all this was going on, his brother James won the 1971/72 (tied with Brian Carroll) and 1972/73 Junior National Title.

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Then there were the Ginnivan twins, Brad and Craig, sons of one of the Cairn Curran Sailing Club founders, Jack Ginnivan, Mark Teasdale and Robert Hartnett, who all came through Sailfish at Cairn Curran.

On November 25 & 26 the Cairn Curran Sailing Club is hosting the Classic Dinghy Classes Invitation Weekend and thanks to the generosity of the Marriott family, Leigh’s National Title winning Sailfish, Mrs Vicious will be there. Come along, have some fun and have a look at this great piece of the class history.

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