2001 ASSLH conference – ‘Listen mate, sailing is a working man’s sport’: Leisure, work and community on coastal NSW

Dr Christine Cheater
Central Coast Campus, University of Newcastle


The sport of sailing small open boats (technically known as wet-boats) in Australia can be traced back to the 18th century. It was a popular pastime of the boat builders that attracted workers labouring in the industrial sites that lined the foreshores of Sydney Harbour towards the end of that century. These men formed a number of small sailing clubs that flourished during the first half of the 20th century. This paper explores the working class origins of “wet-boat” sailing and the culture that developed around the sport with particular reference to 16ft skiffs and Gosford Sailing Club (GSC).

Watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race or the smaller dinghies sailing around Sydney Harbour on the weekend, and the claim that this is a working man’s sport seems ridiculous. Yachts are a luxury item, with skiff owners paying out over $3,000 every time they shred a spinnaker, and a brand new Laser, one of the cheaper class of sailing boat, costing around $7,000 to put on the water. Sailors joke that sailing is like standing fully clothed under the shower and tearing up hundred dollar bills. However, many of the sailors of the smaller classes of boats profess to have working class origins and lament the fact that escalating costs are changing the character and culture of the sport.2

This claim raises a number of questions, namely—why do these men view sailing as a “working man’s” sport? Are their views based on the sport’s history or on perceptions of the culture that developed within the sailing fraternity? What attributes did the sailors possess, or were thought to possess that identified them as “working men” and why were these qualities desirable? The answers to these questions can be found in the history of “wet-boat” sailing and the culture that developed around the sport during the first half of the 20th century.3 This paper explores that history with particular reference to the male dominated culture of 16ft skiff sailing and the activities of Gosford Sailing Club (GSC).4

In many ways, the changes that have occurred in the sport reflect the changes in the communities that have supported them over the last century. At the close of the 19th century, Sydney had a working harbour. According to Sydney City historian, Shirley Fitzgerald, the foreshores of Sydney Harbour were lined with “…a haphazard array of boat sheds, wool stores, public houses and unimposing premises of a few timber and coal merchants”.5 The industrial boom of the 1890s added engineering works, foundries and chemical works, which spread from Woolloomooloo to Five Dock on the south side of the Harbour. Crammed between or behind these industrial sites lived semi or unskilled labourers, while the skilled and white-collar workers preferred the healthier atmosphere of suburbs such as Randwick and Paddington. The boat builders took to the water on the weekends and, by the 1890s, they were joined by factory labourers or tradesmen, who acted as crew. This resulted in the formation of a number of small sailing clubs along the foreshores of Sydney Harbour, a phenomenon repeated wherever similar conditions prevailed on enclosed waterways along the NSW coastline.6

GSC materialized in 1932 after a number of failed attempts to establish a lasting a sailing club on the Brisbane Water. The Brisbane Water is an interlocking series of large open bays, creeks, deep-water channels and mangrove swamps that empty into the mouth of the Hawkesbury River sixty kilometres north of Sydney. Settled in the late 1820s, the densely forested hinterland of the Brisbane Water attracted a number of opportunistic timber-getters, who stripped the region of its largest trees within twenty years. Rather than build a sawmill, the timber-getters found it was cheaper to ship the logs to Sydney and a small boat building industry developed to supply the transport craft.7 The area languished after 1850, but revived in the 1890s with the construction of the Sydney to Brisbane railway line, a push by the NSW government to establish small farms in the area, and the opening of the Gosford quarries. By 1900 the district supported a number of industries including timber-milling, citrus farming, quarrying, fishing and boat building with a corresponding range of occupations.8

Records of sailing races on the Brisbane Water date from February 1842, when a regatta for rowing and sailing boats of “…not more then twenty feet at the keel” was held on the Brisbane Water off the settlement of Kincumber.9 By the 1850s Kincumber was staging an annual regatta for sailing boats that were 12ft, 14ft and 16ft at the keel. The races were open to all comers and offered a first prize of £8 for each race. Around two thirds of the entries were purpose built racing boats with dashing names such as Black Devil, Rob Roy and Ben Bolt. The prize money was not the only money changing hands. The races also attracted a number of gamblers who followed their progress from hired boats. In 1885 a local minister complained that the “…perfect mania for racing boats under canvas…” was attracting more money from gambling than found its way onto the collection plates on Sunday.10 This mania led to the founding of a number of sailing clubs on the Brisbane Water between the 1890s and the 1920s but none survived for longer then ten years. GSC thrived partly because it, unlike the other clubs, was willing to provide facilities for any of the prevailing popular class of boat. In the 1930s, the most popular boat was the 16ft skiff.

The origins of many Australian designed sailing boats can be traced to the Watermen dinghy, a whaling boat with a long centreboard and the ability to carry a sail if necessary.11 The Watermen were a favoured form of transport around Sydney Harbour because of their high manoeuverability and boat builders, attracted by their agility, began to modify the boats for racing. The earliest distinctive class of sailing boat to emerge was the Port Jackson skiff, which was popular in sailing clubs around the beginning of the 20th century. The Port Jackson skiff was 16 feet long and spawned a variety of imitators. These skiffs were divided into several classes according to length, which ranged from 10 to 24 feet.12

The survival and popularity of the early designs depended on the ability of the numerous class associations, which grew up after World War I to promote their boat. Class associations were organised at state level and run by delegates from clubs with boats registered in that class. Like the sailing clubs, the associations were organised by volunteers. They ran on a shoestring with all their working capital coming from boat registrations. Club delegates paid their own travel expenses to attend association meetings, usually held in a Sydney hotel. The associations kept a register of all racing boats in clubs throughout NSW, ensured that no two boats carried the same colours (sail markings), regulated race rules and ran championship events.

Their most important function however was the establishment of class specifications, which set a uniform hull length, width and depth, and/or sail capacity. These specifications ultimately determined the class’s popularity and influenced the sub-culture that developed around each class, as most sailors preferred to sail only one type of boat.13 The 16ft skiff was a restricted class boat with a fixed hull size and limited sail capacity. Within these limits the skipper could rig his boat to suit race conditions and success at racing 16 footers was viewed as a tribute to the skipper’s skills at reading the wind. The restrictions on hull and sail sizes meant that a well-built 16 stayed competitive for up to ten years, limiting the costs of sailing one. Between the 1930s and 50s the price of placing a skiff on the water remained static.14 A skiff was prized for its pedigree—the name of its the builder, its former skippers, how many races it had won—not its age or cost. This attitude reflected an emerging culture among skiff sailors; a culture that emphasised sailing skills, hard racing and mateship.

As well as an ability to read the wind, valued sailing skills included tactical cunning and a learned appreciation of timber attributes and boat building techniques. Sailors who learned to sail timber boats praised the ability of wood to “remember” the shape into which it had been moulded, compared timber grains and debated the virtues of using various techniques when constructing a skiff hull. Many of the older sailors, because of their affinity with timber boats, resisted the introduction of fibreglass hulls in the 1970s. Sailors interviewed during this decade claimed that plywood hulls were superior to “plastic” hulls because they were easier to mould, easier to repair, more flexible and better able to withstand the strains of sailing in heavy weather.15

The earliest skiffs were built from green cedar planks, which swelled when wet. According to Len Walpole, who learnt to sail in the 1930s, “…you could push a penny between the planks and you sank the hulls for a month to let them take.”16  Such practices formed an integral part of the run-up to the sailing season. Because sinking the boats required a sheltered, disused beach, club members got together to arrange transport to a suitable site and to help lift the heavy hulls in and out of the water.17 This provided an opportunity for members to exchange gossip, comment on the arrival of new boats and discuss the coming season. With the switch to plywood boats in the 1950s, the yearly ritual of sanding and varnishing skiff hulls provided a similar opportunity for the crew to plan their tactics for the coming season.

Building a new boat was also a communal activity whether the skipper or a commercial boat builder constructed the hull. Those who sought the services of a commercial builder did so after much consultation with other sailors, who always had opinions on who were the masters of the trade. Old craftsmen such as Edgar Deering, who built the original Port Jackson skiffs, entered sailing lore and were hailed as “heroes”, respected not only for their skills but also for their love of boats.18 GSC’s hero was Joe Winter, who designed championship-winning skiffs in the 1940s.19 Winter was an active supporter of GSC, donating the Club’s largest prize for a 16ft skiff race and sponsoring a number of skippers in his boats. Skippering a second-hand Joe Winter skiff was thought to be a challenge, a chance to show off sailing skills in a top-ranking boat. Being sponsored by Winter to race one of his boats was considered an honour.

Owner-builders always constructed their skiffs with an eye on the budget. Early boats were built from scratch, starting with the selection of suitable trees. Often two or three boats were built at the same time with club members pooling resources and skills. Marion Cail, a war widow and GSC member during the 40s and 50s, remembered the help she received when building her son’s boat.

…When Robert wanted his boat we lent our big shed and tools to Bob Ross. He wanted to build a VJ and he was using our shed and tools so he decided to make two frames—just the boats. That’s when I had to learn to handle tools, wire and things. Robert had the hull and nothing else, and we had to finish it off.20

The introduction of plywood hulls and hard-chine construction methods in the 1950s increased the likelihood of skippers building their own boats. Hard-chine hulls were made from plywood that had been steamed, moulded into shape around a template and glued into place. It was a fast and easy method of hull construction. Len Walpole claimed that, over one weekend, three parents used these techniques to build the Club’s first five junior training boats (Sabots) on his front lawn.

The ease of hard-chine construction methods boosted the popularity of the 16ft skiff during the 1960s but, from its inception, it was the preferred sailing craft of the less well off. The old style planked boats could be re-conditioned or maintained at competitive level for many years and before the 1950s a skilled skipper could win races in a second-hand boat. Also skiffs carried a crew of four in light weather, five in heavy weather. This meant that only one in five skiff sailors owned a boat with the majority obtaining a ride through their skills and enthusiasm. The main criterion for the selection of new crewmembers was a willingness to work hard. The young boys who hang around the waterfront on Saturdays, who helped lift the hulls in and out of the water, who stood waist deep in water holding the boats into the wind while their skippers rigged them, were preferred candidates.

Whether they learnt to sail on Sydney Harbour or the Brisbane Water, older skiff sailors told similar tales of their introduction to sailing. Bill Bowry, whose father worked in the Dunlop rubber factory at Birkenhead, told of spending summers helping to lift hulls in and out of the water at the Drummoyne Sailing Club. John Humphries, a Gosford quarry worker, told of hours spent scrubbing rust off the skiff’s mile steel centreboards. Both remembered stealing their mother’s baking trays to be used as bailers on the off chance that they might be given a ride, and both remembered being trampled by the crew when the skiff came about.21

None of the crew made any concessions to the fact that the “bailing boys” might be as young as eight years old. By today’s standards some of their behaviour appears downright dangerous. For instance, some of the Sydney clubs had a tradition of throwing the bailing boy overboard after the boats had crossed the finishing line “…to see how fast he could swim through icy, shark-infested waters.”22 Some former bailing boys described their skippers as “real slave-drivers”, but all viewed their treatment as an apprenticeship, an initiation into the fine art of sailing. As John Humphries, who learnt to sail in the 1940s, explained,

…because I’d been around the boat for a whole season, the beauty of it was I knew every part of the boat. If they said grab this, grab that, I knew every rope on it…so I didn’t let them down.23

Knowing one’s way around a boat was the most important attribute a sailor brought to his sport. As far as the sailors interviewed were concerned, this was what their sport was all about. Sailing skill, not wealth or education, was what counted when out on the water. There the capacity to read the wind and keep a skiff upright was the great leveller. This attitude was epitomised by Thommo, who began sailing in 1934 at the age of 12. He described his first skipper in the following terms, “…Doc Atkins, I sailed with him for three years but I never knew his first name”.24 “Doc” Atkins was an ambulance driver, an appropriate nickname to shout in an emergency when the ability to grab the right rope meant the difference between staying in the race and capsizing. The image of a crew working as a team in a situation where skill, and only skill, counted reinforced the perception that sailing was a “working man’s” sport and that members of the sailing community were mates looking out for each other.

Sometimes these mates were women. In the 1940s Marion Cail sailed as fourth hand for Thommo for two years before she buying her own boat. She was not alone. Shelia Patrick was a legendary skipper and member of Sydney’s 18ft skiff sailing fraternity during the 1930s. Patrick claimed the men decided to tolerate her after they realised she had no intention of giving up the sport and had shown that she was willing to back-up her authority with “…a piece of four by two”.25 Cail claimed to have met little resistance once the men accepted that she genuinely wanted to sail and did not expect special treatment because of her gender. “Formidable” was the word most of the male sailors of GSC used when speaking about Cail. In Thommo’s opinion, “That Marion! She could do just about anything she put her mind to”. The presence of these women did not alter perceptions of skiff sailing being a “working man’s sport”, even after the 1960s when a number of daughters decided to join their father’s skiff crew and some progressed to skippering their own boats. These women joined the ranks of what anthropologists call “honorary men”, women allowed into a traditional male field of activity because of their ability. In this situation gender only caused problems if other women were present. Patrick claimed her fellow sailors treated her as one of them as long as no other women appeared and spoiled the atmosphere.

Cail also won approval from the men of GSC for her willingness to help run the club. In the 1950s she worked as race starter and later became the GSC’s only accredited skiff umpire, umpiring championship events state-wide. In these ways Cail “did her bit” for the club, an important consideration for members of the smaller sailing clubs. Running the Saturday sailing, staging regattas and hosting zone, state or national championships required hours of volunteer labour. To run even the smallest event, Saturday races, a club needed course setters, race starters, rescue boats, point scorers and umpires. For regattas and championship races clubs add radio operators, sail and boat measurers, rangers to protect expensive gear left scattered on the ground, a protest tribunal, a team of female volunteers to feed the hungry masses and a team of youngsters to clean up the mess afterwards.

GSC’s biggest annual event was the Easter regatta, which ran over three days and attracted hundreds of men and boats from sailing clubs as far afield as Brisbane. The Club began organising for the regatta in the previous October and volunteers pooled their resources to run every aspect of the event, from the initial planning to the presentation of trophies. Those who owned powerboats loaned them to the club for use as support vessels; one member was an electrician so he organised the radio system; another member was a clerk so he organised the paper work; and the Ladies Auxiliary organised the catering. A similar level of organization went into the building of the new clubhouse in the 1960s.

Because GSC was reluctant to borrow a large amount of money to build its new clubhouse, only the foundations, the outer shell and the first floor were constructed by professional builders. Volunteers did the rest. Members with trade qualifications donated their services. Those who owned equipment, such as ladders and scaffolding, lent them to the club on the weekends. Other members helped with the painting, built boat racks or tidied the site. According to the then Club President, Len Walpole, who named and thanked each volunteer in his opening day speech, the downstairs concrete block, electrical wiring, plumbing and interior carpentry work was done, at cost, by club members.26 This constituted the bulk of the construction work not covered by the bank loan, and was an indication of the importance of volunteer labour in small sailing clubs.

The initiation of the bailer boys was an introduction to the ideals of helping out both on and off the boat. The boys, who proved their willingness to work graduated to fourth hand, then to third hand, sheet hand and occasionally skipper. Skill and a reputation for being a willing worker often determined whether sailors skippered a boat. Novice skippers tended to learn their skills on second-hand boats, some of which were lent to them by other sailors, and for skilled or popular skippers there was always a skiff on offer. Despite the reputation wet-boat sailing gained during the early years of racing for being ungentlemanly sport, sailing clubs did attract a handful of wealthy members after the 1920s.27 These men found that as long as they accepted the ethos of working together and concentrating on their sailing then their fellow sailors accepted them.

As the wealthier members of a sailing community they were the men who brought the new skiffs into the clubs. After one or two seasons of racing a new skiff, they then loaned or sold them cheaply to other club members. While there was no obligation to act in this fashion, it raised their reputation in the eyes of fellow sailors. A couple of GSC’s wealthier members were labelled “good blokes” because they on-sold two or three year old skiffs throughout the 1950s and 60s. Occasionally wealthier club members owned more than one boat and helped the less well off by sponsoring promising skippers in their spare boats. Boat builders also sponsored top skippers not only for the sheer joy of watching a master sailor race one of their creations, but also for the business it generated. Some builders had skiffs in more then one club; a practice that helped spread their reputation beyond their local area. Joe Winter, for example, had skiffs registered at Gosford, Belmont and St George Sailing Clubs. This practice was a continuation of earlier links between boat-builders and sailing club, which operated for the benefit of both parties. Because skiff sailing was a spectator sport for the first half of the 20th century, sponsoring a winning skiff was an effective way of advertising the services of boat builders to the wider community.

The popularity of skiff racing as a spectator sport peaked in the 1930s and 40s when sailing, like many other sports during this period, attracted large crowds of followers. On Sydney Harbour hired ferries chased the skiffs around the racecourse while knowledgeable fans placed bets on the races. Similarly, during this period organisers of GSC’s Easter regatta hired a ferry to follow the races over the holiday weekend. Punters not only gambled on the overall winners, but also on which skiff would be the first to round the next buoy, and on placings for each of leg of the race. According to Bill Bowry, whose father spent many Saturdays on the ferries running a book on the skiff races,

My father was what the police called a bit noisy. He’d stand on the bow of the ferry and yell, a quid on such and such boat being first round the mark. The money went into his top pocket and he kept the odds in his head so the coppers couldn’t prove he was keeping a book. If they got really annoyed they’d put him off the ferry but they never arrested him,…and the punters never complained. So I guess he remembered the odds okay.28

While gambling was not an integral component of sailing culture, it was valued for the revenue it raised. Old Bill Bowry put some of his winnings back into the sport by sponsoring Drummoyne Sailing Club’s 2ft model yacht races and donating trophies for their annual competition.29 Such activities were accepted as a suitable way of raising money. GSC’s minute books show that during the 1950s and 60s the Ladies Auxiliary regularly raised around £200 per year from raffles and gambling nights. Another popular method of raising money was to run a tote on the weekly races. John Humphries organised a group of sailors who met every Monday at Gosford’s Royal Hotel to write out doubles tickets for the following Saturday’s race. These tickets were sold during the week for 2/- each and offered a prize of £5 for a correct bet on the two winning boats. Money raised in this fashion was spent on trophies and clubhouse maintenance.

The popularity of sailing as a spectator sport declined after World War II but the number of registered skiffs increased following the introduction of new boat building techniques, which made it easier and cheaper for sailors to build and sail their own boats. Between 1950-70 most skippers owned their skiffs. The prevalence of jobs with regular working hours, which guaranteed that sailors would have Saturday afternoons to devote to their sailing, also helped to increase the number of registered skiffs during this period. Another consequence of regular working hours was to make it easier for club members to devote their time to running the club and it was during this period many of the sailing clubs acquired a clubhouse. Clubhouses were important not only for the revenue they raised but also because of the traditional link between drinking and sailing.

Many 16ft skiff sailors were heavy drinkers and no sailing race was considered complete without a re-run at the bar with a beer in one hand. Bill Bowry’s son, Vince, recalled that the Australia Day race at Belmont, which attracted entrants from around NSW, began at dawn with a beer and prawn breakfast.30 It lasted until the crew began rigging their boats for the race, which started at 2pm. Regattas were both a social event and a sporting carnival. Sailing was interspersed with dances, barbecues and other social activities, including film nights and talent quests. They were a chance for sailors to strike up friendships in other clubs and, as early as 1940, networks built on a shared enthusiasm for sailing had formed, networks that stretched around Australia. Thommo commented that no matter where he was posted during World War II he could usually find a ride at the nearest sailing club on Saturdays. These rides were followed by a drinking session at the local pub.

Skiff sailors prided themselves for being hard racers. They sailed to win, swore at the opposition and hurled abuse at fellow crewmen. But, according to Bill Bowry, “…no matter how blue the air turned over the water we were all mates when we got back to shore”. For many sailing was a release from everyday cares, a chance to indulge in the sort of risk taking behaviour denied to them as adult men. The drinking sessions were an extension of this, a time to trade tales of sailing successes, feats of tactical cunning and past stupidities at regattas and championship events. Between 1900 and the late 1970s these stories showed a remarkable similarity, reflecting a uniformity of culture that developed in sailing clubs during that period.31 These days the stories are recorded in the nostalgia articles that ensure the popularity of boating magazines such as Afloat.32

The number of skiff registrations declined after the 1970s, a result of escalating costs. The introduction of fibreglass hulls in 1973 produced a low-maintenance skiff that was fast and light, but had a limited life span. This meant that skiff sailors had to buy a new boat every couple of seasons and most of them looked to commercial sponsorship to cover their costs. Commercial sponsors expected results, which increased pressure to buy new gear every season in an effort to remain competitive, and costs spiralled. By 1980 only young, skilled athletes sailed 16ft skiffs and the culture that had once sustained the sport had almost disappeared. Low-maintenance hulls contributed to the loss of the pre-season ritual of preparing the boat for racing, and shifting work patterns made it difficult to maintain a crew of four every weekend for five months of the year.

GSC membership records from the 1960s on showed occupations ranging from stonemasons, to lorry drivers, local council workers, auto mechanics, tradesmen and small business operators. Down-sizing and the loss of award conditions affected some of these occupations, namely lorry drivers, council workers and stonemasons, during the 1980s. Men who once had regular nine to five working hours found themselves working shifts. Similarly tradesmen and those who ran their own businesses found themselves working longer hours in order to survive. Club members could no longer guarantee that they would be available every weekend and rather than let down fellow crewmembers some began sailing solo.33 Solo sailing destroyed the opportunity for sailors to gossip and share stories during the race and reduced the inclination to re-run the race in the bar afterwards. Most of the enjoyment of re-running a skiff race derived from the crew of the winning boat taunting the crews of the losing boats with tales of how they had outsmarted them on each leg of the race.

As far as the clubs were concerned the worst damage inflicted by changes to work place practices was the decline in volunteer labour. After GSC hosted the 1980/81 Australian 16ft Skiff Championship, the class organiser, John Rigg, complained that, “…the majority of the workload rested once again on the few, who are becoming FEWER”.34 By “the few”, Rigg meant older club members. Younger members did not have the time to “do their bit” for the club. Many clubs, such as Belmont Sailing Club, responded to this problem by expanding their clubhouse and offering services to the local community. Funds raised through its facilities were used to pay for the support needed to stage an annual sailing competition. GSC resisted this trend but did lease its canteen to a contractor who turned it into a top-class restaurant. Money from the lease, plus the pay-out from a small number of poker machines, currently funds two positions, club manager and boatshed captain, which previously were filled by volunteers.

These are the changes that have caused older sailors to worry that sailing might become an elite sport. They revere the perceived egalitarian nature of sailing, the mateship and the lessons they learnt as bailing boys, and are loathed to see these traditions vanish. Younger sailors echo their concerns. The genesis of these traditions resides in the foundation of the early sailing communities that grew up around the beginning of the 20th century. The sailors who formed the early sailing clubs were mostly factory labourers and tradesmen and elements of their value systems and culture were integrated into the sport. Wet-boat sailing developed into a sport built around an appreciation of skill and co-operation, mateship, a willingness to help out the club and its members, gambling and drinking. While the individual wealth of sailing club members may have improved, the belief that sailing is a “working man’s” sport persists partly because the image of men working equally in a team has become engrained in the culture of sailing.

1 This article is based on material gathered in the course of writing a commissioned history of the Gosford Sailing Club. Sources included Club records, 14 oral history interviews, newspaper and magazine articles and the ABC’s five part radio documentary The Watermen made in the mid 1970s. The title of the paper is taken from the response of the current GSC President to a comment I made on the humble origins of “wet-boat” sailing in Australia.
2 All of the senior Gosford sailors interviewed were worried about the effects of escalating costs on junior sailors and expressed concerns that sailing might become an elite sport.
3 A “wet-boat”, also known as an open boat, is designed to allow water to wash into the boat while sailing. The average wet boat has no decking, a single mast that can carry up to three sails, a rear rudder and a removable centreboard. The earliest wet-boats were designed to be used in enclosed waters.
4 Sailing is a male dominated sport, especially skiff sailing. Before the 1970s only a handful of women sailed on a regular basis, Australia wide. Even today around 90% of skiff sailors are men.
5 S. Fitzgerald, Rising Damp Sydney 1870-90, Melbourne, OUP, 1987, p1
6 The two earliest sailing clubs were Johnston’s Bay and Pt Jackson founded in the 1890s, followed in the early years of the 20th century by a spate of sailing cubs, including Belmont, Drummoyne, St George and Newcastle, all of which were located near industrial sites.
7 A boat trip from Gosford to Sydney took from two and a half to four hours depending on the weather.
8 See Charles Swancott, The Brisbane Water Story, (4 vols), Brisbane Water Historical Society, 1955
9 Australian Gazette, February 4, 1842. Initially Kincumber was the largest settlement on the Brisbane Water
10 Sydney Morning Herald, July 2, 1885
11 ABC, The Watermen, Talking History Program, pt 4, nd
12 Skiff lengths climbed by increments of 2ft.
13 The sub-culture was reinforced by the sailing clubs, which tended to race only one class of boat.
14 GSC members who owned boats during this period claimed to have paid £300 for new skiffs whether they bought them in the 30s or the 50s. The price of an older boat depended on its reputation.
15 The Watermen, part 1.
16 Leonard Walpole, Personal interview, August 2000.
17 The hulls required at least eight men to lift them.
18 The Watermen, part 1.
19 Winter designed O’Johnny, the winning boat of the 1942 Australian 16ft Skiff Championship
20 Marion Cail, Personal interview, June, 2000
21 Activities mentioned by all sailors who learnt their skills as bailing boys.
22 “The Bailing Boy”, Afloat, No 127, May 2000, p34
23 John Humphries, Personal Interview, July 2000
24 Ron Thomson, Personal Interview, May 2000 “Doc” was one of the many inventive nicknames given to sailors which could be corruptions of the surname (Thommo), a comment on their physical appearance (Skinny), their personality (Knowledge) or a family connection (Young and Old Bill).
25 The Watermen, pt 3 In the period when Patrick sailed, it was common for skippers to use brute force and bluff as a major tactical tool, especially in the 18ft skiff fleet.
26 GSC records, also reported in Central Coast Express, March 14, 1966.
27 During these years the rules of sailing were in the process of being formulated and ramming other skiffs, slashing their sails or knocking opposition crew into the water with spars were accepted tactics before the Class Associations outlawed them.
28 Bill Bowry, Personal Interview, March 2000
29 A father and son activity which involved rowing after model yachts and setting the sails for each leg of the race. According to Young Bill Bowry they were run on Sunday, when organised sport was banned, and attracted a following of eager punters during the 1930/40s.
30 Vincent Bowry, Personal Interview, October 2000 This type of behaviour died out when increased commercial sponsorship caused younger sailors to adopt a more professional approach to their sport.
31 Interviews conducted in the mid-70s for The Watermen reveal a similar set of experiences to those of the men at GSC taken twenty-five years later.
32 Afloat, a monthly magazine is issued free through NSW sailing clubs. It is support by advertising and in 2000 had average circulation of 19,000.
33 In GSC the decline in skiff registrations coincided with a trebling of Laser (a single-handed dinghy) registrations.
34 John Rigg, Annual Report, Gosford Sailing Club Limited, 1980, p14.