History of the model skiff racer

Leaning over

While racing in the State Open Water Championships (during October 1947 in Rose Bay, Sydney) a competitor reaches under the hull to move the keel aft.

Model skiff designs were based on their larger, fully crewed 18 foot cousins and usually built by their skipper.

The big skiff origins go back to the 1870s when a number of classes raced regularly on Sydney Harbour. The 1890s saw the 18-footers begin their rise to dominance as the showpiece skiff class, and the massive 22-footers and 24-footers faded into history.  Continue reading

Two-footer recollections

Harry Hugh McGoogan, born in Balmain in 1927 and a Cockatoo Island shipwright by trade, recalls the last days of 2-foot model skiff racing. This account is edited from his handwritten notes.

George McGoogan with Joan 11, the two-foot model skiff he built.

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Model racing skiffs make a comeback


A skipper shepherds his model skiff between Point Piper and Shark Island.

During the first half of the century model racing skiffs were regularly seen sailing across Sydney Harbour in winter.

They were often raced by people who in summer were busy racing full sized skiffs.

Although this practice ended around 1954, model racing skiffs are making a comeback across Australia, which the museum is keen to encourage. Continue reading

Building a model skiff racer

David's skiff in action.

David's skiff in action.

The delightfully comical proportions of racing model skiffs are rather confounding for many people. How does something so short, so wide, so deep – and with all that sail – actually work?

Why can’t it look more normal? Why aren’t they just scaled down from an 18 foot skiff to the specified length of the model class, of one or two feet (30.48 or 60.96 cm)? Continue reading