The supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI is here at the museum for a short visit. Wild Oats and its crew have become an Australian sporting brand, recognised by the public as Australia’s premier racing yacht and team through their dominance of the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race, since Wild Oats XI was launched in 2005. This is Australia’s team, in the eye of the public Wild Oats XI is defending the country’s pride in the nation’s major ocean race – and its public adoration is thoroughly deserved.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have thousands of years of maritime history. More recently, Saltwater people were prominent in early colonial Australian voyages, such as Bungaree, the first Australian to circumnavigate Australia, with Matthew Flinders in 1802-3. Now, a crew from Sydney and south coast New South Wales are attempting to make history as the first Indigenous crew to enter the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Robert Ian ‘Bob’ Oatley AO BEM was a well-known and respected businessman, winemaker, yachtsman and philanthropist. To the Australian public he was best known for his first winemaking company, Rosemount, and his last yacht, the eight-time Sydney to Hobart winning super maxi Wild Oats XI. His business background has been widely covered in the media since his passing was announced, but his wide-ranging support for yachting deserves to be highlighted as well.
A generation of a family known for their classic wooden boat building in Australia has now come to an end with the passing of Magnus Halvorsen late in July, a month short of his 97th birthday. He was born in Norway, but migrated to Australia (via South Africa) as a child in 1925 with his mother, four brothers and two sisters. His father, Lars Halvorsen had arrived here in 1924, and established a boat building business in Sydney.
It’s another afternoon of chaotic, stormy weather as I put these words together. It reminds me of a simple thing the late Trygve Halvorsen said to me not long ago about the Sydney to Hobart race: ‘You have to finish to win it’. He was stressing what seems an obvious point, but his message was that you have to carry with you in the good weather the weight of that extra material and strength that are needed to survive the bad stuff. There is no point in being a fair-weather boat only, or to sail south in one that could not cope when things turned for the worse. Continue reading
The 70th Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race had its heritage well and truly acknowledged when the media launch was held at the museum on Tuesday 25 November, a month and a day before the fleet heads south. The race start is a public ritual; for decades huge crowds have turned out every Boxing Bay to watch the fleet sail down the harbour, and it only took one race for it to become an institution.
That first race in 1945 was a highlight in the drab aftermath of World War II. It captured the challenges, drama and intensity of ocean racing and brought the sport directly into the public’s view. Within months A C Cooper, the secretary of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, indicated that it would be an annual event starting each Boxing Day, and it has never missed a year.
Going through the museum’s archives I came across an old photo album featuring a yacht and two men photographed during the 1930s – nothing unexpected for a maritime museum’s collection. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the boat’s story.It all started in 1932 when George and William (Willy) Clark (the ‘Lucky Clarks’ as they became known), two brothers from Sydney who were also wealthy foresters, decided to build the 9 metre gaff-rigged cutter Maluka of Kermandie following the design in Huon pine by Cliff Gale.
In 1933, the brothers took Maluka on a five month cruise off Far North Queensland, followed by a trip to Lord Howe Island the following year. The album documents these trips with numerous photos of Maluka at sea and the adventurous, care-free life of the brothers, fishing, going for picnics in remote places and mixing with the locals, reinforcing the romantic ideas of escape and private travel that have fascinated people and contributed to the characterisation of cruising sailors as bohemians and eccentrics. Continue reading