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.
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
Late March and with the rain coming down in Sydney, the luxurious SY Ena played host to descendants of its original owner from 1900, Sir Thomas Dibbs. Fourteen relatives gathered in the museum foyer and then went down to see their patriarch’s pride and joy, fresh from a trial steaming on the Friday and eager to get out again. Also on board were two engineers from Melbourne familiarizing themselves with the engine, and everyone including the owner were, in one way or another, discovering more about the yacht.
The family members attending spanned many generations, headed by 96 year old Elizabeth Cadden who came with an embroidered table cloth from the boat while her son Andrew held a plate embossed with Ena and RSYS, for the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, small mementos from what had once been in their family. Scurrying around and playing make believe games were the youngest generation, Olivia, Imogen and Ella, free to make much more noise than was probably the case for their age when great, great grandfather was in charge. It was also a wonderful social get together for the families, catching up on news as they sat and talked together or roamed around the decks and cabins, taking in the splendid restoration. Continue reading
For years it’s been under covers, almost out of sight, and seemed untouchable on the rare occasions it was out on the water – but now the harbour’s princess SY Ena has begun to shed her mystique- and the museum is lucky enough to provide a venue for her coming out.
The classic lines, clipper bow and counter stern, raked spars and funnel, an intricate, beautifully engineered steam engine in immaculate condition, and an unbelievable varnish finish, SY Ena stops everyone in their tracks, and has them lost for words when they go aboard.
The global influence of a beloved brew
‘By the sea, drinking tea’, by researcher and former assistant curator Mariko Smith. From Signals 103 (June-August 2013).
Tea can be considered as the first global commodity for mass consumption, and the maritime industry was crucial to this achievement by transporting chests of tea between ports around the world. Key players in the supply and demand for tea included large multinational merchant companies in Europe, most notably the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Britain’s own East India Company, which dealt in important trade goods such as tea between the Far East and Europe from the 17th to 19th centuries. These companies played important roles in exploration and discovery as well as commercial trade. Ships of exploration and commerce, they can be all considered as vessels of change: they brought significant social, cultural, economic and political transformations to nations such as Britain and Australia, simply through importing this fragrant cargo.
According to BBC Radio 4’s In our time profile on tea in 2004, Britain’s trade in tea began with a modest official import of just two ounces (60 g) during the 1660s, and grew to an annual supply of some 24 million pounds (11 million kg) by 1801. By the turn of the 20th century it was one of the most widely consumed substances on Earth; rich and poor alike were sipping an average of two cups a day and every Briton was using on average six pounds (3 kg) of tea leaves per year. Tea’s ability to transcend class was not lost on commentators such as English merchant philanthropist Jonas Hanway, who warned European society in an essay written in 1757 that ‘your servants’ servants, down to the very beggars, will not be satisfied unless they consume the produce of the remote country of China’.
The action for final race for the America’s Cup in 1983, dubbed ‘the race of the century’ by US skipper Dennis Conner, began well before the race started. Mindful of some starting issues, the Australians called for a lay day after race six to put some practice in. Meanwhile, the US team used this to optimise their yacht Liberty with ballast and sail area changes to make it faster in the expected lighter winds, something the Australians had wished they had thought of too. Racing was abandoned for 24 September due to poor wind, and then the US team called a lay day themselves to do more work on Liberty, further irritating the Australians.
Australia II has become one of the nation’s most recognisable vessels, thanks to that extraordinary America’s Cup win in 1983. Almost everyone knows about its winged keel that seemed to make it unbeatable. The keel completely spooked the Americans who tried many moves off the water to avoid having to race against Australia II. However there was much more to the boat than just that keel, because its peculiar advantages allowed other subtle changes to be made that further helped Australia II to dominate many races. Designer Ben Lexcen had trialled endplates and other similar features on rudders, centreboards and keels at different times in his career, starting with a Moth class dinghy in the late 1950s, and then the break-through 18-foot skiff Taipan in 1959. The focus of his efforts was to reduce the drag and loss of efficiency from tip vortices off these appendages. These experiments met with mixed success but when he returned to the idea again in the 12 metre class, he developed the concept from a different direction.
Twelve metres are designed to detailed rule for their allowed dimensions. They are heavy boats for their length, with a considerable amount of ballast. The draft restrictions and large volume of the hull result in a shallow depth keel, with a poor aspect ratio and poor efficiency. The wings on the keel helped to reduce these inefficiencies in a similar way to the endplates he had experimented with, but he was able to make another bold step in lateral thinking. Rather than just realising the improvements to drag, Lexcen could see other advantages at the same time, and this was characteristic of his ability to think around many things at once.
This week marks 30 years since an aspirational nation woke up to news that Australia had licked the Americans in a blue-blood yachting event, finally wresting the coveted America’s Cup from the nation which had held it for 132 years and fought off all challengers including long-standing Trans-Atlantic rivals England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada to its northern border and across the Pacific to Australia.
With the series tied at three races each, many Australians had stayed up all night to watch the cliff-hanger on television. The last race saw skipper John Bertrand lead his crew in Australia II in a tacking duel, crossing the line 41seconds ahead of veteran skipper Dennis Conner in Liberty. Continue reading
This story was inspired by a monkey. Lately I’ve noticed that in addition to stories being discovered within the museum’s collection, some of our wonderful followers have been coming forward with stories of their own and relating it back to the museum’s collection. Enter Flickr user beachcomberaustralia and his seafaring relative, Lieutenant William Henn – America’s Cup sailor and proud owner of Peggy the monkey. Continue reading
Every week I come across new discoveries being made on our Flickr Commons stream. One of my aims in writing about the historic watercraft that graced Australian waters is to try and find the people behind the vessels. I want to discover the families who made these vessels their own and developed a close connection with them. One such story yet again sprung out of a Samuel J Hood photograph from our collection, depicting a bearded man in front of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron headquarters in Kirribilli, Sydney. One of our Flickr followers suggested a name and once I had that name, a connection was formed and then, a story was born. Continue reading
This weekend is a fantastic event in the museum’s calendar – the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival 2012. More than 70 privately owned classic boats will gather in Darling Harbour, including over a dozen Halvorsen cruisers! Here is a selection of vessels that will be on show:
The Captain’s Barge is the only remaining cabined example of its type in Australia. Built in England in 1945, the boat has an innovative construction involving double-mahogany planks, copper-nailed with a linseed-oiled canvas layer between, and has been restored by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust volunteers.
Gretel II – America’s Cup challenger in both 1970 and 1971. Gretel II, designed by Alan Payne, was the last wooden 12-Metre class yacht to be built and was generally considered faster than Intrepid in the 1970 series. She was modified in 1977 and refitted in 2009 in her current configuration as a cruiser racer with a minimalist interior fitout.
Read more about Gretel II on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.
Hurrica V is a 1924 English gentleman’s classic sailing yacht born in the Edwardian era, remembered for its embrace of glamour and classic designs. Now restored and reborn with renewed respect for that elegance, she has proven to be a bona fide yacht with a double-crossing of the notorious Bass Strait to Hobart. Hurrica V will feature in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Read more about Hurrica V (on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database).
Silver Cloud was first built in 1939. She was part of the ‘Hollywood Fleet’ that patrolled Sydney Harbour during WWII. In 2010 she was entered onto the ANMM Register of Historic Vessels. After a four-year renovation Silver Cloud resumes her place as the ‘grande dame’ of classic boating.
Read more about Silver Cloud on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.
Protex is a typical early-20th-century small motor boat built to operate in Australia’s harbours and inland waterways. She was used to transport goods and personnel to ships and waterfront establishments, and to ferry staff from the Palmolive factory at Balmain to various city wharves.
Read more about Protex on the museum’s Register of Historic Vessels database.
A full list of vessels on display at the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival can be seen on our website.
It’s been 24 years since Australian long-distance sailor, Kay Cottee, returned from her record breaking 189-day solo circumnavigation of the globe in her yacht, Blackmores First Lady. She was the first woman to circumnavigate the world alone and unassisted.
The voyage spanned 6 months, with Blackmores First Lady departing Sydney on 29 November 1987 and returning on 5 June 1988. As Cottee crossed the line inside the harbour marking the completion of the voyage, she was greeted by a flotilla of vessels with cheers from crowds who had come out to welcome her home.
In the following year, Cottee wrote a book about her adventure, First Lady: A history making solo voyage around the world (MacMillan, 1989). Cottee was recognised for her achievement when she was named Australian of the Year early in 1989 and later awarded an Order of Australia.
In 2000, the yacht was acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum as part of the National Maritime Collection. Along with the yacht, the museum acquired hundreds of objects from the journey and many of these are displayed along with facsimiles and replicas in the Watermarks – Adventure, sport & play.
Last Sunday the elegant Kathleen Gillett, usually moored at our museum wharves, took part in the Great Veteran’s Race on Sydney Harbour. With a crew made up of museum staff and volunteers, Kathleen Gillett made her way gracefully around the Great Veteran’s Harbour course, but unfortunately did not finish the race. We won’t hold that against the crew though!
The Great Veteran’s Race, is the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual tribute to those classic Sydney Hobart Yacht race yachts that sailed south in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s and marks the opening of the Audi Winter Series.
Kathleen Gillett, a gaff-rigged ketch, was built in 1939 for Sydney marine artist Jack Earl to sail around the world. A founder of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, Earl sailed Kathleen Gillett in the first race in 1945. Two years later, the ketch (named after Earl’s wife) circumnavigated the globe, only the second Australian yacht to do so. Kathleen Gillett’s venturesome career later included island trade and crocodile-hunting expeditions. In 1987, she was found in Guam and bought by the Norwegian government as a bicentennial gift to Australia.
Kathleen Gillett is moored at the museum’s wharves, along with our vast historic fleet and can be viewed any day of the year.
Below are some photographs of Kathleen Gillett in action last Sunday, what spectacular sight it was!