The eighteen footers emerged as a class in the early 1890's, as smaller versions of the then-dominant 24 and 22 footers. They mostly competed in mixed fleets through the 1890's, with some races just for eighteen footers in the second half of the 90's. But the writing was on the wall, more of them were being built than any other class, the gun skippers were attracted to them and the crowds began to follow them. By 1902 they were the dominant class. Fleets of either side of 30 boats raced every week until the early 1930's, after which two separate fleets each with about 20 boats raced until the Second World War. Over 300 batten seam eighteens were built up to 1950, so there is plenty of room to grow the list below.
Builder: A.J."Toby" Whereat, a leading Brisbane boatbuilder and 16' skiff champion for Fred Hart. Known dimensions: 18' x 7' beam. Sail insignia: Black diamond (Aberdare was named after a coal mine). Aberdare was a very significant boat in the history of 18 footer sailing, being the culmination of several decades of argument and experiment regarding narrower skiff-type hulls and smaller rigs, illustrated beautifully in the photograph of Aberdare alongside Tangalooma which contrasts the rigs. Aberdare was a winner from its first season, completely dominating the 1932-33 season in Brisbane. She could only manage third in the Australian title in Sydney that season against Arawatta and Tangalooma, both big-beam boats and the big-beam supporters breathed a sigh of relief, but it was a light weather series and Aberdare had nothing bigger than a second suit of sails. She won the title in Brisbane in 1934, and in Sydney again in 1935, Brisbane again in 1936, but was beaten into second in Sydney in 1938 by Malvina, one of many boats built on similar lines. In 1935 the dispute between supporters of the big-beamers versus the skiff-types had led to the formation of the Australian 18 Footers League which split off from the Sydney Flying Squadron, a split that remains to this day. The whole story is thoroughly detailed in Robin Elliott's book Galloping Ghosts, available from Boat Books. Aberdare raced in Brisbane up until the 1939-40 season and was bought by W.J.Anderson for the Sydney SFS season of 1942-43. After Wee Georgie Robinson retired Britannia in 1944 he steered Aberdare for two and a bit seasons and was the scratch boat at the SFS. In January 1947 she went to Brisbane but was resoundingly defeated by the new Queensland 6 foot beamers. Vic Robinson sailed her for two last seasons at the SFS in 1950-51 and 1951-52. In 2000 Robert Tearne, the driving force behind the foundation of the Australian Historical Sailing Skiff Association built a replica of the Aberdare which still sails with the SFS replica fleet and is currently the scratch boat under John Winning.
Builder: Sam Williams, Pyrmont for owner-skipper Harry Thompson. Sail insignia: Modified Australian Coat of Arms until sold in Feb 1922, after which she displayed blue and gold horizontal bars. Harry Thompson sailed Advance with reasonable success from the 1909-10 season until February 1922 when he sold her to Arthur Rodrick for 80 pounds. Thompson carried his coat of arms sail emblem over to his new Sam Williams boat N.S.W which he then sailed until the middle second World War years. Advance sailed competitively under several owners and several skippers including George Degan and Frank Deady until the 1935-36 season.
Builder: Bob Barber (sometimes written up as Barbour) for himself. Insignia: Black pennant, gold cross. Bob Barber was a serial builder of 18-footers which he sailed himself, over a long period. He built 7 boats between 1913 and 1941 (see The Boatbuilders page). Neither Bob nor the boats were champions, but he was a frequent prizewinner of handicap races. Arakoon was named after the town on the Macleay River (N.Coast NSW) and was reported to have been built up there. Arakoon had an inauspicious start in her first race on 5 October 1929 colliding with HC Press II off Steel Point in the process of which she broke her bumpkin and the mast came down, and several of HC Press's crew were injured (but stayed on board and completed the race). Bob repaired the bumpkin and the boat came second in the following week's race. Bob sailed her for three seasons and sold her in July 1932, and appeared the next season with his new boat Waratah. The photo must have been taken on the annual Queen of the Harbour day as women were rarely seen on 18-footers at any other time during this period.
Arline (I) 1903
No picture yet found of Arline I, but she became Australian (II) in 1905 and there are plenty of pictures of that incarnation. Builder: Billy Golding, for George Solomon, Millers Point publican. Known dimensions: 17'11 3/4", beam 8'2", depth 2'3", tuck 6'6" x 1'10" deep, deck 12" including 4" moulding, spring 5" frd, 6" aft, sheer 6", case 5' long, 7'dagger fin, 1' in case. Cedar planking, tuck, deck, thwarts; Kauri stringers, Spotted Gum keel, timbers Elm, knees and stem Tea-tree, sternpost Hickory (Blackwood). "Good rise of floor, clean entrance, long run". Main by Carter was 26'6" on foot, 15'6" on hoist and head. Insignia: blue and gold crescent, possibly briefly carried Burns Philp flag. Arline was the biggest prizewinner in the 1903-04 season, after George Ellis became the regular skipper early in the season. She was the State Champion in February 1905. Ellis resigned late in the season, indignant at being accused of being in the hands of bookies. In September 1905 Watty Ford bought her off George Solomon and renamed her Australian (II).
Arline (II) 1910
Builder: Billy Golding. Launched as Eileen in 1907, George Solomon and his son-in-law Bill Bennett bought her in December 1910 for 70 pounds. She was steered mostly by Bill Edney with moderate success. Bill Fisher took over the tiller for the 1917-1921 seasons. She was sold to Wes West in February 1921 and steered by him for many years afterwards. The boat was still competitive, being on scratch in December 1923 and taking out the SFS Club Championship and the NSW Championship in 1923-24. It appears that West sold it to W. Wark in 1930, but his brother Harry West the sailmaker appears for a few seasons as the skipper. In 1934 she was sold to Brisbane and sailed there until the big-boat group there died out in the late 1930's. No known dimensions at this point. From 1910 to 1921 Arline's insignia was a blue and gold crescent, after being sold to Wes West the insignia was a red diamond with a blue bar.
Australian (I) 1896
Builder:Sam Williams Known dimensions: 18' x 8' beam, 2'3" deep, tuck 5'10" wide, spring 9" frd, 6" aft. Planking, case and deck of Cedar, keel Spotted gum, stem and stern knees of pear tree, timbers Ash. Boom 27', hoist 16', head 16'. Sail Insignia: Union Jack Skipper Chris Webb pictured perched on the tuck was a legend. He steered Australian to many victories, and the boat was the biggest prize winner up until 1903, when Billy Golding's new Arline began to beat him quite often for a couple of seasons. To fix the problem, owner Watty Ford who was also Webb's sheet hand by then, bought Arline and renamed it Australian in 1905 and Webb began to win again. The original Australian was sold to Botany Bay down the coast. Note that several of Webb's brothers were in the crew.
Australian (II) 1905
Builder: Billy Golding, launched as Arline in 1903. Bought by Watty Ford as it was beating his first Australian. Chris Webb continued to steer and she was one of the most successful prizewinners ever, including 2 successive Perth Flying Squadron Challenge Cups in 1908-9 in Perth and 1909-10 in Sydney. She was replaced by a third Golding Australian in 1912. Known dimensions: see entry for Arline (I). Sail areas in 1909 were: total 1882 sq ft, main 455 sq ft, jib 170, tops'l 63, ringtail 384, balloon jib 350, spinnaker 630. Boom length 27'6". Sail insignia: Union Jack.
Builder: Hubbard, Glebe Point, for Syd Dempster. Sail insignia: 3 stars on crescent. Aztec was one of the first 18 footers when they became established as a recognisable class. She was not a beamy boat, one comment was that she was "purely a skiff". She sailed with the Johnstone's Bay Sailing Club but won only handicap races. She appears not to have sailed after March 1895 when Dempster advertised her for sale, but she appears in Townsville in 1907 and is last heard of racing in Cairns in 1915. The photograph is interesting because it is one of only a few photos that show an eighteen carrying a squares'l and raffee, which they did until the late 1890's.
Builder:George Robinson Known Dimensions: 18'x 8' x 2'0" deep Planking, thwarts, case, decking Australian Cedar, sean battens NZ Kauri, keel, ribs Spotted Gum, stem and stern knees and all other knees Tea-Tree. Sail Insignia: Red Duster, British Merchant Marine flag.
Britannia was built in 1919 by Wee Georgie Robinson who at the time was the Balmain Tigers First Grade half-back. He sailed it every season except one until 1944. He turned it into a launch, and a few years later used it to fill in as the starter for the SFS, temporarily. This lasted for 28 years. The boat was restored in 1990 for display at the Australian National Maritime Museum. I launched a replica in 2002 which sails with the fleet of 11 out of the Sydney Flying Squadron. The building record of this replica is used as the basis for the construction section of the forthcoming book.
Builder: J.H "Jack" Whereat, Bulimba, Brisbane for J. Hibberd or Hibbard, once of Port Macquarie, living in Sydney in 1925. Design was said to be influenced by Billy Dunn's ideas. Billy was the skipper for its first two seasons. Known Dimensions: 7' beam, 2' depth. Sail insignia: Black Crescent. After an inauspicious start on 17 October 1925 when she capsized in a howling Westerly, Billy Dunn managed to win a bit of prize money and kept her handicap fairly low. She won the Port Jackson Championship that season. She was judged to be a good hard weather boat. Billy Dunn stayed off the water for her third season 1927-28. Owner Hibberd steered several times himself and tried other skippers such as D.Young. D.Murray appears this season also a skipper, and he may have bought the boat as he is reported as the joint owner with H.Monckton in 1929 and remained the owner for the rest of her racing career. Generally he put known skippers in charge for the next few seasons, including Ossie Hahn, Joe Budnick, Tony Russell and others. She was briefly scratch boat in March 1929. Chook Fraser took over the helm for the 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons, and the boat disappears from race reports after early 1934. She is reported as not being on the register of the Sydney Flying Squadron in November 1935. The photos come from Christine George whose father Joe Wilkinson is third from the right on the far side of the boat with his head in line with the bow of the ship beyond. The white uniforms first appeared in September 1929 and were disparagingly referred to as "beach pyjamas".
Builder: Charlie Dunn Known Dimensions: 17'11 3/4" x 7'2" beam by 2' deep. Sail Insignia: Red, white and blue crescent. Desdemona was built for A.C.Roberts who was a solicitor and became the NSW Solicitor-General. He had previously owned other open boats including the 22-footer Vuna in the 1890's. He steered the boat himself and she was always a middle of the fleet or long-marker boat but had her share of wins on handicap. Roberts sailed her up until he died in 1938, then his mainsheet hand Tommy Doyle took over as skipper and shared ownership with three others of the crew. Desdemona raced for 31 seasons up until January 1941 when Tommy Doyle bought the Willis Douglass-built Collaroy of 1938 and renamed her Desdemona II. He was not happy with her and with Laurie Blake built Desdemona III in 1943. The Wright-built Sea-Witch of 1946 became Desdemona IV in 1947, and Tommy Doyle built Desdemona V in 1949 but sold her three years later. The sailing photo above shows the crew driving the boat hard on a shy run, and the crew and boat photo is probably late in the boat's career and seems to be taken on the beach at Double Bay. Desdemona's mainsail was unusual for an 18-footer at the time in being horizontally-cut from 1912. Both photos from the Sydney Flying Squadron collection. Update: it appears likely that these photos are of Desdemona II, III or IV.
Builder: Charlie Dunn Berry's Bay for D.C.Ravell Known dimensions: 17'11 1/4" by 7'7 1/2" beam, 2' 4 1/2" deep. Sail Insignia: Blue Commonwealth flag. Kismet won several races in her first season, 1912-13, steered by Billy Dunn (who also had a hand in her construction) and by March 1914 she was on scratch. She was the leading prizewinner in 1914-15, and the SFS Champion in 1915-16. Dave Ravell and his brothers went off to war and the boat did not start in the 1917-18 season, but returned to racing in December 1918, and was the State Champion in 1919-20, still under Billy Dunn. W.J."Billy"Duncan took over the tiller from the 1920-21 season until 1924-25 and was still a competitive boat, including winning selection to go to Perth in January 1922 (where she was beaten by local boat Mele Bilo, also designed by Charlie Dunn). She appears not to have sailed in the 1925-26 season but reappears for the 1926-27 season, when after a few races, owner Dave Ravell began to steer himself. The boat remained competitive and was sailed every season until Dave Ravell was killed in an industrial accident (he was a builder) in December 1937 aged 47. His young nephew W.Ravell then sailed Kismet for several seasons, the last being 1940-41. This long run of 28 years (25 seasons) ties for third with Britannia, behind Scot with 43 seasons and Desdemona with 31.
Builder: Billy Golding, for Tom Sherley. Sail insignia: Maroon pennant, gold cross. Nimrod debuted well, winning the third-most prize money (46 pounds) in 1909-10 under skipper Charley Hayes (a boatbuilder in his own right). She remained successful, becoming the SSC Champion in 1911. W. Keddie took over the tiller in 1912-13, but W.J."Billy" Duncan took over in 1913-14 and sailed for three seasons. The boat did not start in the 1916-17 season and was sold to Tom Golden in February 1917. Duncan was appointed skipper again and made her the scratch boat in 1917-18. In the first half of the 1918-19 season she sailed as Nimrod, but in the second half Golden re-registered her as Mascotte. Billy Duncan continued to steer, making her the SSC Champion in 1919, but was replaced by his cousin W.C."Trappy" Duncan from the 1920-21 season. In March 1923 she was sold to a syndicate headed by R.Holmes and renamed Awaya, mostly skippered by Billy Dunn for a few seasons. Sold again in 1925 to J.Hall, the name reverted to Mascotte and was the SFS Champion under Trappy Duncan again in 1925, who steered her until the 1929-30 season when Hall replaced her with Mascotte II, a boat he built himself.
Builder: Joe Donnelly, Glebe for Peter Cowie. Known dimensions: length 17'11 1/2", beam 7'0 1/4", depth 2'5" Scot has the record for the longest sailing career of an eighteen footer. Starting with the 1906-07 season, only a few seasons after the 18's had emerged as the dominant class, she raced up until the 1947-48 season, and after a seasons's break was reconditioned to sail as Leonie in the 1949-50 season, a total of 43 seasons! The Cowie brothers only kept her for the first three seasons and sold her to a syndicate in November 1910. By 1913 she was owned and skippered by legend Jack Smith who sold her to a Port Macquarie syndicate in 1920, but she was sold back to a Sydney syndicate headed by R.T.Bartley in 1922. Scot sailed in Sydney under several owners throughout the 1920's and '30's and was one of the foundation boats of the League in 1935. Throughout these early years the boat was competitive, mostly with low handicaps. She sailed for two seasons 1938-37 and 1937-38 as Norma D, then changed hands again and was renamed Native. Mostly skippered by footballer Tony Russell these years were the boat's most successful, being the scratch boat at the SFS in 1941-42, and having the best season in 1943-44. Tony Russell had a disagreement with the owner Jack Sleeman who then skippered the boat after February 1945, but he was not the skipper that Russell was and the boat was the limit boat of the fleet by December 1947, and this was her last season as Native. As mentioned there was one more season as Leonie. Reg Barrington built the AHSSA's second eighteen footer replica in 1996 based on a model of the Scot of doubtful provenance, but the boat still races with the replica fleet, unfortunately with a more modern higher-peaked rig than the one in the photos.
Yes, there was a boat called Swastika but it was long before it became associated with Nazis. The symbol was used by Buddhists, American First Nations and the Celts. Builder: Charlie Dunn for E.A.Palmer. Insignia: Blue swastika. Swastika was launched in early September 1913 after being built on the moulds of Kismet, but modified. It was 1" deeper, had more spring and sheer both frd and aft and was expected to be faster. This unfortunately was not the case. Kismet was a champion, but the modifications in Swastika were not an improvement at all. The owner Mr E.A.Palmer previously owned a 16-footer of the same name. The sails were by Dingwall who did most of the 16-footer sails, was housed in Mosman Bay and was skippered for several seasons by C.Stewart. In its first season it finished near the bottom of the prize money earners. Stewart had to wait until its second season to have a win in January 1915, but won again in March. P.Harry mostly steered in the 1916-17 season, but C.Stewart appeared again in the 1917-18 season. Bill Edney took over as skipper in the 1918-19 season (Bill had been a successful 10-footer skipper). He won a double (heat and final) in March 1919 off 3 1/4 minutes (when the limit was about 4 1/2) with a new mains'l. He continued to steer it for 6 more seasons, and managed to reduce its handicap but it was never a championship boat. The last season it sailed was 1924-25, and it was advertised for sale in March 1926 but it seems it never raced again.
Builder: Ben Cribb to a Colin Clark design, for Colin Clark. Insignia: Two Black bars Tangalooma debuted in Brisbane at the beginning of the 1930-31 season and won her first race in the second week, skippered by Jimmy Mindham. She didn't make the team to travel to Sydney to represent Queensland that year but travelled to race in Townsville in North Queensland instead and was second in the local 18 footers Championship. The next season under the same skipper she won the Brisbane Championship, winning all four races. In the 1932-33 season, the revolutionary boat Aberdare began to outclass her, in fact Tangalooma only beat Aberdare that season in one light race. The Australian title that season was in Sydney, and the Sydney boat Arawatta beat Tangalooma with Aberdare third in a light series and the absence of a big rig for Aberdare. She was then sold in Sydney, or rather Colin Clarke brought several Sydneysiders into a syndicate with him, and the boat remained in Sydney. Billy Dunn skippered Tangalooma with success for the next two seasons, and it was in the middle of the second season, 1934-35 that the Australian 18 Footers League split out of the Sydney Flying Squadron in order to race the newer, narrower, lighter, more skiff-like boats like Aberdare (for full details see Robin Elliott's book Galloping Ghosts, available from Boat Books). In the 1935-36 season Tangalooma won the SFS State Championship, and the Australian Championship skippered by W.C."Trappy" Duncan, against other big-beam boats. She was then shipped back to Brisbane in April 1936 to bolster the big boat group in Queensland where the clubs had also split. She won the 1936-37 big boat Australian Championship under Roy Pythian winning 3/3 heats. Tangalooma did not race in the 1937-38 season, and the big boat group in Brisbane disbanded in May 1938. The boat survived in storage until the 1990's, long enough for a lines plan to be taken off her, and a replica was built by Reg Barrington in 1995, but was unfortunately rigged with a more modern, higher-peaked gaff rig than the one in these photographs.
Builder: Charlie Hayes Known dimensions: 17'11 3/4" long, 7'2" beam, 2'0" deep. Insignia: Red Anchor Yendys was built in 1925 for Norm Blackman who had already established himself as a skipper with two previous boats both called Sydney. All three boats carried the red anchor sail insignia. With a snub nose the boat was considered a rule cheater by some and was only accepted into the SFS after some heated debate. She was always one of the low-handicap boats and often the scratch boat, winning several championships over a long career which finished in 1942 when Norm Blackman became involved in War work at Garden Island Naval Base. Yendys was stored at Norm's home until he sold it to Jack Lloyd for conversion to a launch in the 1950's. She was restored to sailing condition by George McGoogan and apprentices at the Cockatoo island Dockyard and re-launched in 1982, and a few years later donated to the Sydney Heritage Fleet and she is now on permanent display at Wharf Seven Darling Harbour. A laminated replica was built in 2006-7 by the late Ian Perdriau and Col Bailey who was one of the apprentices from Cockatoo who had rebuilt the original boat. Text condensed from The Open Boat book, photo of George McGoogan with the restored Yendys David Liddle, sailing photo Hall Collection ANMM.