March 9 - 15, 2014: Issue 153

A History of the oldest division in the Royal Motor Yacht Club
by Les Spencer

The Club has a collection of Annual Reports dating back to 1946, (following the end of the second World War 1939-45). These were donated by the family of a deceased member some years ago. Examination of these outlines the following history of the formation of the Cruiser Division.

Each report has a section called Racing Report, these show that many of the cruiser events back then were Speed Events, or races and were mainly conducted with small boats. This was obviously prior to the introduction of No Wash zones in Broken Bay. There were events held between many other Yacht Clubs in NSW, Rose Bay, Port Hacking etc. The 1946 report reports that our Club had lost the trophy for the best NSW Cruiser, a trophy we had held since 1938, (not competed for during the war).
So, the RMYC Cruisers were in active competition prior to 1938.

Port Hacking’s Prestigious Harry Peel Trophy, commenced in 1934 and our Club entered some of their early event.
The war intervened and competition was almost nil, an obvious shortage of boats, fuel and men. After the war the club recommenced activities and the cruisers were there in force. Some events in 1946/47 were well contested with 21 boats entered in several events.Very good considering the total CLUB membership at this time was just 143.

They were still doing Speed events as well as Cruiser Navigation events around this time under some format; essentially it appears these navigation events were run on a start and finish time calculated against each boat’s declared speed. There is no record of check points being used at this time.

A handicap system was introduced to give some advantage to the slower boats. It is noted some of the larger boats entered with speeds of 22 knots even back then!

Around 1947 the club had plotted a measured the distance between two visible shore based locations and issued the distance and the time calculations to complete this at various boat speeds. This allowed boats to use such as a measuring tool to check the accuracy of their boats instruments.

In typical Aussie fashion the boaties saw this as a way to have competitions against each other each other, just for fun, over a pre- selected course to see if they could maintain their average speed over the course and finish at the correct time relevant to their declared speed. They used only their boat compass and stop watch, GPS was not around then. They extended this by adding extra legs to the course and added more check points. The courses were always on Pittwater and always finished at the Club where they compared results over lunch.

They advanced this by introducing extra visible check points along the way, jetties etc , and each boat had to record their time as they passed these. To allay possible “cheating” they positioned an observer on each boat to record these times.

They officially became the Cruiser Competition Division, registered as such with the Club around 1950 and appointed their own Committee to run these events, separate to the RMYC Committee, but still under the regulation of the Club.

As Division progressed they added different courses for each event and introduced land based Check Pointers, persons, (usually a relative or friend), would be allocated a position on the shore adjacent to Pittwater. Check Pointers were provided with a sighting device which had to be placed in a set position and a stop watch, and received a packed lunch. They were given a list of competing boats, each of which carried a large number on the bow. They were also given information relating to the actual time each boat
was due to pass their particular check point. Check pointers would record the boat time and calculate the seconds, or minutes, each boat was early or late.

Check Pointers made their own way to land accessible locations at Taylors Point, Palm Beach, etc, and the division would ferry others to water access points, like Portuguese beach, Flint and Steel beach.

Check pointers were often “dunked” on landing at some of these. The hardy souls then had to complete their shift whilst drying off and being picked up again.

To prevent competitors from being only on time at the known check points, regardless of the course, the Committee did not announce which check points would be in use at each event. They would choose 7 or 8 from a known 15 locations. The skippers then had to be on time throughout the course not knowing where they would be checked.

More boats entered and the division progressed. They acquired sponsors and trophies for each event, plus a Champion Boat Points Score trophy and also a Navigator award. The Division then began competing against other Yacht Clubs. The Kuringai (Cottage Point) club had their own trophy, the AC WOOLL trophy. This was competed for once a year as a team event with the best 3 boats scores from either club deciding the winner.

The Port Hacking Yacht Club were also conducting competition events, their major event being the HARRY PEEL Trophy. This had been held since 1934, (interrupted by the war) and was initially speed contests but changed to navigation events later. Our Club began entering as a team, choosing our best 3 boats. This event began at Broken Bay and sometimes Rose Bay and always finished at Port Hacking.
Our Club was successful in both these inter club events on numerous occasions.

In 1997 the Division created its own ocean event, the BLUE WATER OCEAN CLASSIC. This was open to all yacht clubs and the course was set from our Club in Broken Bay, to Sydney Harbour and return to our Club, a distance of 42 nautical miles. This required 22 check points to be set up down the coast. Two persons per check point who had to stay for several hours to monitor boats to and from Sydney. Quite a logistical challenge.

The inaugural event had 23 boat entrants, from our Club. Port Hacking, Rose Bay, and Southport in Queensland, and one from the Coast Guards. The event was well sponsored with a first prize of $5,000. Presentations were made at our Club during a formal dinner. This event was run for five years with diminishing entrants and finally ceased due to lack of sufficient entrants.

The Division continued through the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and into year 2000 with a good record of entrants. Speed Races were long gone with No Wash and 4 knot zones in place on Broken Bay.

A handicap system remained in force during the 1970’s and was only lifted in the late 1990’s. The Committee then placed an 8 knot limit on boat entrants to replace the handicap.

The Division changed their time measuring procedures to eliminate land based check pointers. They trialled a GPS monitoring system with data loggers on each boat to record the boat time against random selected checkpoints undisclosed to the boat crew but GPS usage was still forbidden during the event.

After many box failures they persevered with these until newer, better, units became available. These are now in use on all events and have proved to be most reliable.

Insurance regulations required the Division to drop the word “race” from their events. They are now all known as “events”
The Committee dropped the word “competition” from their title and became, what they are today, the CRUISER DIVISION of the RMYC in the mid 2000’s.

The Cruiser Division continues today maintaining the same traditions as their forebears, using only stopwatch and compass to navigate, strictly NO GPS. These must be switched off. It is an honour system.
.In an average season six Navigation Declared Speed events are conducted with one of these being a Predicted Log event. In this all time pieces are prohibited, just use your compass and knowledge of your boat’s capabilities.
These are interspersed with social events on water, Paper Chases, Questionnaires, finding clues etc. Always ending with a Raft Up in a local bay with a BBQ and other refreshments.
Progressive Dinners on the water, moving from boat to boat, Fancy Dress days and Theme Days are also popular.
All the events are sponsored with impressive trophies and generous prizes for winners and place getters. Some of the trophies go back many years.
The division Handbook is produced each year with details of the calendar, committee contact details, club regulations for water sports, and rules of all the events. This is also sponsored with advertisers taking space.
A Presentation Night is held at the end of each season This is usually a Black Tie Dinner Dance, Mess Jacket or Formal wear for men, Cocktail dresses for the ladies, all trophies are presented and sponsors acknowledged.
Currently the division has 120 registered members, and one Life Member, (Les Spencer)

Cruiser Division Captains in recent years have been:
o David Rogers 2008 / Present
o Bob Nicholson 2001 / 2008
o Les Spencer 1999 / 2001
o John Barnett 1997 / 1999
o Barry Barnett 1995 / 1997
o Mike Pawson 1993 / 1995
o Brian Thomas 1991 / 1993
Major Sponsors over the years have been:
o Peter Haig
o George Bidder & Family
o Bob Frost
o Dick Chapman
o G Brothers Mona Vale
o Caltex
o Mark Lloyd
Major Trophies
o Boat of the year
o Navigator of the year
o Caprice
o Mee Tu
o Clae
o Cash Flow
o General Manager’s

ROYAL MOTOR YACHT CLUB BROKEN BAY NSW - CRUISER DIVISION HISTORY by Les Spencer, courtesy Royal Motor Yacht Club - Broken Bay, 2014.

Next week we shall run a page on some of the earlier Ocean Races of the RMYC - Broken Bay Division and some of the wonderful vessels that formed part of the fleet as well as insights into iconic early cruisers and races and the people who initiated many aspects of local boat building of these craft and those who ensured the industry's development. A small insight from our Bona - Classic Wooden Yacht history is below from the interview with one of these early motor boat builders.

As part of the 2014 Pittwater Festival, a Navigation Trial and Paper Chase
form part of the events programme:

Blue Water Navigation Trial
Saturday 29th March 2014
8am to 11am

Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay extends a hearty invitation to join in and be part of the Blue Water Navigation Trial on Saturday 29th March and the Pittwater Paper Chase on Sunday 30th March 2014. These events are part of the inaugural R-Marine Riley - Pittwater Festival.

The Blue Water Navigation Trial is limited to only 25 competitors, who may use all forms of navigation aids; including electronic chart plotters, radar, depth sounders, speed logs; as well as compass and time keeping instruments to complete the nominated course.

You are encouraged to involve as many of your family and friends as there is no limit to the number of crew you may have aboard. You will be provided with a topographical chart (provides more detail on land based objects for taking bearings) which includes the course clearly marked. Legs of the course for the main part, line up with land based prominent features to aid course navigation. In these instructions you have will also been provided with the waypoint latitude and longitude for the start, each turning point and the finish point. Also provided will be the approximate magnetic bearings and cumulative distance in nautical miles for each course leg. In other words you have all the information to enable you to steer an accurate course and to be on time along the course.

The maximum speed allowed to be declared for this event is 8 knots but please be aware of your wash when passing other boats and you must observe the Roads and Maritime rules for safe navigation at all times. The event which starts in Pittwater travels up to and into the entrance of the Hawkesbury River before returning to back to a finish in Pittwater.

The event will be scored using GPS tracker boxes to be placed on each boat. These boxes are to be promptly returned to the Event Committee at the RMYC immediately after completing the course to allow each boat’s score to be computed. For every second a boat is either early or late at secret check points along the course a penalty point will be incurred. The boat with the least penalty points will win the event and second and third will follow with the next least number of points etc. Great prizes will be awarded to the winning boat and those that run second and third.

Start times will be advised after receipt of all entries on Friday 21st March. The Course Chart and Instructions will be available for pick up after receipt of your entry form from RMYC Reception. Cathy McDonald 99975511.
More Details here

Pittwater Paper Chase
Sunday 30th March 2014
12pm to 2pm

Come and join in the fun of the last event of the R-Marine Riley Pittwater Festival.

You are guaranteed a great afternoon on your boat and the beautiful waters of Pittwater. The Paper Chase is a challenge of observation, whereby you follow simple instructions that are provided when you enter, to navigate the course which starts at the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay and takes you to various locations around Pittwater. Along the way you will be asked to find the answers to questions that are provided on the questionnaire from things you will see on the way.

You will be asked to find, various locations, names, objects or identifying features on the shoreline or on the water along the course.

Clues might be, a particular house or jetty, a name on a boatshed, or unusual object that is nearby. The clues may be straight forward, or cryptic, or just plain tricky. Clues will be in the order of the key locations that you have to navigate to, so there is no need to back track.

The course takes you from the RMYC across to Scotland Island, then head North to Stokes Point, then to Morning Bay on the western foreshore, then head around Scotland Island towards Bayview and then to the finish off the RMYC. Questionnaires will be marked by completely incorruptible, dedicated, invisible officials of the RMYC!

Allow approximately TWO HOURS on the water to complete the questions.

You are required to be back at the RMYC by 2pm to hand in your completed questionnaire. Time then to relax enjoy some food, refreshments, live entertainment and the presentation of prizes.

Excellent prizes for the most accurate and other novelty prizes to be won.
More Details here

 Bona - the Cruiser:

also see - The Classic Yacht, The Bona

LAUNCH OF A MOTOR YACHT. CHRISTENED BY THE PREMIER. At the invitation of the Standard Oil Engine Company, there was a large gathering of gentlemen interested in aquatics yesterday, at the ship building yard of Mr. W. Holmes, M'Mahon's Point, North Sydney, on the occasion of the christening and launching of a beautiful motor yacht, designed and built by Mr. Holmes to the order of Mr. J. E. Chinnery. The craft, which is moulded on graceful lines, measures 50ft overall, with a beam of 10ft and a depth of 4ft 9in, and will draw 4ft of water. The engines are by the New York Standard Oil Engine Company, are of 25 horse-power, and will develop a speed of between 10 and 11knots.

The launching ceremony was performed by the State Premier (Mr. J. H. Carruthers) who, as the vessel left the ways, broke a bottle of champagne over her bows, and christened her "Bona" amidst the cheers of the large number of invited guests, and others attracted to the scene. The Bona, gaily decorated with bunting and with the flag of the P.A.Y.C. flying proudly, took the water like a swan. The party then adjourned to an adjoining shed, where an oyster luncheon was provided, and which was presided over by Mr. P. H. Sullivan, M.L.A. An appropriate toast list was gone through. LAUNCH OF A MOTOR YACHT. (1904, November 11). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from


As a builder of all classes of motor boats, Mr. Holmes' name is famous throughout Australia. Not only is he a constructor of them, but as his records show, he is equally capable at preparing their plans, and one of the earliest speed launches in Australia was built by him to his own plans. This was the one-time famous G Whiz, a craft of about 10 years ago, but which is acknowledged by all who knew her to have been considerably, ahead of her times. With only a 5 hp.engine, Mr. Holmes succeeded in getting the remarkably good speed of 10 m.p.h. out of this craft, which was afterwards purchased by Mr. G. W. Whatmore, the first secretary of the Motor Boat Club (now the Motor Yacht Club of New South Wales). Even today, an owner would be very pleased with a 5 h.p. boat which would give him 10 m.p.h. Next in Mr. Holmes' list of speed craft Construction came Mr. J. Brennan's Standard 1.,which, with a 25 h.p. engine, had a speed of 12knots, land was considered a wonder in those days. Subsequently Mr. Holmes constructed that splendid little craft, Standard II., for Mr. C. H. Gorrick, into which was installed a 25 h.p. engine, really a racing engine, which gave her a speed of 21 m.p.h. Two years in succession this little boat, afterwards known as Lady Eileen, and still later as Rangatira, won the Motor Boat Club's championship.
When the hull of Standard II. was nearly ready, the engine was for ought down and placed alongside it ready for installing,' said Mr. Holmes in an interview the other day. 'People would come along have a look at the hull and engine, inquire the power of the latter, and promptly prophesy the speedy destruction of the hull when the engine was installed.' Twenty-five horse-power for that hull !' they would exclaim.  'Why, the engine will go straight' through, the bottom of the boat and sink her.' 
Nevertheless, Rangatira is still doing good service in the harbor, and is apparently, as good as ever. Afterwards I built Cooee for Mr. A: Davies, and later still Fairbanks. . Cooee was a remarkably good little craft. She only had 12h.p., yet could do over 14 m.p.h., and was a remarkably dry boat in rough weather. Fairbanks was a splendid speed boat, but naturally a displacement boat has not much chance with a hydroplane in smooth water. However, it is not unlikely that Fairbanks will yet be seen out after even more honors than she has so far acquired. I also built that fine little Thornycroft-designed boat Queery, now running in the harbor, which has a speed of over 20m.p.h. with only a 15 h.p. engine.' Of cruisers, Mr. J. E. Chinnery's Bona, for many years the finest of her class in Port Jackson; Mischief, belonging to Mr. A. G. Milson; and other small craft, and a motor yacht for Mr. Wallace, which was only eclipsed by the late Mr. Samuel Hordern's yacht, all came from my yard. There are so many cruisers and pleasure' craft turned out, of course, that I cannot recollect them all; nevertheless, I consider Mr. Wallace's boat the very finest I ever turned out. 
‘The coming of the Motor-boat proved really the salvation of the boat building industry in Port Jackson,' continued Mr. Holmes.'The industry was languishing and falling into the hands of a few builders, and even they were not by any means over-worked to cope with the demand. ' The steam launch was not a proposition really for the man who wanted a craft for pleasure, there was too much inconvenience and expanse connected with running it, and it would not be taken out on the spur of the moment. The sailing enthusiast, of course, is always with us, but to the average pleasure seeker the possibility of. a calm afternoon meant either fore-going his pleasure with the yacht, or an afternoon toil at the oars. The motor-boat changed all that. Here was an inexpensive, simple machine, which occupied little more room in a boat than the hamper in which picnic requisites were carried, which was 

READY FOR USE ON -THE TURN OF A HANDLE, and would propel a loaded boat at a good speed to whatever point was desired; or take it for a cruise all round the Harbor without a falter, no matter whether the wind blew or did not. The contrivance was warmly welcomed, and it is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of people who might never have set foot, in a sailing or rowing boat were instantly attracted by its advantages. Boat builders experienced an unprecedented demand. The industry took a fresh lease of life, and you can judge from what you see in the yard here, that there is no immediate reason for fearing that it will again decay. In fact; I think most of us would willingly expand our works if we could find the necessary space. That is what the motor-boat has done, and is still doing for us; the mosquito fleet you see anchored in nearly every bay and cove in Sydney Harbor during week days, and which on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, is so much in evidence cruising about, or conveying picnic parties either to their meeting places or for all day cruises, is a tangible result of this accession of activity. The development of the motor- speed boat in Sydney has been interesting. In the days of the old steam launch, with its heavy machinery, six or seven knots an hour was considered a splendid speed. 
So when the FIRST RACING MOTOR-LAUNCH, in Sydney showed a speed of about 10, there was great astonishment. But presently came along one that could do 17, and it was remarkable what an interest people on the ferry steamers took in this at that time astonishingly speedy craft. She used to go out and completely outpace the fastest Manly and Watson's Bay boats. Gradually we evolved one which could do over 20, and presently the speed crept up a little at a time; to over 28. Then came the discovery of the  hydroplane principle — flattening the boat's bottom, and putting steps or notches in it, causing her to lift the fore-part clean out of the water, so that she skims along on her stern, often impatiently skipping from wave to wave, raising a lot of spray and commotion, but achieving speeds at one time considered absolutely impossible. There, that will show you exactly how she does it.' Mr. Holmes, as he spoke, called attention to a tiny 20ft. ‘plane which, emitting a continuous droning roar, was hurtling at hair-raising speed across Lavender Bay in a cloud of foam. For apparently 12 feet of her length forward, the craft was clear of the water, and occasionally the complete craft would LEAP RIGHT INTO THE AIR, just as a flat stone hurled along the surface will do. 'That,' continued Mr. Holmes, 'is one of the very latest speed craft, constructed In Australia, and although so speedy — she is capable of a speed equal to 35 m.p.h., or over — she is only equipped with a 70 h.p. engine. You will appreciate why I say only 70 h.p., when I remind you that to achieve this speed with the ordinary or displacement type of bull the power might have to be trebled.
'That is very interesting, but has the hydroplane any practical every-day possibilities ? Is it not just a racing freak pure and simple, and thus only a rich man's toy ?
'Not necessarily.' Sir John Thornycroft,- the eminent English naval engineer, some time ago invented a hydroplane, and the design he then declared quite suitable for torpedo-boat construction. This brought hydroplanes well into the realm of practical boats. The hydroplane also forms the connecting link between the boat and aeroplane, as is proved by successful experiments with craft styled hydro-aeroplanes, which can achieve fine speeds on the surface of the water, and rise off it and fly in the air 
'Do you think finality in the speed of motorboats has yet been reached, Mr.Holmes ?’
'Certainly not out here. We seem to have ONLY TOUCHED THE FRINGE OF THE SPEED QUESTION so far; probably because there are only one or two big race meetings for motor craft in Australia in the year. The speed of fast cruisers, in fact has kept pace in a surprising manner with that of the out and out racing craft, and this is a proper thing, I think. The racing arena is an excellent field for testing inventions and Improvements as they can be in no other way, and when they have come through this severe trial satisfactorily It should not be long before they are in demand for cruising purposes. That is only keeping pace with the times.'
What do you think will be the limit of pace attainable by motor launches ?
'I would not like to say. It is only a very few years since 30 m.p.h. was considered a remarkable racing speed just for a short dash; but now in Europe boats with a speed of 35 are common, while there are individual cases of those of over 40, and. the present English champion, Maple Leaf IV., has an official speed of 45 knots to her credit. Then, it will be remembered that Ursula, the old champion, was reputed to have accomplished over 50 in a private trial; but all these are capped by the marvellous time of Tech, Jun., an American hydroplane.- whose official speed for a nautical mile works out at just a fraction over 60sec — or more than a land mile a minute.'
And you are satisfied with the prospects of the motor boat industry in Sydney for the future, Mr. Holmes ?
'Quite satisfied. The industry is of rapid growth, but that growth has been solid, and the large demand for motor craft shows no signs of slackening. A class of motor boat greatly growing in favor to-day is the auxiliary yacht, fully equipped with sails, but also carrying a moderately-powered engine and propeller for use in calms or for beating home against the wind. The most popular motor boat, however is a cruiser with comfortable accommodation for a day's outing, and powered sufficiently to give it a speed of anything from eight to 14 m.p.h  There are some luxurious craft among these cruisers, equipped with sleeping and saloon accommodation which, although on a smaller scale, vie with the ocean liner's for comfort.' THE INCREASED EFFICIENCY AND SPEED OF OUR MOTOR BOATS. (1913, January 12). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 16. Retrieved  from