December 21 - 27, 2014: Issue 194


  A Salty Tale of the Kathleen Gillett – A Small Reminder and Celebration of Our 70th Sydney to Hobart - 2014-15

 Above and below: the Kathleen Gillet - pictures courtesy ANMM


Salt water and salt air and the smell of where these mixing with the smell of old wood fills memory and instantly takes many back to fishing lakes, beaches and oceans a long way from here and a long time ago.

For some, Constitution Dock, Hobart in the days following New Years, with grey begrimed exhausted sailors and the distinct odour of beer, lots of beer – and yachts, beautiful yachts are the signal light from these formative years, an annual marvelling at what the human spirit aspires to and succeeds in attaining.  

At this year’s inaugural RMYC Pittwater Festival we were fortunate to meet Tiare Tomaszewski, one of the owners of Maris, a beautiful Alan Payne-designed, Jock Muir built Tasman Seabird, and grand-daughter of original owner of the Kathleen Gillett, Jack Earl.

The Kathleen Gillett, and memories of all those yachts at Constitution dock, as that grand old race becomes a septuagenarian this week on Boxing Day, we celebrate this Christmas Issue another classic yacht….and she too has been on the Pittwater:

MRS. JACK EARLE, with her children, MICHAEL and MARIS, and collie dog Judy, on their famous 44-foot ketch. Kathleen; they will celebrate the New Year at the barbecue to be held at The Basin tonight. PHOTO.  Holidays Afloat. (1950, December 31). The Sunday Herald(Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 10. Retrieved from

Ever since Australia and Tasmania have been, that emerald paradise where things remain pure, also in quieter recesses still well hidden from casual view, people have sailed from one harbour to the Derwent to nestle ‘neath Mount Wellington…and sailed just for the pleasure, the challenge.

The Kathleen Gillett, part of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s wonderful historic vessels collection – a dynamic living testament to our maritime heritage, was one of those who competed in the original Sydney to Hobart yacht race. She is a wooden gaff-rigged double-ended ketch built by Charles Larson derived from Colin Archer plans and similar to his sailing vessel class for the Redningsselskapet (The Norwegian Lifeboat institution), which was used for many years and now is referred to as a Colin Archer; the prototype rescue lifeboat, "Colin Archer RS 1". Surfboaters and Vikings take note!

Right: Norwegian rescue boat RS 1 Colin Archer, courtesy Gallery NOR Tilvekstnummer: NF.WB 46,998 ext: NBR9203: 04,483- launched in August 1893

Mr Archer’s parents reversed the trend of Scottish-Norway affiliations from ancient times in emigrating to Norway in 1825 where he became a world famous naval architect and shipbuilder in Larvik, Norway. Prior to that, and as an 18 year old, he travelled to Australia, where he worked on the farm Gracemere with brother Thomas, spending time in Queensland shipping cargo up the Fitzroy river. He returned to Norway in 1861. 

The Kathleen Gillett, named for Jack’s wife, was built in the Gladesville yard of shipbuilder Charles Larson commencing in 1939. The Earl’s were married in 1933 and had been blessed with son Michael later that year. Jack is said to have developed his love of boats as a boy when living in the Torres Strait, where his father was administrator. Kathleen also had saltwater in her blood, her grandfather being an English shipbuilder who sailed to Australia on one of the vessels he built.

The Kathleen Gillett was built over six years and fitted out by the Earls while moored in Mosman Bay during WWII. She was also part of the coastal sea patrols during this period, sailing between the far south coast and Port Stephens on the central coast , underlining an ethos of the Earl’s to give back and contribute where they can. The yacht was their home during this fitout and this article shows the Earls ventured to Tassie prior to the first ever Sydney to Hobart of 1945:

HOME AFLOAT ON THE HARBOUR - Sailing Family Solves Housing Problem

MRS. JACK EARL and her eight-year-old daughter MARIS on the deck of their home, the ketch Kathleen Gillett, which is moored, close to the shore at Mosman's Bay, Sydney.

People who travel to and from Sydney by the Mosman ferry have for some time been interested in the life of a family on board a ketch moored close to the shore. They have watched the housewife get her children off to school in the morning, swab the decks, and come ashore to do her household shopping. They have imagined the domestic chores that go on below decks.

Mr. and Mrs. Jack Earl, with their two young children Michael and Maris, have been envied because they seem to have found the happiest solution to the housing problem, and they can change their view merely by setting sail and cruising down the harbour in the Kathleen Gillett.

With charts and stores complete, Mr. and Mrs. Earl were ready for a voyage across the Pacific when the outbreak of war prevented them leaving Australia. They decided to make their home their boat until they could begin their voyaging. 

The delay has been longer than expected, but they have so adapted themselves to life on the boat that Mrs. Earl said this week that they would not feel at home anywhere else.

Every year they spend a month at sea, sometimes going southward to Tasmania or northward up the coast. This Christmas they are planning to visit Lord Howe Island. 

Mr Earl, who is an artist, and his wife share a love of the sea, and since they were married have always planned a sailing trip around the world. The son of a former Administrator of the Torres Strait, Mr. Earl learnt to sail in pearling luggers around the islands of northern Australia when he was a boy.

Mrs. Earl, who is cook as well as navigator, comes from a seafaring family, and she learnt to sail in small boats on the harbour. Her great-grandfather was an English ship-builder who sailed to Australia in one of the ships he built. Before her marriage Mrs. Earl was a school-teacher, and in her spare time she writes adventure books for boys.

"Kathleen Gillett." named after Mrs. Earl and her great-grandfather, of 44 feet long and is designed on the lines of a North Sea pilot ketch. She was specially built in Sydney for Mr. Earl, who supervised her construction.

"Boat life has solved my servant problem, and I find housekeeping easy in these surroundings," said Mrs. Earl, as she put the kettle on a modem gas stove in the neat galley. The stove burns "bottled gas," a cylinder lasting for about five months.

"I cook all my Christmas pudding and cakes on the stove, and we have a lot of baked and roast dinners " she explained. "We do not like tinned food, and when we go on a long voyage, store fresh vegetables in sand boxes. We will install a refrigerator after the war."

Lockers are tucked away everywhere: keeping things tidy is easy with so much cupboard space, which would be the envy of many housewives on land. In the small cabin forward here is a half-size aluminium bath, which Mrs. Earl also uses-for the laundry. She finds a rope between the mast stays makes an excellent clothes-line, and she uses a portable Aladdin iron for pressing. 

"Both the children are keen sailors, and they will not hear of the idea of exchanging the boat for a house onshore. Maris was only three when she first started her life on the water." Mrs. Earl, said. "They take their share of the work. Michael is a natural sailor and a wonderful hand on deck. He can be trusted at the helm alone. Once he saved the ketch from going ashore. He sails his own 12ft dinghy on the harbour.

The children have no fear of the sea and are as enthusiastic as their parents about plans for a long voyage. The ketch, which has several times narrowly escaped being swept ashore from moorings during storms, has proved herself seaworthy by weathering several severe storms while sailing to Jervis Bay and Eden. PHOTOS  HOME AFLOAT ON THE HARBOUR. (1944, December 13). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from

The first Sydney to Hobart began on Boxing Day 1945 as proposed by the 1944 formed Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Where do you think their first 1944 races were to?:

The first CYCA cruise-race was held in October 1944 from Sydney to Pittwater. The first race in which a trophy was presented, was the Easter 1945 Race to Pittwater, won by Trygve Halvorsen's Enterprise and contested by a fleet of 23 yachts. - CYCA Historical notes.

Trygve Halvorsen passed away on November 8th, 2014. The CYCA Vale for this gentleman: here

CYCA historical notes on this first Sydney to Hobart: The race was originally intended to be a leisurely family cruise to Hobart by Jack Earl and his family aboard their yacht Kathleen Gillett. Two other early members CYCA, first Commodore Bert (A.E.) Walker, in his yacht Saltair and Peter Luke in his yacht Wayfarer decided to go along too. When Commander John Illingworth, RN, one of the great exponents of ocean racing visited the CYCA, Peter Luke mentioned that he, Earl and Walker were planning a cruise to Hobart. Illingworth suggested that the cruise be made into a race as it would be very difficult to keep a 'cruise-in company' together over 600 nautical miles.

Other sources state the cruise was also to celebrate the end of the war. The proposed race was announced:

OCEAN YACHT RACE PROPOSED - Plans for a race from Sydney to Hobart, early in January 1946, are being made by the Cruising Yacht Club. This organisation combines cruising with racing, and held its first official event in October, 1944. Mr. A. C. Cooper, a member of the committee, said last night that tentative arrangements are in hand and five possible entries already received.

"I think this will be the first time that such a race has taken place, ' he said. "The yachts will then compete In the Hobart Regatta, usually held on Anniversary week-end," OCEAN YACHT RACE PROPOSED. (1945, June 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from 

The prestigious Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, which has origins that stretch back to 1859, was the southern supporter:

OCEAN YACHT RACE FROM SYDNEY - The ocean race from Sydney to Hobart, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club, Sydney, will begin on Dec. 26. The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania will co-operate. The race will be open to yachts of all types and sizes and conducted under the Royal Ocean Racing Club rating rule and time allowance. Arrangements for the finish will be made by the Royal Yacht Club, which will set a line in the Derwent. It is possible the club may be represented in the race by at least one contestant. A copy of the rules has been received by the Royal Yacht Club, Hobart. OCEAN YACHT RACE FROM SYDNEY. (1945, September 20).The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from 

The contenders were announced:


By "Spindrift"

EIGHT Sydney yachts, one Victorian, and the Hobart yacht, Winston Churchill, owned by P. Coverdale, have entered for the race from Sydney to Hobart, which will begin on Dec. 26. Conducted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Sydney, in conjunction with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the race is the biggest ocean event conducted in Australia.

ENTRIES close on Monday, and it is expected other boats than those mentioned will be entered. There is a possibility that a New Zealand boat will compete.

Winston Churchill will leave Hobart on Thursday for Sydney. In P. Chamberlain, N. Batt, M. Creese, and K. Wilson, Coverdale will have a crew of wide experience. Winston Churchill, which is 52ft.overall, and has a beam of 12ft. 6in.,is one of the largest and fastest cruisers on the Derwent. It was built by Coverdale. The president of the Cruising Yacht Club (Mr B. Walker) will sail Saltair, which was designed and built by him. A handsome entrant is P. Goldstein's 50ft. Bermudan ketch Archina II. 

One of the stoutest yachts competing is Kathleen, a beamy craft built on the lines of a Colin Archer- type and somewhat similar to the lifeboats that sail with the Norwegian fishing fleet. She is a gaff rigged ketch.

Wayfarer, a Bermudan yawl with a big freeboard, will be sailed by P. Luke, a vice-president of the CYCA. 

Fitz Evans has entered his top-sail schooner Mistral II., and it is probable C. Ploughman's Morna, a fine Fyfe-designed cutter, will start. She is one of the fastest, yachts in Sydney. Mistral II. and Morna are the largest entrants.

One of the smallest entries is Capt J. Illingworth's 35ft. double-ended Bermudan sloop Rani, designed by A. C. Barber, of Sydney. Other boats about the same size are Colquhoun and Kiel's Ambermerle, which is also a double-ender. The Victorian yacht entered is Warrana. TEN YACHTS ENTERED IN OCEAN RACE. (1945, December 7). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from

SYDNEY-HOBART YACHT RACE - CONSIDERABLE interest, not only in yachting circles but by the public generally, is being taken in the yacht race from Sydney to Hobart, which begins on Boxing Day. Ten entries have been received-eight from Sydney, and one each from Hobart and Melbourne. Tasmanians will follow closely the performance of Winston Churchill, P. Coverdale's fine 52ft. cruiser, which is one of the largest and fastest on the Derwent. Other boats, entered are Saltair, Archina II., Kathleen, Wayfarer, Mistral II., Morna, Rani, Ambermerle, all of Sydney, and Warrana from Victoria. With favourable weather the boats should reach Hobart in about a week. The Cruising Yacht Club of Sydney, which is conducting the race in conjunction with the RYCT, has arranged for a daily aerial reconnaissance to be made by the RAAF, which will report the boats' positions. The Royal Ocean Racing Club's yacht rating rule will be used to assess the results for the award of the trophies. The rule, which was drawn up as a result of many years of experience, equalises the chances of yachts of widely differing types and sizes. It makes allowance, among other factors, for high freeboard, heavy hull construction, deep hulls, bulwarks, and propellers. Boats of cruising type with short overhang receive a lower rating than similar size boats of racing form. Rig allowances are granted to ketches, schooners, yawls, and a gaff sail receives an allowance on a Bermudan sail of the same area. Trophies will be awarded to the first four boats to finish under the RORC rating, and a special prize will be given to the first yacht to finish irrespective of rating.  SYDNEY-HOBART YACHT RACE. (1945, December 21). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from

The Morna did not sail on the 26th. Claude Plowman’s racer was already south in his home waters, having been born in Hobart in 1895, and being a senior member of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. He too has associations with Pittwater as he was a member of the Elanora Country Club and bringing Morna here soon after he acquired her in 1941 as well as while competing in the RPAYC’s Basin Cups. Morna had also been here earlier while competing in Pittwater Regattas.  


Yacht "Morna" rounding the buoy. Crewman up on halyard at Pittwater Regatta. Photo by Sam Hood, Jan 1st, 1934.

Sir Plowman and Morna did win the 1946 Sydney to Hobart on Morna, but in 1945:

C. Plowman's fine cruiser Morna, flying from her 85ft. mast the pennant of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, senior yacht racing body of Australia, was flagship. Morna is cruising in Southern Tasmanian waters. MAVIS WINS WELL AT DOVER REGATTA. (1945, December 27). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from 

YACHTS RACING TO HOBART SYDNEY. - Nine of Australia's finest sea-going yachts-each in its class an ideal of applied art--left Sydney for Hobart at 11 o'clock yesterday morning in a direct sailing race over a distance officially declared to be 635 miles. IT is the longest ocean race of its type in Australian yachting history. The clean-lined, graceful Bermudan cutter, Winston Churchill. from Tasmania, led the fleet in all its proud pageantry of tall, spar-traced rigging and immense and immaculate sails through the Heads into open water.

Under the press of a vigorously but sometimes chancy north-easterly, she skimmed the moderate swell to open along lead. The starters were:

ARCHINA: Bermudan ketch, overall length, 52ft. (owner, Mr. P. Goldstein).

MISTRAL: Gaff schooner, 63ft. 4%in.(Mr. R. F. Evans).

WAYFAIRER: Bermudan ketch. 3Sit.8'?in. (Mr. R. M. Luke).

KATHLEEN: Gaff yawl, 44ft. lin.(Mr. J. Earl).

RANI: Bermudan cutter, 34ft. 8 ½  in.(Captain Allingworth. R.N.).

AMBERMERLE: Bermudan cutter,34ft 1 7-8in, (Messrs. J. R. Colquhoun and C. Kiol).

SALTAIR: Bermudan ketch, 43ft. 6½in. (Mr. R. M. Walker)

HORIZON: Bermudan ketch, 40ft. 3%in. (Mr. J. R. Bartlett).

WINSTON CHURCHILL: Bermudan cutter, 51ft. 41in. (Mr. P. Coverdale).

Dour Contest Forecast 

Yachts with a sail-carrying capacity of more than 2000 square feet are competing with others which carry as little as 500, but the race is run on an intricate handicap system. The time of passage is expected to be between four and six days, and the early forecast (in view of the reported weather) was that a dour triangular contest might develop between Mistral off scratch, Archina, and Winston Churchill. 

The race is being held under the auspices of the Cruising Yacht Club of Sydney. Although a number of off-shore and passage races have been sailed around the coast in the past, and a number of notable matches between two vessels have been decided over long courses, no full-scale long-distance races of this type have previously been organized. The crews average six men. Mistral carries eight. Many are veterans of the open water. The Tasmanian cutter came to Sydney last Thursday, having, according to her crew, broken the record for the journey by three hours. Previously it stood at four days 11 hours. "Skipper" Coverdale is sailing his ship with his left arm in plaster. He broke it before leaving Hobart. In Tasmania the yachts will take part in important regattas, after which each of the N.S.W. craft will make its own way back to Sydney in its own untroubled time. YACHTS RACING TO HOBART. (1945, December 27).Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from 

Pittwater’s own John L. Gordon, an avid sailor since a lad, managed to secure a position aboard the Winston Churchill, describing the 'Winnie' as beautiful and this first race as "hard work". 

John, along with Geoff Ruggles are the sole remaining sailors from this first venture south and he attended the November 2014 launch of this year's race:

Above: Anthony Bell and Mark Richards aboard Kathleen Gillett (first Sydney Hobart Yacht Race) with John Gordon at November 2014 launch - picture ©Andrea Francolini - official photographer for Sydney to Hobart 2014.

After months of waiting for it to be safe to sail again the first ever Sydney to Hobart began - they were off and sailing!

This now famous photo, which records the start, appeared nation-wide:

SYDNEY TO HOBART YACHT RACE. Competitors in the yacht race from Sydney to Hobart clearing the heads of Port Jackson on Boxing Day.  SYDNEY TO HOBART YACHT RACE. (1945, December 29).The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

BIG YACHTS BEGIN EXCITING RACE FROM SYDNEY TO HOBART Rani leading Salt Air and Mistral just after the nine competitors  in the yacht race from Sydney to Hobart had entered open water yesterday. The race began with a flying start from Quarantine Point, inside Port Jackson  at 11 o'clock. (Story, page 4.) BIG YACHTS BEGIN EXCITING RACE FROM SYDNEY TO HOBART. (1945, December 27). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

There was some concern when those following the race couldn’t see the yachts but the reasons they couldn't are explained in interviews conducted with the yacht's skippers post-race:

OCEAN YACHT RACE LEADERS SIGHTED FROM THE AIR - Contestants in the yacht race from Sydney to Hobart photographed by a "Herald"' cameraman on Saturday from an R.A.A.F. Catalina flying-boat, which was making a weather survey/flight. , Top: The 63ft gaff schooner Mistral. Lower left: The 51ft Tasmanian cutter Winston Churchill. Lower right: The 44ft yawl Kathleen. OCEAN YACHT RACE LEADERS SIGHTED FROM THE AIR. (1945, December 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Archina II was the only yacht to retire from this first race. As is well known the smallest was also the fleetest:

DRAMATIC END TO YACHT RACE - "Missing" Rani Reappears And Wins Easily

The cutter Rani (right) won the Sydney Hobart yacht race by crossing the finishing line at 1.22 this morning after making a dramatic reappearance in the contest yesterday afternoon. Since Thursday the Rani and another competitor, the Horizon, had been "missing" and an air search had failed to locate them. The Horizon has still not been sighted, but the Rani was reported at 4 p.m. yesterday in a winning position off the Tasmanian coast. Rani's sailing time was 158hrs 22min 35secs.Her corrected time, after making handicap adjustments, was 124hrs 17min 49secs.

This means that she must win by a substantial margin, as she finished in a flat calm and no other competitors had then been reported near the Derwent. An earlier report that two other contestants were also near the finishing point proved to be incorrect.


The Hobart-owned ketch Winston Churchill, which looked a certain winner on air sighting reports, was stated to be becalmed off the east coast of Tasmania. Rani's reappearance came after another day's fruitless search by an R.A.A.F. Catalina, which flew down the 'coast making wide 100mile sweeps out to sea. In the morning the Roynl Prince Alfred Yacht Club telegraphed to R.A.A.F. Headquarters,. Melbourne ,asking for an organised search for the two vessels.

The secretary, Mr. J. A. Kyd, said that it had been pointed out that no official search was being carried out. Reports were based on observations from R.AA.F. aircraft on training flights to Melbourne. Mr. Kyd said that he felt no anxiety about the missing yachts. He had asked for an organised search to assure relatives of the members of the crews. He said that the storm which scattered the competitors on Thursday was not severe enough to endanger the vessels, especially with their crack crews. He recalled that the skipper of Rani, Captain J. H. Illingworth, had won an English race by tactics which had taken him in a wide tack out to sea. Mr. Kyd's confidence was confirmed at 4 p.m., shortly after the R.A.A.F. Catalina had reported no sign of either Rani or Horizon.

Rani was sighted east of Cape Raoul, at Storm Bay, near Hobart, and was leading Kathleen, which was then a little more than 60 miles behind Winston  Churchill.

"I am not at all surprised," said Mr. Kyd, when he heard that Rani had been sighted. "Captain Illingworth is one of the most brilliant sailors who have handled vessels in Australian waters."

Rani, 34ft 8in, is a little more than six inches longer than the smallest craft competing in the race, Ambermerle. Her handicap was 34 hours 5 minutes 46 seconds. Rani has already won one race in Australian waters-from Sydney to Broken Bay. Captain Illingworth is one of Britain's best-known yachtsmen. In England he sailed with the Royal Ocean Racing Club of Great Britain. He has been in Australia for a year.

CREW of the Rani 9at Constitution Dock). Owner-captain, Captain J. H. Illingworth, R.N., is at right. Wives waited for racing yachts at Hobart. (1946, January 19). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 11. Retrieved from

The other competitors and their handicaps are:

Mistral: Gaff schooner; length 63ft41 in; handicap, nil. Wayfarer: Bermudan ketch; 38ft 9in; 29 hours 28 min 12 sec. , Kathleen: Gaff yawl; 44ft 1in; 30hours 34 min 12 sec. Ambermerle: Bermudan cutter: 34ft lïin; 33 hours 6 min. Salt Air:- Bermudan ketch; 43ft6}in; 30 hours 30 min 36 sec. Horizon: Bermudan ketch; 40ft3îin; 28 hours 22 min 12 sec. Winston Churchill: Bermudan ketch; 51ft 41in; 16 hours 36 min 22 sec.

The crew of Rani is: Captain J. H. Illingworth, R.N. (owner-skipper);Lieut.-Commander Hodgson, R.N.; Lieut. Richmond, R.N.; Captain K. Vaughan, A.I.F.; N. Hudson, and G. Colohan. Winston Churchill and Kathleen, other yachts prominent in the race, were skippered by Mr. P. J. Coverdale and Mr. J. Earl respectively.


The crew of Horizon, which has still not been sighted, is: J. Bartlett (owner-skipper), L. Demenski (navigator), "Boy" Messenger, A. Payne, and J. Forsyth. Mr. E. Messenger, well-known Sydney yachtsman, whose son is a member of the crew of Horizon, said last night that the reappearance of Rani had completely relieved his mind about his son's safety. He said he now believed that Horizon would also be sighted soon and might be placed second.

"Mr. Bartlett told my son before the race that if they ran into bad weather they would make out to sea," he said. "I believe that Horizon and Rani followed roughly the same route and I expect Horizon to bob up any time now. Rani is a very fine boat and very well manned. Horizon is well manned, too.

"When the storm struck them they must have put out to sea. Twelve hours' sailing at an average of six knots would take them more than 70 miles from the coast and as they sailed south this distance would increase. Off the Victorian coast they would probably be as much as 200 miles out. Out to sea they would soon pick up the south-easterly wind, and this would carry them almost in a direct line for Hobart."

Mr. Messenger said that Rani had put up the best performance of his experience.

"It was superb sailing," he said. "Captain Illingworth has shown what a master of the game he is."

Positions in the race reported yesterday afternoon were: At 3 p.m., Winston Churchill was about 120miles from Hobart; at about 2.30p.m. Kathleen was about 65 miles astern. Winston Churchill was then doing about five to 10 knots. Winston Churchill's exact position when Rani was sighted was not known. DRAMATIC END TO YACHT RACE. (1946, January 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Ambermerle was awarded second place after handicaps were taken into account, then came the Winston Churchill, ‘Winnie’ as she was referred to in Hobart waters, and the Kathleen Gillett placed fourth over the line and third on handicap. The first race also holds the record, still unbroken, for the longest time taken to complete the race, Peter Luke's Wayfarer taking 11 days, 6hours, and 20 minutes to cross the finish line off the ocean pier at Hobart.

Of Jack Earl’s first Sydney to Hobart:


APART from minor mishaps boats which finished in the Sydney-Hobart yacht race yesterday had comparatively uneventful voyages, and their crews were surprised that misgivings had been felt about their safety. Horizon took a wide sweep eastward on the voyage from Sydney, and this was probably why the RAAF Catalina did not sight her for some days. Ambermerle blew out her jib and mainsail nearing the entrance to the Derwent, and finished under jury rig.

MR J. ALDERTON, helmsman of the Ambermerle, said the trip was practically uneventful until nearing the entrance to the Derwent, when the jib and mainsail were blown out. She continued from there under jury rig. The boat behaved well in the storm which struck the yachts on the second day out from Sydney. Ambermerle was hove to for a night off One Tree Pt. on the South Coast of New South Wales and for half a day when off Bermagui. The only boat sighted before reaching the Derwent was Kathleen, which Ambermerle passed on the second day out from Sydney.

Mr Alderton, a former Stonehaven Cup helmsman, is well known in Tasmanian yachting circles. Particular interest was taken in the arrival of Horizon, in view of the long period of uncertainty as to her whereabouts, and she was loudly cheered as she crossed the finishing line.

The skipper of the yacht, Mr J.R. H. Bartlett, of Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, expressed surprise that there should have been any misgiving about the safety of the craft. Radio communication was ruled out because while the yacht was in the final stages of preparation at Sydney someone stole the radio set and battery charger. The reason advanced by the skipper and members of the crew for the inability of the RAAF Catalina flying boat to sight the yacht during the race was the wide seaward course taken by Horizon. Describing the southerly gale that scattered the competing yachts, Mr Bartlett said waves 14ft. to 15ft.high barred headway. The craft was hove to for 24hours. Her hatch was closed, but the door was kept open. Seas rushed over but none "came in." In the early stages of the race Horizon had two days of excellent running, with her head sail boomed out.

Bronzed and bearded, the crew of Kathleen responded heartily to the cheers as close under the judge's box, she crossed the line at the end of her eventful run.

The race was clouded for the yacht's company by a mishap to her skipper, Mr J. Earle. A knock on the right knee received by him early in the race caused an abscess so severe that when off Gabo the crew favoured putting back to obtain medical aid. Mr Earle insisted on continuing.

In Mr Earle's crew were Messrs Bob Bull, Gordon Elliott, Ted Blore, and Sep Stevens, all of Sydney, with Mr Jack Taylor, RANR. well known in Hobart yachting circles as a member of the crew of the "B" class yacht Tula.

During the southerly gale Kathleen was snugged down and carried on for a time before being forced to heave-to on Thursday of last week. Becalmed by Twofold Bay last Friday she made slow headway towards Gabo, but on Saturday morning picked up a northerly breeze that increased to moderate gale strength, enabling good progress to within 30 miles of Flinders Island by Sunday. Light winds and calms were encountered all the way down the Tasmanian coast.

"We just had to urge her all we could." a member of the crew said.

From Wednesday on variable winds were put to good use and at daylight yesterday Kathleen rounded Cape Pillar. The hardest wind met came from the north-west when the yacht was off Half Moon Bay. With reefed mainsail and storm jib she made her way up the estuary slowly to the line. Barracouta caught along the Tasmanian coast augmented the yacht's food supply.

The yacht Ambermerle aground on a reef off Red Chapel Beach, Sandy Bay, late yesterday afternoon. Competitor in the ocean race, she got off after half an hour, and although beaten over the line by Horizon, was placed second in the race when handicaps were adjusted. HORIZON TOOK WIDE SWEEP TO EAST IN OCEAN RACE. (1946, January 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from 

Kathleen Gillett's crew - 1945 - in Hobart - Jack Earl at front on right. Picture courtesy ANMM

While the lady this yacht was named for was in….yes!:


SYDNEY, Saturday -The 44foot ketch Kathleen, fourth in the Sydney Hobart yacht race, has been home for several years for its owner-skipper, Mr. Jack Earle, his wife, and two children. Kathleen, sometimes with the family washing hanging from her rigging, is a familiar sight to thousands who travel by the Mosman ferry. She is usually moored in Mosman Bay, near, Mosman wharf. Mr. and Mrs. Earle have lived aboard since the ketch was built, and it has been practically the only home the children have known. The children, a boy and a girl, go to Mosman school. The Earle family can step ashore to the sea wall from the Kathleen. Mrs. Earle was to have accompanied her husband in the yacht race, but changed her mind at the last moment. She has been staying with relatives and is now at Palm Beach. KETCH'S 'SKIP' LIVES AFLOAT. (1946, January 6). Sunday Mail(Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from 

Jack Earl is considered one of our best Marine Artists and it was this talent which paid for a circumnavigation of the globe commencing June 7th 1947 aboard the Kathleen Gillett.  The article above also points to self-sufficiency already demonstrated by all members of the Earl family. Barracouta,  as caught by the Kathleen's crew on their way south, is delicious!

Kathleen, Michael (Mick) and Maris travelling as far as Thursday Island on this voyage. A log book kept by Mick Morris, mate on this voyage, along with Mr. Earl’s illustrations, formed part of ‘letters sent home’ that then became a limited edition (200) work later on.

This was only the second Australian yacht to complete, and possibly a lot more swashbuckling than the voyage completed on a purpose-designed and built schooner Sirius in the late 1930s – it even included spending some time with yet another Tasmanian, Errol Flynn, whom the Kathleen Gillett crew encountered in Jamaica. Patrice Wymore Flynn, the third wife of Errol Flynn, passed away March 22nd of this year, while Mick Morris, whom stated of this encounter “He was everything you ever read about him.” passed away in July 2014.

Of this wonderful and long planned and wished for circumnavigation, from the periodicals of that time:

OWNER-SKIPPER Jack Earl and engineer Dick Humphries scraping and painting the 50ft ketch Kathleen for a world cruise. Crew will number 5. No title. (1947, June 20). Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA : 1905 - 1952), p. 1 Supplement: MODERN WEEKLY News Magazine. Retrieved from 

"The trip so far has been perfect,", said, the skipper-owner of the -ketch Kathleen : (Jack Earl).when he arrived on Sunday-and leaves ^to-day to continue its 30,000- mile voyage round the world. "We will get rough weather around the- Cape of  Good Hope," he said later, "but the Kathleen can take it"

The ketch has come from Sydney in a little over a month, though Mr. Earl said they covered the 700 miles from Sydney to Gladstone in five day's, under sail. Mr. Earl is accompanied on the voyage, which is expected to take nearly two years, by Jack Day, Mick Morris and Don Angus, all of Sydney. Mrs. Earl and her two children, (13) and Maris (10), are also aboard, but will leave the ship at Thursday Island. "Michael is a pretty good deck man," said Mr. Earl.

All the men on the Kathleen are expert seamen. Earl and Angus sailed with the Christina in the last Sydney Hobart yacht race, Earl as the mate. Dick Morris was aboard the Mistral. Jack Day is navigator of the Kathleen. Morris was with small ships around New Guinea during the war. Earl was an artist with a Sydney newspaper.

Although the original plan was to go from Thursday Island to Timor or one of the islands of the Netherlands East Indies, Mr. Earl, said that' they had been advised not to do so because of the Indonesian trouble there, and might by-pass the Indies.

Practically all the voyage so far has been made under sail and Mr. Earl said he expected the auxiliary engine to be used very little during the rest of the trip. He estimated that the whole voyage would cover about 30,000 miles. The Kathleen will cross the Indian Ocean to Madagascar, Durban' and Cape Town. From Africa  the vessel will cross to South America and through the Panama, across the south seas back to Sydney. The vessel had repairs done at Townsville, where it was beached for some days.' KETCH KATHLEEN. (1947, July 15). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from

Right: Attractive Mrs. Jack Earl, wife of the skipper of round the world ketch Kathleen, photographed with children Michael (15) and Maris (12), listening to the radio in their Mosman home. They expect the Kathleen to arrive today. No title. (1948, December 6). The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from 

Kathleen Safely Home After Girdling Globe

The Sydney ketch Kathleen came home yesterday. Since June 7 last year she had travelled 25,700 miles round the world. With her crew of five, she entered Sydney Heads at 3.40p.m. to a welcome of blaring ships' sirens, launch whistles, cheering and shouting. The crew lined her deck to wave greetings to a score of yachts, launches, and rowing boats which had gone to the Heads to meet her. There was also a small rubber dinghy manned by two very small boys. 

Kathleen was sighted from South Head Signal Station at about 2.40 p.m. She was then about four miles off the coast. The news was flashed to relatives and friends. Within half an hour craft were leaving wharves and bays and making for the Heads. As the yacht Fairlie II was going out through the Heads, one of her passengers fell overboard. He was Mr. Terry Lee, manager of Caltex Oil Pty., and a yachting enthusiast. He was fished out by Mr. Bill Mewes.

Kathleen went to Watson's Bay under a full spread of canvas and flying the Australian flag, the pennant of the Cruising Yacht Club, her awn and the yellow quarantine flag. Craft of all descriptions hemmed her in when she stopped for boarding by the doctor and Customs officers.

Parents, relatives and friends clambered across an almost solid mass of boats to get to Kathleen's rail, where they were greeted by the bronzed and beaming crew.

A police launch arrived and delivered the first telegram to the crew. It read: "Congratulations to all on board on completing your voyage. From the Water Transport Association."

Later, a launch arrived with Mrs. Kathleen Earl, wife of the Kathleen's owner-skipper, and their two children, Michael and Maris. Mrs. Earl has been keeping an almost constant vigil for Kathleen.

Yesterday, the woman who was taking telephone messages for her was away. She first learned of Kathleen's arrival from her son, Michael, who came hurrying home from school. His teacher had heard the news flashed over the radio and promptly packed him home. Maris was not so lucky. She arrived home to find a note on the kitchen table telling her to go to Watson's Bay.

Greeting his family, Skipper Jack Earl said: "They're just as I expected, and (embracing Mrs. Earl) this one's even better."


Asked why they had been so long in coming from Auckland, navigator Don Angus said: "We had a bad passage-either too much wind or none at all."

Mate Mick Morris chimed in: "It was either a howling gale or no wind at all. We were hove to twice, for about 20 hours in all."

Don Angus said that the Kathleen had left Auckland on November 21, but had sheltered in Russell (Bay of Islands) for three days, leaving on November 24. The journey across had been made at an average of 3.8 knots. Skipper Jack Earl said the whole trip was a marvelous experience. Every day was different, even every hour. No one had got into trouble and every-one had been most hospitable.

Asked if he would make the trip 'again, he said: "I'm going to have a look at the wife first. I'm not making any plans." He said that some of the boys might be sailing in the Sydney Hobart yacht, race, but he intended staying home for a while. Navigator Don Angus said the total distance covered by the Kathleen was 25,700 miles at an average speed of 5.1 knots. He said Kathleen carried a radio receiving set, but no transmitter. 

Sydney calls concerning the Kathleen, were picked up by the yacht. One claimed that the ketch was 60 miles off the coast when she was really 300 miles.

Don, an artist like Jack Earl, said he had done a good deal of painting during the trip. He had managed to sell a number, including one to the Governor of St. Helena.

The route taken by Kathleen was from Sydney northwards and through Torres Strait, across the Indian Ocean, and round the Cape of Good Hope to St. Helena. 

From there she crossed the Atlantic to Panama, through the canal, and across the south Pacific to the Marquesas, Tonga, and Auckland. She is now tied up at her old moorings alongside the wharf at Mosman -Bay. Kathleen Safely Home After Girdling Globe. (1948, December 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from 

Above right: JACK EARL, artist skipper of the ketch, 'Kathleen,' fondly greets his wife after his return from a world cruise. The 'Kathleen' returned to Sydney on Tuesday. No title. (1948, December 9). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from 

"This is How they rig 'em," Jack Earl, skipper of the Kathleen, tells his son Michael today as they inspect one of the model sailing boats he brought back with him front his 27,500-mile world cruise. Earl's young daughter, Maris, is more interested in the dolls, one from Jamaica, the other from Martinique. The Kathleen was away 17 months. No Title. (1948, December 14). Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 1 Edition: DAILY. Retrieved from 

Earlier this year Tiare recounted that many holidays with her grandfather were spent on Pittwater aboard Maris, the yacht Jack Earl owned after relinquishing the Kathleen Gillett. We hope to see many such yachts of such sleek lines and beauty here over Christmas, especially on January 2nd as the Pittwater to Coff's, considered by many to be the warm water classic, begins.

2014's Boxing Day marks a historic milestone in Australian sailing though. Now called the Rolex Sydney to Hobart, to many the eponymous name in Time, and with fleet of 117 registered to sail this Friday into the future, this Blue Ribbon sailing race of the Commonwealth of Australia, in its 70th year, still remains a challenge many are willing to undertake. For those who have seen a few, for the few who have seen them all, the crack of white sails, the fastness of water slipping beside you as you sail and the smell of saltwater mingled with old timbers will remain a bright fastness worth celebrating again - on the water, or above it.


The ANMM's exhibition, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: 70 Years is on show at the museum until 1 March 2015. As this closes the 2015 Pittwater Festival will commence in March  - hosted by Pittwater's own Royal Motor Yacht Club.

 1945 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race silent film - by by CYCATV

Above and below: Tiare and Maris - in Pittwater again - Pittwater Festival 2014 - Classic Yacht Regatta - A J Guesdon Pictures.

References and extras:

One of many who sailed from Sydney to Hobart, just to test sailing skills and times:


Captain R F Harris has resumed his old position as chief officer of the s s Oonah. For the past month he has been in command of Mr A A. Griffiths yacht Archina and has just completed one of the most successful and rapid voyages on record doing the trip from Sydney to Hobart and back in 12 days. On Captain Harris arrival in Sydney he was accorded a most enthusiastic welcome. A dinner was given in his honour, and a large party of friends assembled to witness some very substantial presents given to him by Mr A A Griffiths as a reward for the rapid passage… THE YACHT ARCHINA. (1894, February 26). The Mercury(Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from 


Left to Eight: Sitting — Misses Kathleen Gillett, Joyce Abernathy, Nellie Langford. Standing — Misses Beryl Johns, Beatrice Murphy. WINNERS OF SCHOLARSHIPS TO TEACHERS' TRAINING COLLEGE,AT LEAVING CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION, 1926. VALUE OF SCHOLARSHIPS, £300. PUPILS SUCCESSFUL IN INTERMEDIATE EXAMINATION, 1926. ST. THOMAS'S HIGH SCHOOL, LEWISHAM. (1927, December 8). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1942), p. 21. Retrieved from 

A Gaff rig is a sailing rig (configuration of sails) in which the sail is four-cornered, fore-and-aft rigged, controlled at its peak and, usually, its entire head by a spar (pole) called the gaff. The gaff enables a fore and aft sail to be four sided, rather than triangular. A gaff rig typically carries 25 percent more sail than an equivalent bermudian rig for a given hull design.  A sail hoisted from a gaff is called a gaff-rigged

Colin archer 1 photo: 

Colin Archer. (2014, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Births EARL – November 14, at Emlyn Summer Hill, to Kathleen the wife of Jack Earl-a son. Family Notices. (1933, November 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from 

RPAYC Fundraiser:

Jack, who developed a love of boats as a boy when he lived in the Torres Strait islands where his father was Administrator. and later studied at the Royal Art Society, Sydney, is a man of few words when talking about himself.

He's quite happy yarning about the old days of journalism when he was an artist on long defunct newspapers like the '"Truth" and the "Sunday Times." But, asked about himself, he'll only answer. "Who's interested in me?" with a deep-throated chuckle that sends his moustache quivering.

When he married Kathleen, he was working on a newspaper and living on a small cabin boat at Rushcutters Bay. "Brought up our children on the boat for eight years."

He replaced that "70 to 80 years old cabin job" with a trim racer, Kathleen, and, in 1945, skippered her in the first Sydney-Hobart race, coming third over the line and fourth on handicap. Later he sailed the racer around the world, a voyage that whetted his appetite for this type of travel. It was. he said, the ideal way to live, combining his loves, sailing, sketching, and painting. The Earl home is full of reminders of their many voyages. One of their proudest pieces is the hand-carved Tiki figurehead given to them in an impressive ceremony by Hawaiians. - ART SHOW TO AID YACHT RACES. (1973, November 14). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 9. Retrieved from

KETCH LAUNCHED AT CAREENING COVE. - Archina II, a fifty-two feet Bermuda ketch, launched yesterday at Careening Cove. KETCH LAUNCHED AT CAREENING COVE. (1933, December 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from


Mrs. Jack Earl, whose husband will sail as a member of the crew in Mr. Robert Bull's Christina, will fly to Hobart in the hope of seeing the yacht the first to cross the line. Mr. and Mrs. Earl live aboard their ketch, Kathleen, which raced last year, and both are-expert in handling boats. They usually make several ocean trips each year with Mrs. Earl acting as navigator and cook.

Their two young children, Michael and Maris, are more at home on water than on land. Mrs. Earl's great-grandfather was an English ship-builder, who sailed to Australia in one of the ships he built. Since they were married it has always been the ambition of Mr. and Mrs. Earl to sail around the world, and they stillhope to do it. Wives Will Wait In Hobart For Finish Of Yacht Race. (1946, December 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 17. Retrieved from

Jack wins Sydney to Hobart again and again:

WINNING CREW IN EPIC SYD.-HOBART YACHT RACE - Crew of the 34ft. cutter Christina photographed in Hobart after they had won the Sydney-Hobart yacht race. From left : Bob Sloman, Jack Earl, Don Angus, Gordon Elliot, J. R. Bull (owner-captain) and Jim Olding. WINNING CREW IN EPIC SYD.-HOBART YACHT RACE. (1947, January 12). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 6 Section: Sport Section. Retrieved from 

TINY CUTTER MAY BE DUAL WINNER OF OCEAN RACEHOBART gave a tumultuous welcome to yachts which crossed the line yesterday in the Sydney - Hobart race.. This section of pictures shows: TOP: The four man crew of the small 35 ft. Sydney cutter Nocturne, the first yacht to cross the finishing line, shortly after 1.30 .. L. to r.. Mick Earl, Bob Sloman, Bob Bull (skipper) and Jack Earl.  TINY CUTTER MAY BE DUAL WINNER OF OCEAN RACE. (1953, January 2). The Mercury(Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

T. H. Irving, 'Plowman, Sir Claude (1895–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 

Others to spend New Year's Eve out of doors were the Claude Plowmans, who have Morna at Pittwater. SPOTLIGHT ON SOCIETY: Sydney Spends a Bright New Year. (1941, January 11). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 34. Retrieved from 


SYDNEY-HOBART YACHT RACE PREPARATIONS. — Probably the best-known Sydney yacht competing in the race, Mr. Claude Plowman's Morna, went on Patten's slips, Careening Cove, a few days ago to have its final overhaul. . It is one of the fastest yachts in the race and will probably start on scratch. PREPARING FOR RACE. (1947, December 24). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

Pakerdoo Wins Basin Cup Determination and almost perfect crewing enabled the eight-metre yacht Pakerdoo to win the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's Basin Cup yesterday. Owner-skipper of the Pakerdoo is Sydney flour miller, Doug Brockhoff. The big 46-mile coastal event was her first win this season, and was sailed in a moderate north-east wind. Only 16 of the 28 entrants started.

Pakerdoo crossed the starting line first, but departed the Heads in fluky airs behind Morna and Norn. At Long Reef, Mavis crossed ahead of Morna. But Morna regained her initial lead at Avalon and from then on was never headed.  Racing towards the finishing line with her giant spinnaker set, Morna collided with an 18-footer as her main boom tangled with the smaller open boat's weather rigging, causing it to capsize. Morna crossed the finishing line and returned immediately to assist the disabled boat, which was later taken in a tow

Remarking on the incident last night Sir Claude Plowman owner skipper of Morna said that in his opinion the collision could have been avoided. He said that when it became apparent he altered course as far as was safe for the huge rig. Pakerdoo Wins Basin Cup. (1949, March 6). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 21. Retrieved from 

Death Of Sir Claude Plowman- SYDNEY, Monday. Sir Claude Plowman, well known businessman and yachts-man, died last night at his Darling Point home. Sir Claude, who was 59, is survived by Lady Plowman, a son John and daughter Janet. Widely-known as a marine engineer and radio expert Sir Claude became chairman and managing director of Airzone Ltd. He was born and educated in Tasmania, and was knighted in 1949. Death Of Sir Claude Plowman. (1954, September 7). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 2. Retrieved from 

Errol in Jamaica

Errol Flynn, after quitting Hollywood Flynn lived with Wymore in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Navy Island is a small (64 acres) island off the coast of Port Antonio in Portland Parish, Jamaica, formerly owned by actor Errol Flynn. : 

 A Salty Tale of the Kathleen Gillett – A Small Reminder and Celebration of Our 70th Sydney to Hobart by A J Guesdon, 2014.