• Belmont Skiff Aeneas 1923. Photo Belmont 16ft Sailing Club.
    Belmont Skiff Aeneas 1923. Photo Belmont 16ft Sailing Club.

There are many enthusiastic and colourful stories relayed by the Old Skiffies when Belmont stages its Skiffy reunions, one of which will take place on Sunday October 7, 2012 commencing at 12.00pm. This one is special in the Belmont and Skiff community and it will be presented with all the enthusiasm that the Belmont team can muster, because this year is special . . . Belmont 16s will bring it on for young and old when the sailors and supporters of the Belmont 16ft Sailing Club will celebrate the 90th Anniversary of its inception.

The Belmont 16ft Sailing Club was formed in 1922 when Mr. Albert Smith called a meeting for the 13th of May, at which it was decided to form the sailing club under Port Jackson sailing skiff rules. Mr. Smith was elected club secretary and with some careful planning, the first race began what is now a rich and vibrant history on October 7, 1922 on Belmont Bay.

A common theme amongst all skiff clubs was and still is a dependence on very hard working volunteers that derive their pleasure from doing their bit for their club. At the time of the first race there was no club house and the local council had not allocated an area for it to be built.

However in 1923 the club house was finally finished, amidst great activity and fundraising from the local sailors. The Belmont 16ft Sailing Club is now the largest dinghy sailing club in Australia. Although the club has gone from strength to strength through solid management, Belmont still runs its sailing with a devoted volunteer base.

Many famous, and may we say infamous, characters have their names up on the Honour Board donning the grand staircase at the club. The very first was the boat 'Arlene' which while already holding a state championship was purchased by the Reid’s (John C. & Mark C.) for their son/nephew Jack Reid. Jack was a crew while Charlie Newton was to skipper and she was delivered from Port Jackson in readiness for Belmont's first race. The following two seasons, the Reid’s and ‘Arlene’ again secured the Belmont Club Championship with Tot Walters on the helm. The inaugural Handicap Point Score was won by local builder Tom Humphries in his skiff ‘Aeneas’.

The Reid’s were prominent members of the Newcastle community owning John Reid Shipping, John Reid Travel and the John Reid Wool Stores.  John C. Reid (Snr) was Mayor of Newcastle for several terms, a long standing alderman and the 16s sailing club's first Patron.  Mark Reid was also a Newcastle alderman and not least, the club's first President.

This celebration, 90 years after the first race was contested, will be highlighted by the first Club Championship trophy which was found by a tenacious Belmont 16s board member Roger Steel and has been donated back to the club by Mr. John Reid of Milsons Point. The trophy is beautifully engraved with the image of a 16ft Skiff under sail and will be a feature of the 90th celebration.

The skiff sailors that will be catching up on the 7th, both young and not so young, are members of a close community of sailors that exude the passion of 16ft Skiff racing. Time is taking its toll and memories are fading but the camaraderie and laughter is still fully present and what is not necessarily committed to memory is coloured for maximum impact and entertainment.

The purpose of the Belmont 16ft Sailing Club, and written into the club's constitution, is to support the sport of sailing. This is reflected in its strong junior fleets and training programs. This attention culminates in what proves to show the tenacity, sustainability and vision of the skiff sailors and sailing committee at the club. The rationale is to help and enhance the process of assisting our young sailors to move into and enjoy all that skiff sailing has to offer.

As this sailing season emerges for the Belmont 16s we find as always the face is the same but is also evolving. For the first time in its history the first skiff race of the season last week saw no less than four lady skippers!

The girls took out “all” the honours. Both of these girls are from well known Belmont families, Caroline Phillips-Hale won the scratch race and Ashlee Holford taking the handicap prize. Who’d have thought that would happen 90 years ago…..

And don’t forget any old Belmont 16s Skiffies out there give us a call if your interested in being a part of this historical event.

For further information or more photographs:

Contact:     Vicki Engert

Phone:       4945 7736

Mobile:      0407 460 067

Email:        v.engert@16s.com.au

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