Australian 12Ft Cadet Dinghy – 94th Stonehaven Cup Regatta

100th Anniversary Regatta in conjunction with the 94th Stonehaven Cup Regatta
Royal Brighton Yacht Club – 3-7 January 2024

By Ray Smith / RBYC

From a lot of ideas and no doubt dozens of sketches (no computers in those days!) a gentleman called Mr A.C. Barber penned the lines of a dinghy, bringing together all the ideas floated in many very animated discussions about training boats. He formally recorded these thoughts around 1922 and called it the One Design 12Ft Cadet Dinghy.

A timber boat with full lines and room enough for three kids and lots of sail for some exciting sailing in all conditions. Clinker style timber planked hull, usually a strong lightweight timber such as Western Red Cedar. Heavy steel centreplate, huge spade rudder, dipping lugsail gaff mainsail, jib out the front on a 3 foot long bowsprit, and a very generous symmetrical spinnaker.

All up, just the right amount of gear to ensure that even the most reluctant participant learned something about bits of it. I am not sure that a wind range was formally agreed to in the early days, but if it got to 25 knots and crews were already on the water, racing usually continued.

This design was first adopted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, NSW for youth training and racing in 1922. In 1924 the first formal interstate event was a race between NSW and Tasmania, in Hobart, the event was a draw between Mayfly (Tas) and Penguin (NSW) (they didn’t have sail numbers then, boats were identified with a symbol or logo on the sail).

In 1927 Lord Stonehaven Governor General of Australia deeded the ‘Cup’ in his name to encourage friendly interstate competition between participating clubs of the Commonwealth, and last weekend the 94th edition of this famous regatta for teenagers was run at RBYC.

The platform was the RS Quest dinghy, a yacht chosen in 2018 as a replacement for the aging and high maintenance Cadet dinghy. Eleven RS Quests were donated to RBYC and these are the basis of the RBYC training fleet that we see on the ‘lawn’ today and the class that competes in the youth sailing competition that is the Stonehaven Cup regatta.

Celebrating 100 years

In 2024, the centenary year of the 12Ft Cadet, 22 Quest Dinghies and 71 youth sailors from four states contested the coveted Stonehaven Cup Regatta, this was a record number of competing dinghies for the Cup.  At the same time, on the same course, RBYC ran the 12Ft Cadet Dinghy 100th Anniversary Regatta. 

The Regatta(s)

Both competitions had a challenging time with fluky, light winds each day making it real tough for the Race Officer, Paul Pascoe and his team.  A highlight of this regatta was the participation of the Australian Navy Cadets for the first time, with representatives from Flotillas across the country – some all the way from Perth and even central Queensland – eight teams in all, each comprising four or five sailors. We also had two crews from the Lake Ginninderra Sea Scouts in the ACT; two teams from King Island Boat Club; three teams from RMYS and of course the crews from RBYC –  over 70 young sailors and plus all their support crews.

As is always the case in the Stonehaven Cup regatta, there is a vast range of experience and skill, and consideration for each crews’ respective abilities is a highlight.  Help was generously provided to anyone who needed it when they needed it.  Great sportsmanship was demonstrated at every tack or gybe, much to the pleasure of the maintenance and repair crews!

Having said that, we did have a mast break in two for no explicable reason.  The mess was cleaned up and the crew towed safely to shore where a replacement boat was prepared and the crew back on the water in time for the next race.

A highlight for this correspondent was when, on the third day of racing, after just four races, the entire Quest fleet hit the start line as one.  Everyone was learning at a remarkable pace, and it wasn’t a one off!  Race 2 for the day also had a close, clear start for all boats.  The coaching and advice provided to those who wanted it was really working.  Well done to all.

By the time the fleet arrived at the first windward mark, it emerged that we had three distinct categories of race within the races – those with a tonne of experience in the first third, then the emerging sailors in the next third, and the beginners bringing up the rear.  The Australian Navy Cadets were somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that their boats were not rigged with a spinnaker, so they did appear to be behind the game, however, they had their own keenly contested competition in the ‘non-spinnaker’ division. The Stonehaven Cup regatta is not just about the racing on the water.  It is also about making new friends, and if the 100th Anniversary of the 12Ft Cadet is any indication, friends for life

Congratulations to all the participants – you’re all winners.  Special congrats to the winning crew for Stonehaven Cup 2024 – the RMYS crew of Hayden Gold, Ryka Fregan, and Eliza Davidson sailing Q1030 ‘Scarlett’.  Second by just a couple of points was the RMYS crew of Ashley Wahlqvist, Zoe Vlasic, Myra Barber sailing Q1035 ‘Heather’ and in third place by just one point the RBYC crew of Nathan Stanford, Edward Jukes and Oliver Martin on Q1472 ‘John Akhurst’.

And to top all that off, the RMYS team took out the Otto A. Meik Perpetual Teams trophy.  A great job from all involved.

The Once in a Century Competition

The 12Ft Cadets sailed on the same course starting at an appropriate time behind the Quest sailors. They had some of the most accomplished sailors in the country sailing them and the racing was intense.  Indeed, a lot of talk about sheep stations and cases of beer!

It became abundantly clear that the crew to beat was C127 ‘Kittiwake II’ – helm Nick Chapman with Martin O’Donohue and Virginia Tait (Faul) as crew on 8 points.  These guys gave the rest of the fleet a sailing lesson, whether challenged by tide, light winds and no wind, the occasional steady breeze, or simply great tactics. 

Occupying the second step on the podium was the crew of Douglas Linacre and Ross Kennedy sailing C174 ‘Catani’ representing RQYS on 16.  These guys were followed by C176 ‘MayFly III’ crewed by Travis Read, Jessica Slade and Will Logan representing Tasmania on 17 points.

While the sailing was fun, the most memorable part of the regatta was not the sailing, but the gathering of mates across the generations, all with a common connection – the lovely little boat, our Australian 12Ft Cadet Dinghy. At the end of the day, even the distinction between timber and fiberglass was forgotten. It’s just a Cadet and while anyone can sail one, you have to sail them well to win a race.

Organising an event such as this is a huge task and many thanks to everyone from all the participating clubs for making this, the 94th Stonehaven Cup regatta, and the very special, once in 100 years celebration of the Australian 12Ft Cadet a most memorable, fun event for everyone.

Full results for both fleets may be found here:

Quests: –  and Cadets

Ray Smith


JPK August 2023
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