In September 2022, Gosford Sailing Club is celebrating its 90 year anniversary. After commencing as the Gosford Rowing, Sailing and Motor Club in 1932, then the Gosford and Brisbane Water Aquatic Club, it was named the Gosford Sailing Club in 1941.
The initial sailing fleet in 1932 comprised two 16ft skiffs, increasing to ten by 1938 when the Club hosted the NSW Northern Zone Championship and held its first Easter Regatta for 16ft skiffs, 12ft canvas sailing boats and model yachts. Club racing continued until early 1942 when the war made its presence felt on the Central Coast and, fearing a Japanese invasion, the Australian Government ordered the immobilisation of all types of water craft.
Racing recommenced in January 1944 and, in 1945, the Easter Regatta returned with 45 16ft skiffs and 13 VJs representing eight clubs. This event continued each year through the 40s, 50s, 60s and into the 70s with the number of skiff entries between 50 and 70 and the number of VJ entries rising to around 90. During these decades, travel to and from the regattas and “roughing it” in canvas town was part of the fun. Whilst some of the sailors stayed in hotels or caravans, most camped out in 12ft square, army designed, heavy canvas tents near the timber shed which was the old clubhouse at the time.
After much debate in the early 60s regarding the building of a new clubhouse and, maybe, the acquiring of a liquor licence, the Club became a limited liability company in 1963. With the support of 15 members as guarantors, a bank loan was secured and construction began once the old shed was removed piece by piece and rebuilt as the East Gosford Scout Hall which still stands today. The Club’s Building Committee oversaw the work, much of which was constructed at cost or less by generous members and local businesses. Watched by a crowd of about 500 people, the new two storey clubhouse (albeit little more than a shell at the time) was opened by the local state member in March 1966, followed by an opening regatta with nine different skiff and dinghy classes competing and representatives from 15 visiting sailing clubs – a big afternoon!
Now that there was the new clubhouse, pressure was on by some, not all, to obtain a liquor licence. The Club lodged its application for registration with the licensing court in 1970. After several delays, a hearing was held at Woy Woy courthouse and then adjourned to the clubhouse for a viewing of the premises. The police required improved parking arrangements and a limit on membership numbers. A future Club President solved the parking issue by creating a car park on the southern side of the clubhouse and the licence was approved in December 1971.
With its improved facilities, class associations found Gosford Sailing Club a congenial venue for state and national championships. The Club hosted its first national titles in 1967 for senior and junior Sabots. This was followed over the years with regattas for many classes including TS16s, Skates, 16ft Skiffs, VJs, Sabots, Flying 11s, NS14s, MG14s, Sailboards, Fireballs, 505s, 49ers, Lasers, 13ft Skiffs, Optimists, A-Class Cats, J24s, 11 metres, Etchells and Contenders. The largest regatta that the Club has hosted was the Laser World Championships at Terrigal in February 2008 at which there were 170 sailors in the first week for the Men’s and 270 competitors in the second week for the Masters – a wonderful success even if the weather didn’t help!
After being associated with Gosford Aquatic Club for about two decades, yachts from Gosford Yacht Club commenced sailing at Gosford Sailing Club in the late 1980s. In 1992, about 70 yachts were racing at the Club in inshore, offshore and twilight events. The yacht fleet brought with it the annual Gosford to Lord Howe Island Yacht Race which had been established in 1974. The Club continued the running of the race until 2014 when the 40th race was sailed in April.
Club members have achieved many successes over the years including winning state and national championships including the Women’s Keelboat Regatta, world championships, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the America’s Cup, SailGP, an Olympic gold medal and the Rolex World Sailor of the Year award.
Despite COVID-19 interrupting the last two seasons, the Club continues to offer sailing to all who wish to participate. Australian Sailing courses such as Discover Sailing and the Out There Sailing Youth Program are offered, and She Sails programs and events encourage women of all ages to get involved with the sport of sailing. The Club conducts Adult Learn to Sail courses on Saturdays in its Magic 25 yacht fleet, and junior courses during school holidays in its Optimist and RS Fever dinghies.
Classes to be sailed in the coming season are Optimists, Sabots, Flying 11s and ICLAs (formerly Lasers) for juniors and, for those a little older, 16ft Skiffs, ICLAs, Contenders, a mixed fleet of dinghies including a Devoti D-One, Etchells, sportsboats and yachts. Regattas to be managed by the Club include a J24 event in October, Contender States in November, 16ft Skiff States in December 2022 and Etchells States in February 2023.
The Anniversary Dinner is being held on Saturday 24 September. Tickets are available until the Wednesday prior via gosfordsailingclub.com/90thanniversary .
(Credit is due to Christine Bowry for many of the details above. Her well titled book A Grand Sport, Gosford Sailing Club 1932-2002 was published in March 2003.)