Vaucluse Amateur 12ft SC


Pathway to the future, pathway to the 18 footers

When nine times JJ Giltinan world 18 footer champion Seve Jarvin recently presented the prizes to the junior sailors of the Vaucluse Amateur 12 Foot Sailing Club, he was not only returning to his former club, he was also reinforcing the link between the Vaucluse Amateur club and the Australian 18 Footers League.

It’s a link which goes back almost 100 years.

League President and 2000 JJ Giltinan world champion John (Woody) Winning tells of his family’s long association with the Vaucluse Amateur club, “my father John and his brother Richard, joined the club in the late 1920s, and the Winning family has been involved with the club ever since.”

In 1946-47 John and Richard Winning were champion 12ft skiff sailors in Sydney when they were recruited by Brisbane skipper Bill Stanley to join his Australia crew for the 1946-47 Australian 18 footer Championship on Sydney Harbour.

Vaucluse Amateurs
Australia, in the 1940s, with the Winning brothers on board (archive)

The move was a great success when Australia won the title and the link between the Vaucluse Amateur club and the 18s was already on-its-way.

Their success in the Australia 18 footer was hardly surprising. When the Vaucluse Amateur club was founded and began racing in 1926, the only class being sailed was the 12ft skiff, which was a logical progression to the 18s.

Latest member of the family was John Winning Jr., who competed at the club for more than ten years prior to going on to win the 29er World Championship in 2002, and the NSW 18ft Skiff Championship.

The Australian 18 Footers League Commodore and past Committee member of the VA12SC, Simon Nearn, also had his son Max competing successfully at the club in both the Sabot and Flying Elevens, and is extremely complimentary about the experience.

“The Vaucluse Amateur 12 Foot Sailing Club is steeped in history linked to the 18s. As an ex-pat the first thing that struck me is how beautiful the bay is there at Kutti beach and what a location for a sailing club!”

“When you walk in it is so impressive to learn about the history of the club, the first sabots, the early 12s and then you wander through checking out the honour boards and there are rows and rows of future legends including many who went on to the 18s in different eras.”

“My boy Max won the club champs so he has the honour to be on the board there and hopefully will take the same path as the club winners before him and into 18s.”

“There is a learn to sail program, adventure sailing for those that love to explore and the ones that want to race have club racing every Sunday and can travel with their mates to NSW events on the harbour and beyond.”

“It is an incredibly friendly entry into the sport run by a dedicated bunch of parents and a great professional coach in Adele Philips – another name linked with the 18s through her dad and uncles.”

“There is no doubt the camaraderie of the young sailors out of this club bring friendships for life and the training ground of sabots, flying 11s, cherubs and 12s is an excellent path into 18s.”

“Magic place for kids to be growing in the best spot on the harbour doing the greatest sport of them all.”

JJ Giltinan and Australian Championship winner Peter Harris fully supports the comments, “Growing up and sailing out of VA12SC was an incredible way to spend a childhood. Every Sunday and most summer school holidays were spent at the club. We had great competition and made lifelong friendships. We constantly talked about the 18 Footers and how we all wanted to sail those boats when we grew up”

“I sailed with and against Seve Jarvin, Herman Winning, John Sweeny, Micah Lane, Jack Macartney and of course my brother John at the 12 Footers. My first season in 18’s was with Micah who I eventually finished 3rd place in the JJ’s with on Smeg. My second season was with John Sweeny and Seve.”

“I sailed many years with John Sweeny and ultimately won a worlds with Seve. I did a season with Herman including podiums in Garda & San Francisco and obviously sailed many years with my brother on The Rag. I also enjoyed several season on The Rag with Jack Macartney finishing 2nd in one JJ’s and winning the Club Championship.”

“Come to think of it I did a European Championships with Woody in Carnac and he was very heavily involved with the 12 Footers and won many championships in the VS’s”

“Growing up sailing out of a club like the 12 Footers was a privilege and set the foundation for many great sailing adventures to follow all over the world and in many classes topped off by the best boats of all, 18 Footers”

12ft skiffs continued to be the only boats raced at the VA12SC until 1958 when the Sabots were introduced. The first Sabots in Australia were built in the Vaucluse Amateur clubhouse, and the first Sabot race in Australia was sailed at Vaucluse in November 1958.

The club has since raced Flying Elevens, 14ft skiffs, Vee Esses (senior version of the VJ), Manly Juniors and Cherubs.

The high-performance Flying Eleven skiff began racing at the club in 1967, and continues to race there today, then in 1992 single handed Sabots were introduced to cater for the more senior young competitors.

Although club members were instrumental in establishing the Interdominion 12ft skiff Championship between Australia and New Zealand, 12ft skiff racing at the club ceased in 1984-85.

The club presently races Sabots and Flying Elevens for newcomers, as well as Cherubs for those who are a little bit more experienced.

The community-spirited club has been teaching kids how to sail, hosting fleet racing and nurturing champions since the 1930s. Many have gone on to win the world, Australian, State, Club and other international 18 footer championships and have been highly sought after to become part of the top teams in both the 18s and most other top level racing classes.

While the Winning family is the most notable with three generations competing at the club before going on to successful sailing careers in the 18s and other classes, there is a great tradition for generations of families to learn and race at the club for more than eighty years.

Among the top 18 footer sailing fathers-and-sons who came through the club are Jay and Jeronimo Harrison, Warwick and Ash Rooklyn and Kevin and Daniel Nixon.

Two sets of brothers who went on to 18 footer success are Michael and Mark Walsh and John and Peter Harris. Michael Walsh won the 1989 JJ Giltinan world Championship, John Harris (the 2001 JJs) and Peter Harris, the 2013 JJs.

At the risk of over-looking some individual(s), other former VA12SC competitors, including world, Australian, NSW and international champions, who have made outstanding contributions to the League’s 18 footer fleet over many seasons, are:

Mick Bannister, Peter Calligeros, Michael Carter, John Dean, Tony Denham, Geoff Dickenson, Jules Epstein, Ted Hackney, Dave Hodgson, Micah Lane, Jack Macartney, James Rofe, Anthony Scali, Adam South, John Sweeny, Bob Tearne, John Walton.

The League’s current Race Officer Doug Cameron and video commentator, Peter Shipway, are also graduates from the VA12SC.

John Winning, who is always conscious of sailing history, has nothing but praise for Sil Rohu, who was so involved with the introduction of sailing to the youngsters of the area. “Sil Rohu, with two of his mates during WW1, produced a weekly newspaper, The Yandoo, on an old typewriter. I still carry the name ‘Yandoo’, along with the colour patch of the 7th Field Artillery Brigade, on all my 18 footers.”

Sil lived in a waterfront house at Vaucluse, which had a boat shed, and in 1931 had a vision for a boat designed specifically for two children or teenagers so they could learn to sail and learn to race. He believed that it should be unsinkable and easy to right after capsizing, it should be able to be built at home by a boy and his dad, and it should be inexpensive to construct.

He asked his sailing partner and designer Charles Sparrow to design such a boat and in the 1931-32 season this ‘new’ boat made its first appearance. It was the Vaucluse Junior (VJ). In 1936, Sparrow then designed an adult version of the VJ, which was, not surprisingly, called the Vaucluse Senior (VS).

Who could deny the club claims, “We are very proud of our heritage and our unique club ethos; grounded, inclusive and community spirited. Our mission is to be Australia’s best youth sailing club, delivering first class sailing experiences through a welcoming family environment.”

While ever the Vaucluse Amateur 12 Foot Sailing Club continues to produce the quality of sailing talent it has done for so many years, the Australian 18 Footers League’s fleet will continue to provide great racing on Sydney Harbour.

Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.

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