The First Fleet
From MHYC: The First 60 Years
Article by: Noel Hopkinson
The club, in forming the fleet, followed much the same pattern as the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club. The yachts were up to 36 foot in overall length. The first yacht on the register of the club was Flying Cloud (MH1), owned by H Middows and designed and built by George Griffin at The Spit. MH2 was Ariel, built and owned by Griffin. She was a sloop and considered to be one of the best boats of her day. At the time there was great rivalry between her and Wally Ward's Janaway (MH4). Janaway was designed by Wally and built by Jim Perry in 1936. She was constructed on a houseboat which is still afloat at Fisher Bay, The Spit.
In 1939 Rana was owned and sailed by Dick Down. She was built in1911 in Holmes' yard, McMahon's Point, Sydney and was originally gaff rigged. Julnar (MH8), a 36-foot sloop, owned and built by Griffin was first sailed in 1941 (without a deck). Avona (MH5) was a 28-footer, owned by Reg Thompson, a foundation member, and built in Hong Kong. The hull was teak and iron-fastened. She sported a long bowsprit and was Marconi rigged. She was fast in light airs, but could not carry her sail in fresh conditions. Years later she was caught in a southerly buster, filled up with water and sank near Fort Denison. Her owners perished with the yacht, and she was never raised from the bottom.
Reg Thompson had another yacht, Nangah (Aboriginal for Sea Hawk), a 22-foot, gaff-rigged sloop with very round bilges and a 12-foot beam. She was to have carried the MH7 number, but Reg preferred MH5, which he used while racing Avona. In 1944, MH7 was passed on to Noel Hopkinson, and he raced Inez, veteran of the 1921 Lord Forster restricted class. She was 25-foot overall, an open boat built of Huon pine in 1922.
Another founding boat, CW Robson's Wyuna, was built by Fred Knight of Castle Rock and was an American Hands design. She foundered off Grotto Point while competing in a club race. Conditions at the time were a light south-easter and she failed to come about while tacking close inshore. The broken hull was beached near Griffin's Boatshed. Ron Swanson bought what was left of the wreck, later salvaged the lead keel from Grotto reef, and re-built her completely.
Thara, a 25-foot sloop was owned by founding member Arthur Prigge. Arthur sold Thara to Max Barnett (she was re-named Pinta) and bought a 36-foot Alan Payne designed hull, and fitted her out himself as the next Thara.
In 1944 it cost one guinea (1 pound l shilling) for the entrance fee and one pound for a year's membership. The entrance fee for each race was 2s 6p (two-thirds of which Went to the Patriotic War Funds). The fleet was mainly small craft, and a yacht had to have a fixed keel to be eligible to race. The club had introduced Saturday racing in two divisions: A and B Class yachts. By 1947 there were eight yachts in A Division and ten yachts in B Division. Fifteen other yachts weren't racing so the total number of yachts was 33.
In the early days, MHYC yachts were often not recognised by sailors from some other clubs when we were racing; even though we may have had right of way it was expected that our skippers would give way to them under all circumstances. I was racing Shalimar and competing in a MHYC race when a yacht, racing in a division of a Royal Club, failed to concede to Shalimar her rights under the rules. The protest was heard at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and upheld in favour of Shalimar. This was a turning point in the recognition of MHYC's rights on the water!