The Gladstone Yacht Club
by Lesley Brydon
Reproduced from: CYCA OFFSHORE, June/July 1980 Offshore-June-July-1980.pdf (cyca.com.au)
Host club for the Brisbane to Gladstone Race is the Port Curtis Sailing Club, which was one of the first sailing clubs formed in Australia and these days is one of the fastest growing and most active clubs in the country .
Yachtsmen who have visited the Club have to be impressed by the remarkable development which has taken place in the Club's facilities, its growth in membership and its expansive hospitality in recent years.
Its history is worth recording. The Club had its origin in the 1880s when sail was a basic means of transport and Gladstone was the northernmost rail terminus in Queensland. All cargo north of the port was carried by sailing boat. Club regattas were arranged for sport among the work boats carrying coastal freight and passengers to the northern areas of Australia. Off-duty days were race days among the amazing variety of sturdy sailing vessels which were harboured in Port Curtis.
Club President and veteran sailor, Noel Patrick, recalls the Club's development: "During the war years of the 1900s sailing regattas continued to be organised by the Club despite the fact that Port Curtis was a restricted zone patrolled by guns at the heads and a dedicated Volunteer Defense Corps.
"In order to take part in the races, each crew member was required to apply for a perm it before each race day. Members were obliged to carry the permit at all times while travelling in a restricted zone. Caught without a permit, a crew member was liable to arrest and prosecution .
"Inevitably, when boats capsized during a race, papers were lost. Crews were then officially 'off limits' and illegally trespassing on a restricted military zone, so arrests were often made during a race by the officers of the Volunteer Defence Corps.
" Prosecutions were presumably lenient, however, for the risk never seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of Port Curtis Sailing Club Members. The present day clubhouse emerged out of the destruction of the Club by a severe cyclone in 1949. Timber which Club revenue. As it stands today the building has a replacement value of over $200,000.
During the late 1970s the Port Curtis Sailing Club ran into financial difficulties and it was realised that only by obtaining a licensed club status could it continue operating. The sailing Club alone could not summon the required adult membership needed to obtain a sporting club Iicence, so the Club amalgamated with the Air Sea Rescue body and the Power Boat Club to form a joint association to apply for more comfortable furnishings. Current membership is 480.
The Port Curtis Sailing Club pioneered learn-to-sail classes in Queensland. Classes are conducted for youthful students in 12 Sabots purchased and assembled by Club Members. The Gladstone High School became the first Queensland school to include sailing as an official school sport under the direction of sailing Club Members.
When the first Brisbane to Glad stone Race was organised in 1949 the Port Curtis Sailing Club actively supported the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club in staging the event.
In 1950 the Club fielded its first nominations in the race, and since that time boats from the Club have performed well.
One of the best known and outstanding performers in the event has been the yacht 'Wistari' which was designed and built by owner-skipper, Noel Patrick, in 1965. The yacht currently holds the trophy for the highest aggregate point score in the event since its inception in 1949.
The trophy for the aggregate point score in the Brisbane-Gladstone Race is the Sea Prince Trophy donated by the Port Curtis Sailing Club . It is a silver rep I ica of the boat which won the first Brisbane-Gladstone Race in 1949. The boat, originally a romantic gaff-rigged carvel-hulled vessel, has a colourful and mysterious history.
Following its victory in 1949 'Sea Prince' was purchased by well known Gladstone skipper Harry Renton. It competed in local events for some years before being converted by Renton to a Marconi rig and sold to Norman Richards of Brisbane. Richards later sold the boat to a southern owner.
On a delivery trip to New Zealand in 1971, the boat was abandoned by its crew in unusual circumstances in the Tasman Sea. Apparently overcome by sea sickness in the rough conditions, the crew made their way ashore in Iife rafts leaving 'Sea Prince' to its unknown fate . Two years later in 1973, 'Sea Prince' was found by the crew of a bulk carrier drifting abandoned in the Coral Sea.
The crew of the carrier boarded the vessel but were unable to salvage her because of the I imitations caused by their own relative size and lack of facilities. She was therefore left to continue her lonely and aimless passage in the Coral Sea. No doubt, as Noel Patrick observes wistfully, "Doing what we'd all love to be doing - visiting coral atolls and making friends with those dusky maidens who inhabit South Sea islands." The Port Curtis Sailing Club has initiated and supported a number of other ocean races including the Gladstone to Bundaberg Race, the Gladstone to Keppel Island and the Gladstone to Cairns event in co-operation with the Cairns Yacht Club.
Noel Patrick won the first Gladstone to Cairns Race in 'Wistari', while the standard of performance of other Club Members has also been very high. Club Member Wally Walters has won two Queensland titles with an R L 24 which he built himself and took third place in last year's national titles.