At the height of their fame, the unrestricted Sydney Harbour 18-footers worked on the theory that the more sail you could carry, then the faster you’d go writes W M Nixon. With serious betting going on among spectator crowds following the racing on the Harbour’s ferries, there was a lot at stake. And even if they had to keep adding extra crew-weight in order to handle and counter-balance the huge and increasing press of cloth, for years the accepted wisdom was pile them high, pile them on, and pile drive down the Harbour.
As for the hazards of capsizing or simply sailing under with the ludicrous load of sailpower, well, the water was warm - and if there were any sharks about, the huge white spread of cloth would of course frighten them away…...
Maybe so. But inevitably somebody got to thinking that a cleverer more modern rig - with less weight of crew needed to handle it if the crew was well outboard trapezing on a ramp - might produce a better result. The outcome of this thinking was a race-winner whose descendants included the Olympic 49er. The new 18ft skiff may not have looked so madly exciting, and there were certainly fewer prangs for the spectators to enjoy, but the more modern boats were on the money, and that was what really mattered.
"Pile them high, pile them on, and pile drive down the Harbour"
The old boats disappeared with astonishing rapidity until one of the greatest of them, the 1925-built Yendys, was spotted being used as a utterly nondescript little motorboat whose main purpose in life was a spot of fishing. But miraculously she was saved and restored to her former crazy glory, as were others of the class’s vintage days, and occasionally they’re allowed afloat for some racing, while Yendys in particular is saved for sailing treats for special guests.
Ireland’s own veteran sailing superstar Harold Cudmore of Cork fitted the role to perfection during his current holiday in Australia with wife Lauren (she’s from Malahide), and as Bruce Kerridge’s photos show, the boy did well and it seems that for once the good old Yendys didn’t end up on the beach needing reassembly after a capsize, something which – to say the least - is not unknown.
Meanwhile, Harold fitted in a visit to the Woodenboat Show in Hobart, Tasmania and a 50-knot jaunt on Peter Cavil’s replica 1922 powerboat which - like Yendys – certainly looks the business. He also linked up with designer Ron Holland enjoying the Australian summer, and doubtless also touched base with renowned former Crosshaven sailmaker and current international gliding ace Johnny McWilliam, who recently celebrated a certain extremely significant birthday with a zero at the end of it in Australia with sons Tom and Jamie.