“Talking Sailing” From My Archives. 1948 SA Interclub Regatta

by Richard Crockett

Last week I covered the 1956 SAYRA National Regatta at Zeekoe Vlei, and today cover, in brief, the SA Interclub Regatta held at Victoria Lake Club in 1948. These events were taken very seriously then as the A5-sized brochure ran to 44 pages.

Of specific interest from that brochure is the history of the South African Yacht Racing Association, and the history of the Victoria Lake Club – both reproduced below.

Interesting too is the page of yacht club burgees printed in full colour, and also reproduced here.

I hesitate to reproduce the section entitled “Yacht Racing … a brief explanation” as I am sure there are yachties out there who still believe that those rules are still in force – despite changes to the yacht racing rules every four years! However, here are a few interesting excerpts:

• It should be noted that there is a very complete set of rules governing the sport, the·chief of which have been devised to avoid risk of collision.

• Perhaps the most important rule of all is “The overtaking yacht must keep out of the way of the overtaken yacht”.

• Great interest is often added both for contestants and spectators alike when the defensive measure of “luffing” is adopted by an overtaken boat by steering sharply into the wind, thus forcing the overtaking boat to take similar action, and preventing her from passing to windward. This process may be continued until the overtaking yacht has established an “overlap,” which is gained “when the bow of the overtaken yacht would, if continuing the luff, strike the overtaking yacht behind the mast.”

The History of SAYRA (as related in 1948)
As far back as 1930, the idea of forming a national body to promote the interests of·yacht racing in South Africa was mooted in Durban, but it was not until 1939 that active·steps were taken by the Victoria Lake Club to revive interest.

During the regatta of 1939, it was quite apparent that the new practice of consolidating all the contests at one venue, called for the formation of a parent body. The representatives, informally, were largely in favour of taking some action and a circular was put out·with a view to sustaining interest in the project.

However, all ideas had to be abandoned with the commencement of hostilities and the matter was shelved until the first post-war regatta was held in 1946 at Zwartkops. A general meeting was called and universal approval of the formation of an association was evident. It was left to the Victoria Lake Club to follow up the matter. A general·outline of the aims and objects was drawn up and the Redhouse Yacht Club undertook the draft constitution.

The 1947 Regatta at Durban bore the first fruits of the initial response, and with·every determination, the birth of the Association took place. A largely attended meeting presided over by that doyen of yachting, Mr. Rupert Ellis Brown, discussed the broad lines·of the formation, and an Executive Committee with headquarters in Port Elizabeth was·commissioned to carry on with the administration.

After a terrific amount of hard voluntary work, the constitution, racing rules and all·matters affecting yacht racing were brought to a finality, and in August 1947 the first official meeting was held at the Zwartkops Yacht Club at Port Elizabeth.

The delegates to this meeting after various amendments, ratified the entire work of the·Executive Committee, and the congenial manner in which the controversial matters were·thrashed out augured well for the future success of the Association.

With the ratification of the Constitution, Racing Rules and conditions affecting the contests, the first official S.A.Y.R.A. handbook was published.

The 1948 Regatta is the first to be held under the auspices of the S.A.Y.R.A. and·
there are naturally quite a few teething troubles that are still to be overcome.

No mention of the S.A.Y.R.A. would be fair without some little tribute to the band·of stalwarts, who at no end of personal sacrifice, have devoted much time to the furtherance·of the aims of the association.

The thanks of all yachtsmen who have the true interests of the sport at heart are due to Messrs. Tommy Toft, Ken Pearson, Leo Kohler, Alec Patterson, Herbert McWilliams, Greg Joyce, Billy Kingswell, Lionel Harling, Jack Paton, Chris Neill, and to Des Kemsley who has carried the onerous duties of Hon. Secretary.

It is sincerely hoped that the formation of the association will see South Africa represented nationally at future Olympic Games and participation in the 1948 events at Torbay·will come up for consideration during the annual general meeting of the Association to be·held prior to the present regatta.

History of Victoria Lake Club (as related in 1948)
The Victoria Lake Club was founded in 1909 when the Germiston Boating Club and the Aquatic Club amalgamated. For some years prior to this, the Rowing Club had a boat house near the pumping station and the Aquatic Club headquarters was a tent somewhere between the present club house, and boat house, and near where the old wood and iron building was afterwards erected, which served as a club house until the present building was opened in 1929.

Germiston had the first four oar boats in the Transvaal, and they were clinker built inriggers.

The club took a big step forward in 1909-1910 when the Consolidated Goldfields donated £1,000 for the purchase of new rowing boats on condition that a certain number of the employees of their mines could become members for half fees.

Up to this time the sailing craft were a nondescript lot, among them were two 30ft. scows ex Durban, the ‘Gloria’ owned by the late Mr. E. Benson and the ‘Lavina’ owned by the late Mr. Taff Roberts. One boat came from the Shetlands Isles and was a 16ft. double ended half decker with a lead keel. The late Mr. Ralph Roberts imported a 16ft. open sailing boat from Essex, England and this was the first sailing boat put on the lake after the Boer War.

In 1911 the late Sir George Farrar presented a cup for the sailing section and in that year the 20 footer ‘Mosquito’ came up from Durban to compete in the first race for this cup which she won easily. This started interest in 20 footers and by 1912 there were six 20 footers on the lake all built in Germiston by Mr. Arthur Field.

To encourage further inter club competition, Col. S. S. Cape presented a hundred guinea trophy and the first contest took place at Easter 1913 and was won by ‘Gladys’, V.L.C., skippered by the late Morton Hinton, who was killed in France in the first world war. The following year the ‘Scud’ skippered by the late Herbert Spradbrow came up from Durban and took the cup away. The contest was not held again on V.L.C. waters until 1926. The next inter club contest was held at Germiston in 1939 when ‘Kelpie’ won the 20 footer contest.

When the inter club contest was first held, the lake looked very different to what it does today. Hardly a tree was to be seen and the south side was no man’s land.

After the last war considerable progress has been made by the club. Alterations and additions have been carried out to the club and boat houses and a large development scheme for an improved lay-out of the grounds has been embarked upon. A large number of new craft have been added to the fleet, particularly of the sharpie class. Considerable efforts have been made to counteract the silting up of the lake, but each year sees the position becoming more serious.

There is so much valuable information contained in historic brochures like this one in Clubs and private homes throughout our country. As the history of our sport is being trashed and lost every single day, I can only plead with anyone who has old sailing material, newspaper cuttings, photographs, club magazines and more, to share them with me so that I can attempt to preserve the wonderfully rich history of the sport in this country. All material will be handled with care and returned after being digitised. Please contact me via email to discuss: editor@sailing.co.za


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