Our Past

by ARYA HISTORIAN Steve CREWES

 

 

A Potted History of the Early Australian EC12 Class.

     

 

We all know that the EC12 is no longer an International class. But it has hung around for quite a long time. The latest information coming in from the United States is, it is one of the largest classes there.

      

          I was present when this class first came to Australia, being a member of the Old Sydney Model Yacht Club then. I want to tell you about how it started and not to include myself in it too much.

 

The main persons involved with this right from the word GO were two Qantas employees Kevin Byrnes and Max Lewis of Sydney, there were others involved too. Kevin had a contact in America called Buddy Black, anyway this American put out EC12 hulls from the TREASURE TOOLING mould. This mould was the Official Mould for it was written into the early US rating rules.

 

       Kevin sent over for one of these hulls and told Buddy (the manufacturer) to make it heavy for they wanted to mould from it, so in due course the hull arrived in Australia through Qantas, I can’t say if anyone paid duty (to protect the guilty). Kevin put this hull into the hands of a local person to do the moulding, Kevin Humphreys of Aero Mini Marine near Scarborough Park in Sydney.

 

Now in the mean time, there was an argument raging within the club (as always) on who was going to have the number #1 hull out of the mould. This went on for sometime. The mould maker, Aero Mini Marine had produced the mould and took the first boat off.

 

          I went down and saw Aero Mini Marine with my money in my hot little hand and he said, “we’ve got a problem, I promised Kevin and Max the first two hulls out of the mould but they haven’t come up with any money, yet”. Now in this early time Aero Mini Marine hadn’t got the ‘number’ stickers in the hulls, so he put small ink dots in, 5 dotes is number #5 etc. I would suspect that there would be at least 5 or 6 of the first hulls out there with no Aero Marine stickers in them, for he took months and months to get them. These boats can be identified in other ways, though. He said, “you and I (he) know you’re got the first, but I have to put four more dots in yours otherwise I’m in trouble with the other two fellows.”

         

Kevin Byrnes retrieved his hull for it was the one from the States and made his boat. It was of the usual Byrnes standard, fantastic in every way. All the fittings were chrome plated, beautiful sails, carved wood mast. How did it sail? Well, Like a dog. It sailed across the lake at Scarborough Park, hit the opposite bank, was turned around (by hand) sailed back and hit the bank again. A not very enterprising start, this boat that was made heavy (to mould off), even in light zephyrs it heeled to the gunnels.

      

The subsequent boats were improved on, in regards to lighter masts, better placement of the lead shot, etc. Now the first hulls were made with decks on them, there was no rule saying you could not put a wooden deck on. To lighten the boat, the fiberglass deck was taken off and a ply one fitted. Cross deck measurements were not part of the rule then. The basic rule for the beam then was 111/2” plus or minus 1/2”.

 

While the boat had no deck on it, it was possible to fiddle with the hull; one of the best ways for getting this boat to go, was to spread the deck beam from 11 1/2” to 12”. In doing this, it lifted both the transom and the sharp end up, thereby reducing the LWL and in so doing, being able to add more lead.

 

          We settled down for about 12 months or so of building and sailing.  About this time Max Lewis and I were sailing at Chipping Norton, at the Chipping Norton EC12 club near Liverpool, for we had heard of somebody else sailing a similar boat there. Anyway this bloke found us, his boat was also a EC12, and his name was Alf Willoughby who said he “flopped” his boat off a mate’s boat, who bought it off DUMAS in the States. This boat that he flopped from, was eventually registered as KA14 “Ragamuffin”, Manufacturer DUMAS Hull number 120S. First Registered 6/4/82 to R. Pinkarton.  

 

The Class was going about two years when it became apparent, that the Class was going to become bigger than first expected. As Secretary of the ECSA, I approached to the then Registrar Alan Dawson in Adelaide in 1981 to start the register for them. Allan asked me if I wanted No1? But no, I said I would like No 8. KA1 went to Rick Dorrey in South Australia.

 

Max Lewis had a beautiful light blue boat with diagonal stripes (red, white and blue) all in the gelcoat, his boat was numbered KA7 ”Columbia” first registered in 22/12/81.

 

          The Willoughby boats (Mini Mariner) were slimmer than the Aero Mini Marine boats and had other differences and these were: The bottom of the keel was Vee-ed, the thickness of the keel was thinner, and the beam on the deck was slightly narrower in places and it did not come from the “Treasure Tooling Mould”. This was one of the requirements of the old US rules that it “had to conform to the Treasure tooling mould”. We had a “choice” to except this hull, by Mini Mariner or not.  Max Lewis wanted to ban it, for he said it didn’t conform to the “Treasure Tooling Mould” as the basic requirement stated. The argument flowed back and forwards for a few days and it was pointed out to Max, if he didn’t accept it as an EC12, then we might end up with two classes of EC12s in Australia. Of course we had to accept it. In some ways this bought the Class into ‘Deep Water’ later on.

 

In 1982, big things started to happen.  The AMYA National Championships were held in Melbourne that year. The EC12s sailed south of the city at a place called Currum (while the more prominent classes used Albert Park Lake). The EC12 championships included both match racing and fleet racing. I won the EC12 Nationals that year and there were 11 starters for the event.

 

After the 1983 Nationals in Sydney, Bruce Sorenson got interested in the class, when he came to these nationals and took my Aero Mini Marine hull back to Queensland to mould. If a person wanted to be a manufacturer in the class then, he still had to mould off a known “Treasure Tooling boat” which was also part of the original rules.

 

 Bruce Sorenson and his mate Tom Porter and Dave Black turned up in Sydney for the “Easter Bunny Hop” as the event was called. Well the difference in their boats to ours in Sydney were enormous. For they came from Queensland with unstayed masts, keel stepped masts, tripods to bring the sheet rope close to the main boom and a different keel leading arrangements that looked superior to ours. Of course they slaughtered us and really had Max Lewis’ gander up. For what he called all the “illegalities”. With the rules being the way they were, there were many glaring holes in the class rules then. From that time on, Sorenson boats were sold through out Australia and New Zealand. 

 

From these boats came, the infamous keel row and it was caused through a mishap! We were at our sailing site in Botany Bay near the Sydney airport one club sailing day, when Roy Silks tried to put his boat (a Sorenson Boat) into a stand that usually held a Dumas type (Mini Mariner) boat.  It didn’t fit the box at the keel, and it all went from there. Like, as people think, if it is different, it must be better? Or worse?

  

          There were 3 clubs sailing EC12’s in Sydney at that time, 1 club in Melbourne, 1club in Adelaide and 1 club in Brisbane in 1985 and three manufacturers namely Aero Mini Marine (Kevin Humphreys), and Zoro’s (Bruce Sorenson) and Mini Mariner. Later Roy Silks was trying to make them also but was having a lot of trouble with getting them to ‘release’ out his mould and didn't continue past two hulls, (he flopped a Aero Mini Marine hull, mine). Of the ten hulls he actually pulled out of the mould he only got out 2 that were any good. One of those 2 hulls had a great lot of filling done on the starboard side of the hull. So he gave it up and remained the agent for Sorenson boats and made masts and fittings and poured the leads, fitted the Sorenson boats out to sell in Sydney. I made all the sails.

   

 In 1986 there were four clubs in Sydney sailing EC12’s. They were the East Coast Sailing Association, Werrington Model Yacht Club, The Sydney Model Engineers at Luddenham and Northern Beaches EC12 club. The Sydney Society of Model Engineers had their own private lake and had about 14 boats of their members racing there on a regular basis. Some of their events included 24 hour races which we attended.

 

The reason the East Coast Sailing Association got its name was that, members of it did not, in some cases come from Sydney. To get the EC12s popular we encouraged people who lived in outlying places, such as Durass Lakes, Wollongong, Dubbo, Burrill Lakes, Port MacQuarie and other such outlying places to join. They could belong to the Association and receive a monthly newsletter about what was happening in EC12 class

    

          As the class started to come together, these later two manufacturers got really into production; they seemed to squeeze out, in some ways, Aero Mini Marine now called Lakesedge Engineering. A feature about Sorenson and Mini Mariner hulls were the colours, both had bright colours in the gelcoats, for there weren’t many painted boats. I suspect that Sorenson was the more masterly of the two. For both were outstanding. The Sorenson’s early boats were done with airbrushing scenes over the coloured gel coat and were really great, for some of them were even decorated with Indians and stuff, one even sported a painted 32 ford hotrod on the deck! One even had women posing with “wispy” veils over their nether parts, painted along the decks. Like was fashionable with panel vans about that era.

 

 Getting back to these Sorenson EC12s, they were a revelation to us, for the boats (in set up) were so different to ours. As Bruce Sorenson was rigging up, he stuck his mast into his boat, right down to the keel and it didn’t have side stays .One of our blokes told him he forgot to put his side stays on. All the Queenslanders had stay- less masts. The lower part of the mast was fitted to the boat with the boom and the vang and the bottom tube stub for the mast to slide into. All their boats had Dave Black deck mounted winches. These winches were really small and could pull enormous weight with little battery power. All these boats had the lead poured in, to properly balance the hull, in the right place. Where as, some of our boats still had leadshot in the keel with resin poured over them to keep the pellets in place. Of course they beat the ‘living hell’ out of the NSW boats. So a rematch was in order, to ‘rescue’ our pride and trophy. Which we did the following Easter in Brisbane. Four boats from Sydney went up and they included Roy Silks and his son Bruce from Society of Model Engineers club, Max Lewis and myself from the EC Sailing Ass.

 

          NSW held the Nationals in 1983/4 at the EC12 site on Botany Bay, the EC12’s raced in winds up to 40 knots for the 3 days, to everybody’s amazement. (Airborne Magazine No 68) and was won by ECSA’s J. Bannerman KA 38. Competitors came from, New Zealand (2), Tasmania (2), Queensland (2) and NSW(10). I was the O.O.D. for the entire National’s class events that year in Sydney.

 

       Max Lewis’s boat with the wood deck was from Aero Mini Marine #15 and was called “The Bitter End”. First registered in Australia on 11/10/81 with Max’s USA membership number as his Australian (AMYA) number, KA 294. The boat sported a Goldspar mast, and American Fisher brass fittings and Carr sails from the USA. Max represented Australia at the Rick Palmers’ MINI America’s Cup in 1977 at Rhode Island USA as well as Australia’s Neil Bennell OBE. Both our skippers borrowed boats off the Americans to do this regatta. This regatta, held at the same time, near the America’s cup in Newport. Max was able to  “liberate” Ted Turner’s Engineer’s hat that came floating past after the ‘dunking’ of Turner’s win. Max was made a life member of the Narragansett Model Yacht Association, as indeed were all the overseas competitors.

   

          We started the East Coast Sailing Association together at Botany Bay crash boat site. There is also a video of the early EC12 boats sailing at Botany Bay that is held in the ARYA Historical Archives.

 

          It might be in order to say a few things about Roy Silks. For I knew Roy personally and he lived near me. He was very fastidious about getting the boats right that he got from Sorenson and fitted out properly. The poured leads that he did, were spot-on and what he used to do was put weights on the boats to represent batteries, winches, masts and booms and pour the lead to almost the water line. While it was floating in his swimming pool and then put in tiny pieces of lead to do the final balance after the gear was fitted. I watched and helped him do many of the Sorenson’s EC12s.

   

Just for interest sake, there are two metal flake Lakesedge Engineering EC12 boats out there somewhere, one gold and one blue. I got them especially made from Aero Mini Marine. Using the gold one, I won the 1982 EC12 National championship in Currum, Victoria. There were 2 clubs that sailed EC12s in Victoria.

 

Bruce Sorenson had a brand new EC12, (never sailed), sitting in his home. The last one out of his mould. Complete, ready to go, it was made for someone in Papua New Guinea and never picked up, it is in PNG National colours and rego’ is KNG 1,in some ways quite a historical boat. That one I believe is owned by John Hall in Sydney.

 

 

The 1988 Nationals were the last nationals attended by the EC12 class. The following years 89, 90 and 91 etc was not attended by the class members for whatever reasons and the class stopped racing nationally. I think it culminated in the lack of communication by the EC12 clubs in general.  There was an unfortunate International Rules Rewrite that split the entire World EC12 body, over some ill-conceived plan to put another type of 12 metre in place of the existing one. The trouble and ill will that came from this held the class back from gaining the place it deserves.

 

         

Now, the class proved it was popular before 1988, for it was thriving back then. It will do this again, provided there is resurgence in the will to want to do it, from the current owners. Boats are hard to find and the reason they are hard to find is because the people who have them are still sold on this concept. Of an “America’s Cup Match Racing boat”.

 

 Any hulls from Sorenson, Lakesedge Engineering or Aero Mini Marine and the Silks & Delisser hulls came from or were direct sisters of the “Treasure Tooling” Plug that was imported from Buddy Black in the USA (1974 circa). The hulls like, Mini Mariner, came from the Dumas style Boat. I believe personally that both types of boats we race in Australia are the same in performance and have always been so.

 

 There is more to this EC12 story and I will bring it to you at a later date.

 

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Foot note #1 As of 2004 the “Dumas type” EC12 boat in some parts of the World (USA & Canada) can no longer registered in those countries. However, I see in the last few days (Nov 08) that the old EC12 USA Manufacturer Hartmann is remanufacturing their boat as a Heritage 12 metre.

 

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Foot note #2 Photo Sorenson boat KA84 has no side stays!!

 

STEPHEN CREWES, National Historical Officer A.R.Y.A.2008

 

Historian Stephen Crewes. 2008

 

 

 

 

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