Our Past

 The Australian Pioneers of Model Yachting.





 Bruce SORENSON. Queensland’s Model Maker Extraordinaire.   (Bruce Sorenson )  (Expo )  (Sorenson Hull )  (Pink Sub )

 When I first came into contact with Bruce Sorenson, he and his mob from Queensland, including Tom Porter and David Black came to Sydney to contest NSW EC12 State Titles in 1982.


 They hit the R/C sailing scene in Sydney like a bomb. The EC12 class was pretty conservative at that time to say the least. Bruce’s mob was into unstayed masts and innovative leaded boats, keel stepped masts, miniature winches and fittings, which we never dreamt about. This put the proverbial bomb under Max Lewis, the EC12 Rep. Max was at a loss to stop this onslaught and in the end the Pineapplers took all the trophies home from the Easter, NSW EC12 state championship.


About 1984 I went to stay at Bruce’s Place for a short holiday and we went up to Maryborough to sail some Marbleheads with the (I think) the Burnett Model Yacht Club? In the pond opposite the Lamington Hotel, near the bridge. We had a great time except that this pub only sold XXXX. We both found out we had this love for meat pies. In Queensland at that time it was possible to find these Utes with pie ovens on the side of the road selling pies (they’e still there 2004). Bruce and I had a hard job going anywhere and not stopping for one, every couple of miles, for these meaty delights.


Bruce was into moulding R/C boats.  At first I think Ms and then 10 raters and a little latter EC12s, working under the brand name ‘ZORRO Boats’ he became a registered Manufacturer for EC12 and I think produced about 60 boats and exported some to New Zealand and New Guinea.  One of his great delights was winning the Queensland A class championship with a much modified EC12. He was absolutely thrilled with this ( for he told me the story a few times)


He was holding down a job at the TAFE College as the head teacher in the Panel Beating Section. Bruce‘s family had a Panel beating business in Ipswich. Well, it turns out that where he worked he had these beaut facilities for making R/C yachts, not only that, for he needed to show and give his students something to practice on for their air brushing techniques and fiberglass moulding techniques, model yacht hulls were the answer. And what a good job they made, for I saw boats with speeding hotrods with flames coming out of the engine, roaring over decks and American Indians in full headress peering over the fordecks. Lythe nude beauties, with bits of whimsy cotton over the ‘nether parts’, posing on the decks and hulls, under the main boom, all beautifully airbrushed. And super colour schemes, all set in the gelcoat, fabulous work.


Bruce gave a lot of his time and effort to this sport including organizing the 1987 Worlds for EC12s and the Nationals that year, being president of the QMBC for some years. After model yachts he went racing Go-Carts with his son and became the president of the Queensland Association and building Hotrods where I believe he really made a name for himself in the Hotrod Association building cars and he built a second house, recently, near Ipswich.


Bruce built more things than what most people would build in two lifetimes, beautifully. Started out building F/S catamarans.


Bruce was also into making other things including a 137ft long pink Submarine with silver spots and a 30 ft dia. World for the 1988 World Expo in Brisbane. He said a group of his friends gave him a hand making them and they were working on them 14 hours a day getting them ready.


Recently for I flew to Brisbane to see Bruce before he died on October 29 2004.


 Stephen Crewes. National Historical Person ARYA 2004



We were lucky, for he came on to the scene of R/C model yacht racing about 1975. Alan had been for the previous ten years a 18ft skipper on Sydney Harbour. He said it was around this time when big money was starting to be spent on 18ft skiff racing and a real big sum of money would have to be thrown at the skiff, for just one racing season. So he was looking around to find a kindred sport to go to and found R/C yachting. He set too and designed his own boat, which he says was not like the boats at his local pond, Hinkler Park, for they only sailed A Class and Ten raters and his was about Marblehead size. So he joined ‘Northern Mariners’ in Sydney’s north. Sailing at this venue at that time was Ray Bennett, Ron Adams, Kevin Mitchell, and Lou Vandenburg and sometime later on, Maurice Fletcher. He said he found the sport composite to his interests, where he found designing, building and sailing to be his kind of pastime.


After a while his interests started to go in the direction of 10 raters and found a kindred spirit in Kevin Mitchell in the club. Kevin was interested in A Class and had just designed and made a medium sized one with a bulb, called ‘Antares’ and a multi- chine version called ‘Yellowvella’. Alan said this partnership with Kevin spanned many years and in a lot of ways they complemented each other in the sport of R/C yachting. Alan was very good at making boats quickly and his mate Kevin was good at the designing part. He said, how they designed boats was, that they sat down and discussed what they wanted to achieve in a design first and then discussed how they were going to do it. This is why so many of their designs were so good and popular in Australia conditions, Alan said.


In August 1978 he was chosen to represent Australia at the South Africa’s Worlds Championships in Durban. Alan said an Australian businessman, who had some connections with industry in South Africa, donated Alan’s fare to those Worlds. So he found himself on the plane going to South Africa along side Neil Bennell OBE who had also entered, another keen model yachty from Sydney. Alan came 10th in the 10R event and 11th in the Marblehead event (MB 1978). He took with him a Chris Dicks designed ‘247’ M class called ‘Harlequin’ he was sailing and a wooden hulled 10 Rater that had just been designed by Kevin Mitchell called ‘Jelly Bean’. The for- runner to the immensely popular design ‘Jelly Baby’, a 10 rater kit that Alan put out in the years following.


When he returned from South African Worlds, Alan had a new perspective on all R/C yachting stuff with a lot of overseas contacts. For he said it seemed that Australia was not that far away anymore to the rest of the world both in distance and boat performance and quickly took up the Pekabe Agency for fittings in Australia. He opened a workshop /store in Brookvale in Sydney, where he sold his boats and fittings from his company called ‘Custom Marine’.


A Marblehead design quickly followed called ‘Scorpion’ (about a 16lb boat). Some of the features were: - a custom made waterproof hatch cover, quite like what the Americans were doing at the time and plug –in Jib club boom attachments for each rig. Which created a benchmark in model yacht construction. Allan had a good win at the Nationals in Queensland in 1981 where he took out the National Ten rater Championship and at the same meet, came third in the Marblehead event.  


And who remembers the unforgettable M Class ‘Lightfingers’?  This was a 10lb boat that was a revolution in R/C circles in this country at that time (circa 1981). Alan said that he eventually had to break ‘Lightfingers’ up for it would not go in all sorts of wind conditions and was “particularly bad in light weather”. Although, I remember there was a Social Regatta at Hinkler Park, (Northern Mariner’s Pond) about 1981, in light weather where Alan gave a fleet of Sydney Ms a ‘sailing hiding’ in those very conditions with ‘Lightfingers’, this ten lb boat with only 600sq” of sail. This was followed by a further M called ‘Spider’, a lot of those were raced in Australia.


Alan also meted quite a few ‘sailing hidings’ in the years he spent at the sport. A good builder, talented and knowledgeable sailor. He won every National and NSW State championship for 10 raters and Ms from 1979 to 1982. Won the 1983 NSW 10R Championship and the 1984 National Championships for Ms and 10Rs.


Alan was present at the inaugural Tyson Family 10rater Trophy Event. He obtained a 5th in the Ten Rater Worlds at Lake Bonny South Australia in 1993.


He tried to bring the ‘Mickey Finn’ Class into fruition in Australia. Alan had one of the best race records of anybody in Australia. Most of the National trophies still bear testimate of this man’s achievements in this sport. Alan still resides in NSW.


 Stephen Crewes.  National Historian ARYA 2004


Steve Crewes (Pic )

Well I suppose I come into the history somewhere pretty early. For I arrived about 1966 on the model yacht scene in Sydney, sailing Vane on Scarborough Park in the southern suburbs. Some of my sailing mates were; Doug Billling, Kevin Byrnes, John Summerfield, Bob Close and the Frenchman Michael Raggot. Together, we started the Sydney Model Yacht Club and set about racing vane and R/C for the first few years. I went to my first Marblehead National Championship in Canberra in 1969.  I got help from a brisk Southerly wind to win the vane Ten Rater Nationals in 1972.


I changed to R/C about 1973/4 sailing a planked Doug Billing 10 Rater “Wattle” design with a homemade winch and a new Silvertone radio. I might add I was the only 10R, R/C boat around in Sydney.


The SMYC introduced EC 12s into Australia with Kevin Byrnes, Max Lewis. I bought the first Australian produced one. About this time (1976) the SMYC & the LMMYC were making a push for R/C nationals to be sailed in Australia. All the National championships for Australia were at that time only raced in the Vane Controlled mode.


 About this time the SMYC started their own R/C magazine called “Round the Buoys”, it was edited by Max Lewis and put together by myself ( my job was to put the pages together and stapled them) At times we got into serious trouble, when we were looking for items to put into it each month.  Some of the early writers went quite close to the line in some stories, till there was this terrible up- roar. As every editor knows if there are no stories for the next issue, then you have to think up one PDQ, for that edition or else, this was the cause. The magazine lasted for quite a number of years. Max Lewis had the idea of starting something for R/C sailor’s information, which eventually lead to a group calling itself the ARCMYC or The Australian Radio Control Model Yacht Association. This was a breakaway group from the AMYA to show their anger at the treatment the national body had given the radio controllers in this country. It all ended when some even minded people (Victoria) going to the AMYA and asking the Executive to reconsider the R/C position in AMYA. When it all ended, a couple of the things that happened were,  “Round the Buoys” was taken over as the AMYA newsletter and Ray Bennett (an official of ARCMYC) was made AMYA publicity Officer. I manage to find a copy of ‘Round the Bouys’ the other day and added it to the ARYA achives.


I sailed Marbleheads for a time at Scarborough Park in a club called StGeorge Model Yacht Club, it culminated in me winning the 1978 State M championship in Kogarah Bay (not too far from the 2005 Nats site).


In 1980, we were sailing EC12 as a one-design in Botany Bay at Sydney Airport. I found the site and said to Max Lewis that I was going to sail there, from then on and asked him to join me and we called ourselves the East Coast Sailing Association. This club just grew from there till we reached 42 members. We found the EC12s went better on open water, somehow.


 In 1982 I won the EC12 Nationals in Victoria, I think it was at Currum? For the EC12 Nationals did not race with the other classes in Melbourne that year.  


 I Organized and ran the Nationals in Sydney in 1984. After that Period I spent some years at ‘Model Engineers’ in Sydney sailing R/C yachts with Roy Silks.


 I returned to sail 10 raters (got 2nd in the Club Champs) at Northern Mariners in 1991 and bought Frank Russell’s Marblehead, a Woodpecker KA 917. This boat was a lot of fun to sail and I raced with Phillip Page, Henri Neurybecki and Wally Mac Donald. Won the Canberra MYC teams M trophy 1993&95.  Later joined the Sydney Remote Yacht Club in about 1994. 


Started racing my 8 metre Endeavour yacht with Drummoyne Sailing Club. I might add this was the first time I have ever been racing on a F/S yacht. Had a spot on the Endeavour Association Committee.


 In 2000, I visited the USA and raced the Vintage Marblehead Champs in Marblehead near Boston with the legendary Stan Goodwin, Earl Boebert and John Snow.  One of the high light of that visit was a stay at the Boston yacht club for a week and racing the “Invitational”(Ms) in San Francisco with the SFMYC.


About two years ago I became the Historical Person for the ARYA and also for NSW. I have written & published two books, both limited editions : ‘Model Racing Skiffs of Australia’ and  ‘Sydney’s Model Racing Skiffs’ and have another book on the way about early Vane /Radio in Australia. I also write the ‘Our Past’ Section on the ARYA web page.


I Foundered and currently manage the new Marblehead club in Sydney, the “Ancient Mariners” at Drummoyne Sailing Club.


Stephen Crewes. ARYA Historian 2004



In early January 2003, I was having a conversation with Eddie Cowell, of Brisbane, when he mentioned he had got the George Middleton Trophy but he didn’t know who George Middleton was?

So I thought about this for a while and wondered how many others also didn’t know the early blokes who started the modern Australian Model yachting Association (AMYA). So I will give you a rundown on “who was who” in the early days.


To the older blokes, If your name is not mentioned early doesn’t mean that it is forgotten and doesn’t mean your not important to the story, you are, okay. Also a note from you will help me, for our history will never be complete. I hope to run down the list of early model yachtsmen over a period of time (as space permits). I thought I might go in no particular order of names, to keep it interesting.


Max (wicky) GRIGGS. (Pic )

President of AMYA 1976 (Circa). Max held the president’s job with the association for 9 years. Held the Publicity Job for one year as well. One of the many good things that Max achieved in his tenure as the president, was that he brought stability to the Association in regards to their record keeping and the way they conducted their meetings and their affairs. It could be said that before he took over, these National AGMs could be rowdy affairs. For these were difficult times with the establishment of R/C.


 Max in those early days was associated with the Albert Park Club, in Victoria worked for Coca- Cola and he was able to travel around this vast country and this was what was needed to pull the AMYA together.


I first met him in Melbourne in 1976, one of the first things you notice about Max is his winning smile. He achieved greatness in his own right by winning two RA Class Nationals (1977-1979) with his Adrian Brewer Designed “Sizzler” KA34.


Max started Sailing at a young age with the Derwent River 50”s (boxys) in the Tamar River with his father in the 1930s.  He was founder of the NTMYC and assisted in the formation of the R BMYC. Max also had time to sail M and won the RM State Champs in 1977 with a boat called ‘Imp’ (KA116). Former State Champion of RA class in 1979-1981 with ‘Sizzler’ and runner –up three times. Winner of the Queensland RA championship 1988 and winner of the North Brisbane Club RA Champs 1985.


 Max also found time to be founder of the NWMYC 1989-1990.

He is a life member of the AMYA / ARYA and a life member of the NWRYC and resides in Devonport in Tasmania with his wife Bonny. His RA yacht is the oldest RA class yacht still racing in Australia.


Mike Beilby.  (Pic )

Mike started in model yachting at a young age. His father, a model engineer carved a nice little yawl for him as a Christmas present in about 1945. He went on later to build 18”ers and 36”ers with the Sea Scouts on the Swan River in Perth WA, when he was 13 or 14 years. Mike said they got pretty advanced with hard chine hulls and over rotating laminated balsa masts and they even tried Catamarans.


In 1961, took up his first country posting as a schoolteacher at Collie, there was plenty of good water around there but nobody was interested in hobbies. He was getting Model Maker (the fore runner to Model Boats) magazine at the time and did a couple of designs till he met the town’s only aeromodeller and so took up Model Aeroplane hobby with him. Later had another posting to (windy) Geralton in the 1970s, 5 hours north of Perth, were again there was no model sailing but Mike built a 24’ Vanderstad Yacht to race with the Geralton YC and later switching to Windrush cats. During his occasional visits to Perth, became aware of the Stirling Model Yacht Club, racing at Jackadder Lake in the Perth Suburb of Woodlands.


Mike said they were sailing Marbleheads at the time, a class he was familiar with from MB and wanted to build one straight away to sail in Greenough River 10klms south of Geraldton. He said he bought a hull from Jean-Paul Dimier, a member of SMYC. Added a home built winch and second- hand radio.


 Eventually he moved back to Perth in 1981 and joined Stirling MYC and built a very beamy O/D called ‘Watch this space’ and sailed with Peter Kovesi and Bill Harris. However Mike lived a long way from the Stirling MYC and eventually started sailing at Bibra Lake with Mark Purser, Les Hammond, Dave Ogden and family. They called the club the Southern Districts Radio Sailors. They eventually reached the high twenties in membership. Mike Sailed a 10r at the time a Frank Russell’s ‘Gremlin’ design.


In 1984 found him at the Nats in Sydney Where he got a second place in the RM with a Brewer ‘Lightwave ‘ design from Alan Fish winning and Mike also got a sixth place in 10Rs. Mike and his wife, Margot took a whole year off in 1986 to travel around England in a motor- home. Mike took with him, his Marblehead to race, of course. This was the site of the RM worlds at Fleetwood. When they landed in England in January it was said it was the coldest in the last 40 years and could not get his RM on the water till March. He entered the British Nats in Easter and got 9th out of thirty boats. Sailed with Roger Stollery at his Guilford Club in Surrey. Sailed in the RM worlds at Fleetwood came a respectful 25th out of 84 boats, using Ali masts. He said he also sailed with Australian Bill Pettingell of the SRCYC from Sydney at that Fleetwood event.


 Returning home he managed to win the Nats in WA in 1987. Went into building F/S motor launches and now said he got ‘sucked’ back into model aircraft. Said he owns a 1 metre but it gets little exercise now.




The First secretary of the Australian Model Yachting Association 1964. He sailed Marblehead (vane) also sailed ‘A’ class (vane). George was the person behind the formation of the AMYA. His club, the ‘Model Ship and Power Boat Club’ of South Australia were the instigators of the organization from the beginning (circa 1964). This club was basically a powerboat club. George steadfastly ran the organization. I think it could be said, believed this organization was ‘his’ to command and thought he knew best. Finally departed about 1976, trying to stop radio control from being used for racing model yachts. This somehow seemed to be the start of his fall from office.   This hold over the organization culminated in him, appointing himself as ‘Life Vice President’ and in the process, eventually lost office through his administrative style.


The George Middleton trophy came about by George’s widow who named a trophy to the memory of George, put the money up for it ‘for people who had played a significant role in organizing the National Championships in any one year’ in their state and started at the Sydney Nationals in 1984.

This organization (AMYA /ARYA) owes him much for his early work and enthusiasm.


[Click to enlarge image]

[Click to enlarge image]

"Deed Of Gift"

Geo Middleton Trophy

Original Sketch

Douglas (Doug) BILLING. (Pic )

 Founding member of the Sydney Model Yacht Club. Doug is a Draughting Engineer by profession that worked in the drawing office of the NSWG Railways. I first met him in 1966. He was a clever designer in all the classes and his designs won Australian and overseas championships in all classes. Designed his own version of a moving carriage vane gear. Which was a vast improvement over the ones we were using. Was President of the old Sydney Model Yacht Club for some years, as well as the Measurer for many years. He is one of those blokes that ‘always’ carried a slide rule with him; (you know the type). Made the transition to R/C in 1976. He has been a prolific boat designer for the sport, even today (2004) is designing something in the ten rater class.  Doug has always made his own boats, right down to the last bolt. Doug has won National titles in M class, Ten raters and A class with his designs. In his retirement, sails with the Foster club in NSW. Doug was one of the best ‘plankers’ of boat hulls that I have ever seen. All of his boats would not look out of place in the best museums of Australia.



I first met him in 1969 at the Marblehead Nationals in Canberra.  He is a Pom that migrated from in England where he sailed at the Fleetwood Club. Sailed with the Bayside club in Adelaide, South Australia. I believe he started in the MSPBC in South Australia but was part of the mob that formed Bayside Model Yacht Club, a breakaway from MSPBC. Alan was a very enthusiastic sailor and got penalized many times in championships for pushing (his boat) in the vane races in those days; still, he is always a lot of fun to sail with. One of the early vane sailors/ pioneers that made the transition to R/C.  Did heaps for the Australian Model Yachting Association (Early ARYA) including, being past Registrar for the Association for many years. Has a reputation for never being lost for a word. He said his favourite boat was a Stan Witty designed M called ‘Golden Archer’ (circa 1967). Now sails with SARYS in South Australia.


Neil BENNEL OBE. First joined the old Sydney Model Yacht Club about 1975. Always a flamboyant character within that club.  Had a reputation of turning up to sail Vane Ms in a bright red Ferrari sports car at Scarborough Park in Sydney. Made the transition to R/C in 1976 sailing A class. Traveled widely throughout the world, including England and the USA. Had a liking for American designed Marbleheads, including the Doug Petersen designed ‘Bingo’ and the Tom Potheroe’s ‘Epic’ circa 1978, (the designer of the US boat ‘Santa Barbara’). Represented Australia (came second) in the Mini America’s Cup (EC12s) in Newport, Rhode Island, along with Max Lewis in 1977.  He came second in the Marblehead /10 rater Worlds in South Africa in 1978. Became the President of the International Model Yacht Racing Union in September 1982. Sailed for awhile ten raters in the Foster Club (NSW). Now lives in Tasmania, not too far from Hobart.




Stephen Crewes.

National Historical Officer ARYA






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