SORENSON. Queensland’s Model Maker Extraordinaire.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
and currently manage the new Marblehead club in Sydney, the “Ancient
Mariners” at Drummoyne Sailing Club.
Crewes. ARYA Historian 2004
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?
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
organization (AMYA /ARYA) owes him much for his early work and enthusiasm.
"Deed Of Gift"
Geo Middleton Trophy
Douglas (Doug) BILLING.
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
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.
National Historical Officer ARYA