On 25th of May 1924, the club commenced as the Elwood Sea Canoe Club, the first sea canoe club in Australia. The members built a club house in November that year for a fleet of sea canoes that competed in regattas as far away as Fairfield. A lack of transport saw competitors paddling to Port Melbourne and then up the Yarra to compete. In 1925, the seventy strong membership engaged in a round trip of Port Phillip bay (the largest inland waterway in Australia) during the Christmas period. Paddlers visited Pt. Cook, Geelong, Portalington, Queenscliff, Portsea, Sorrento, Dromana and Mornington.
The spirit of innovation
In the late 1920s, some of the club members were experimenting with fitting sails to their canoes. A rig with a main and a mizzenmast proved popular and earned the name, Batwing canoe. Some fitted lee boards to their standard canoes, but these were not particularly successful.
The first attempt at making a sailing ‘sea’ canoe was the ‘Chance’, a 16 foot long by 4 foot wide craft with large watertight bulkheads fore and aft, a bowsprit and a gunter mainsail. She inspired the “Seahorse Class” and the beginning of one-design yachting from Elwood Beach.
The Seahorse was an 18 foot double-ended, half- decked, bulkheaded yacht made to carry 135 square feet of sail (retaining the sliding gunter mainsail) and a strong crew of three or four men. The club was one of the first to insist on watertight bulkheads in every boat, which, in the Seahorse, represented two-thirds of its volume. When the club went on bay cruises, the fore and aft compartments were used for storing camping gear.
By 1934, with the Seahorse Class established, the emphasis changed from canoeing to sailing and this was officially recognised in the change of name to the Elwood Sailing Club. At holiday time the Seahorse could be found at most resorts from Geelong to Mornington.
The seahorse emblem, which had been adopted in the earliest years of the canoe club, was retained as the sailing club insignia. The emblem was reintroduced as a sail insignia in 1972 on the Elwood Junior catamaran – the second one-design yacht especially originated for Elwood Sailing Club.
Just to add to your colorful history. I joined the 9th St Kilda Sea Scouts in the early 1960’s when I was 14.
We occupied the large boat shed, with the 2 story building. The Navy Commodore had contacts and was able to procure several life boats and a whaler with herring bone seats for us scouts to practice our rowing. We had 5 teams (patrols) with about 5 scouts each.
We went to many regatters, one was in Williamstown, we rowed across the bay, I was cox and had a crew of 6 all under 14 years of age. When asked what heading I should hold to get there, the instructions from the Sscoutmaster were simple- Head for the gasometers and when in the shipping lane look out for tankers!.
I dont know how we did it but we rowed to Williamstown.
Also in the boat shed associated with us were the Rovers, who were Sea Scouts that were 18 years of age, they often would take us youngsters, sailing, in 15′ skiffs.
I remember the Sailing Club next door to us had many boats including the Dragon class and flying Dutchman.
Port Philip Bay was notorious for sudden storms, on occasions we would get caught out to, it was amazing how quickly the storms developed, we were all good swimers and nobody ever drowned.
Over the years we made many good friends, and learned valuable skills.
We all had lockers in the boat shed, and we would decorate them and paint pictures on the locker doors. My locker had a sailing boat beating into wind.
I remember one activity we had (to teach us ropes and knots) was attaching a flying fox hauser half way up the steel tower outside the boat shed, the other end the Scoutmaster attached to a telephone pole, then we tensioned the rope with a block and tackle. We climbed the steel tower and rode down the tensioned rope with a steel pulley attached to a bosuns chair (a seat/harnes made of rope) all went well because we scouts were small and light, but when the Scoutmaster wanted to join in the fun and ride the flying fox, he, due to his weight, nearly pulled the telephone pole at the other end, out of the ground. The day ended promptly with us quickly dismantling the flying fox.
Memorable also was when the Indonesion Training Ship the Dewaruci visited Melbourne.
Us Sea Scouts welcomed the ship into port and were part of the welcoming committee to show tourists abord, we spent days learning all we could about the ship. The sailors all signed our hats, I kept mine for years.
Memories, memories I am 68 now but still have wonderful memories of my sailing days at the boat shed on Elwood beach.
This may be a tall order.
My father Albert and his brother Jack Spicer were members at Elwood.
I have trophies that they both won dated around 1942 and was wondering if the club had any photos or information about their yacht? As from what I can recall the sail had “E11” on it. I can only just recall seeing the yachts in a shed at Elwood as a child.
I am more interested in the size and shape of the vessel, what it could do and how popular it was at the time.
We have a large picture on display at ESC from the 1950’s that includes E11 sitting on the beach.
It is a Seahorse class yacht called Nomad that was owned at the time by Graham Chatfield. There is no mention of Albert & Jack Spicer on our current champions board but when our immediate past Commodore and resident historian John Dodd comes back from his latest sojurn he may be able to give you some more details.
We also have a restored Seahorse hull on display in the clubrooms so if you are passing by on a Saturday afternoon in the sailing season feel free to drop in for a look.
I sailed at Elwood Sailing during the mid 70’s. as a young teenager. I enjoyed every moment of it. The club at the time had a very strong Quick Cat, Heron and Elwood Junior fleet.
I recall a day sometime in Feb 1975 that a Westerly buster came in and wiped out the Elwood fleet. It was the worst storm I had been in for over 5 years. Over 20 boats where damaged that day. I was flung in the water as my catamaran cartwheeled away from me. Luckily Elwood Life saving club spotted me after I was in the water for over 30 minutes. They found me in the huge white caps of Port Phillip Bay after a whistled them . I recall they dragged me….. like a huge flathead fish … into the bottom of the dingy along with other exhausted sailors, and helped me get 1 km back to my capsized cat. I somehow pulled the sails down and managed to sail the craft back on spars alone and surfed down 3 waves till I reached the shore. I kid you not!
One of the vivid memories as I came ashore as a “drowned cat…cold as an iceberg” was the amazing efforts of the Quick Cat sailors who all raced out into the surf to rescue me. They would not let me jet off my little Elwood Junior. Over 15 burly blokes lifted the cat up …ran along the beach as I lay totally exhausted on the deck. On to the front lawns of the club…just like a fishing trophy for all to see!! They dragged me to the hot showers to thaw out .
The courage, comradeship was just standard AAA+ with the Elwood sailing club. Guys live Dennis Mercovich of the quick cat crew were outstanding members that mentored the younger sailors.
Long live those memories.