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Date: 1959
Overall: 620 x 5490 x 1905 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 5.49 m × 1.91 m (18.01 ft × 6.27 ft)
Medium: Chrome, paint, plywood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from J Reeder
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Skiff
Object No: 00000083
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    TAIPAN was a revolutionary craft in the 18 foot skiff sailing class designed and built by Bob Miller in Queensland in 1959. The boat's planing plywood hull shape was completely different to other 18 foot skiffs of the period, and paved the way for the extreme configuration of the 18 footers of the 21st century.

    TAIPAN helped begin the successful career of its designer Bob Miller, later known as Ben Lexcen, the designer of the radical 12 metre AUSTRALIA II, winner of the America's Cup in 1983.

    TAIPAN is the only known surviving vessel which Miller/Lexcen designed, built and made the sails for. In 2007 it was restored to its early 1960 configuration.

    SignificanceTAIPAN represents the creativite output and impetuous nature of Bob Miller, whose career was highlighted again, when as Ben Lexcen, he designed the radical 12 metre AUSTRALIA II, winner of the America's Cup in 1983. TAIPAN is the only known surviving vessel which Miller/Lexcen designed, built and made the sails for. In 2007 it was restored to its early 1960 configuration.

    HistoryTAIPAN's design began as an idea drawn from Bob Miller's experiences with friends sailing on the Flying Dutchman class. The opportunity arose for Miller to put his ideas into practice when he moved to Brisbane in the late 1950s to work as a sailmaker for the boatbuilders Norman Wright and Sons. Wright, an enthusiastic 18-foot skiff sailor, encouraged Miller to design and build the TAIPAN in 1959.

    With crew members Brian Hamilton and Norman Wright III (Norman Wright's son), TAIPAN, after some initial problems on launching, went on to win a number of races in the early part of 1960. At different times Miller experimented with endplates and fences on the rudder and centreboard, as well as developing better sails to get the most out of his new concept. After competing in the 1960 State titles, TAIPAN was chosen to represent Queensland in Auckland, New Zealand for the World title contest later in the year.

    Despite finishing fourth in New Zealand, TAIPAN was regarded as the outstanding boat at the World title championship. TAIPAN's competitiveness had been hindered after the race committee had judged that the skiff was not built to the rules. Miller was forced to cut large holes in the fore and aft deck panels which weakened the hull and caused it to take on more water. TAIPAN, despite being dismasted twice, showed enough speed and potential for its rivals to realise that this was the future of the class. Upon Miller's return to Australia, TAIPAN took part in a special challenge race on Botany Bay against a champion 16 foot skiff and one of the best of the Sydney 18-foot skiffs. Despite being crewed by Miller's inexperienced friend Carl Ryves, TAIPAN won the race comfortably.

    After this success Miller took his new concept further and built another 18-footer called VENOM. This boat won the next 18-foot skiff World Championship. TAIPAN was sold and renamed, and as CRYSTAL LAD won the National 18-foot title in 1961. After twenty years the skiff resurfaced in the ACT in the 1980s. In Canberra, various parts of the structure were rebuilt, and the boat sailed again - on Lake Burley Griffin. In the late 1980s the owner donated the historic craft to the Australian National Maritime Museum where it is now part of the National Maritime Collection.

    In 2007 TAIPAN was restored to its early 1960 arrangement. Working closely with the Australian National Maritime Museum's curatorial and conservation staff, Sydney Harbour Wooden Boats expertly rebuilt the hull and rig based on plans prepared at the museum by curator David Payne. These plans were developed from details seen on contemporary images, evidence of structure on the existing hull, and detailed advice or recollections of people involved with TAIPAN during this early period. These included Bob McLeod, Carl Ryves, Brian Hamilton and Norman Wright III. In 2007 TAIPAN sailed again on Sydney Harbour, before being placed on display in the National Maritime Museum.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: TAIPAN

    Primary title: 18-foot skiff TAIPAN designed by Bob Miller (Ben Lexcen) and Norman Wright, Jr.

    Related People
    Designer: Ben Lexcen
    Builder: Ben Lexcen
    Designer: Ben Lexcen

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