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Emergency Notice to Mariners

Date: 14 December 1945
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Charles Cooper
Object Name: Notice
Object No: ANMS0194[033]

User Terms

    This emergency notice was issued by N G Roskruge, Deputy Director of Navigation & Lighthouse, New South Wales on 14 December 1945, and addressed to A C Cooper of the Cruising Yacht Club, Sydney.

    The notice states:

    Ship masters and others are warned that an Ocean Yacht Race from Sydney to Hobart will be undertaken by approximately ten (10) Yachts starting from Sydney on Wednesday, 26 December 1945.
    SignificanceThis notice documents the developement of the first Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, which is now regarded as a classic of international blue water racing. The course covers a distance of 1,170 kilometres starting in Sydney Harbour and finishing on the Derwent River at Hobart, Tasmania.
    HistoryCharles Cooper became interested in yachting in 1940 when his family, including two small sons Max and Leigh, moved to Northbridge, New South Wales. Soon after he bought a sloop named BLUE PETER, which with the aid of a small book entitled "Boat Sailing for Beginners", the family slowly learned to handle.

    At the beginning of 1942 the family bought a better equipped and more comfortable yacht named ASGARD. It was about this time that Charles Cooper joined the Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP), which consisted of yachtsmen who offered themselves and their yachts for night patrol work on the harbour. At the outbreak of World War II the royal yacht clubs, which to date controlled harbour racing, ceased all racing activities. Most skippers, except those who voluntarily patrolled the harbour, laid up their yachts. The NAP held monthly meetings, at one of these meetings it was decided to re-establish weekend racing with ex-yachtsmen on rest and recreation leave in mind. Consequently Charles Cooper and fellow NAP member Peter Luke placed an advertisement in an evening newspaper asking for expressions of interest. The response was excellent and in due course a race was run. A follow-up meeting was held in the Monte Luke studios in Pitt Street, Sydney to plan further races. At this meeting it was decided to form a club (the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia) and continue racing.

    At the end of the war three of the Club's founding members Jack Earl, Peter Luke and Bert Walker planned a cruise to Hobart. One evening Commander John Illingworth gave a talk to members, and afterwards Peter Luke suggested Illingworth might like to join the cruise. Illingworth's reply was "I will, if you make a race of it". This sparked a reaction, as noted in the Australian Power Boat and Yachting Monthly of October 10, 1945:

    "Yacht Race to Tasmania: It is expected that an Ocean Yacht Race may take place from Sydney to Hobart, probably starting on December 26, 1945. Yachtsmen desirous of competing should contact Vice President Mr P Luke….. Entries close December 1 1945. "

    From these small beginnings the cruise became a race and Illingworth helped with the arrangements, showing the club how to measure the boats and handicap the event. On Boxing Day in 1945, nine yachts set forth including Illingworth in his recently purchased yacht RANI. He had previous experience of ocean racing from his homeland in England and in the USA, where he was a respected competitor. The other sailors had a more relaxed attitude. Unsurprisingly, RANI was the first yacht to take out the competition in the time of six days, 14 hours and 22 minutes.

    The first race in 1945 encapsulated a lot of things now associated with the event, and in hindsight was a warning of things to come. A strong southerly gale hit the fleet on the first day, and many were unprepared for the rough seas which scattered the fleet. Some boats hove to, one retired and the others sought shelter. WANDERER's crew went ashore twice, once to phone home and the other to enjoy a seafood meal before resuming the race. Meanwhile the experienced Illingworth continued to race. When the gale eased an aircraft was dispatched to look for the fleet, and RANI was so far ahead that it was not located and presumed missing. The press had the event as their headline article, and later the sudden reappearance of RANI off Tasman Island was a sensation. RANI won easily and the remaining seven boats gradually crossed the line in Hobart bringing more stories of the race ashore for the public to enjoy.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Emergency Notice to Mariners

    Assigned title: Emergency notice to Mariners from NG Roskruge, Deputy Director of Navigation and Lighthouses NSW

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