Sabot History

The following extract from the first Australian Championship Programme is the first evidence that can be found of how the Sabot Class was established.

“It has been indicated that the pram type of dinghy originated in Norway. In 1938/9 Charles McGregor from New York, thought that the pram dinghy could be adapted for sailing purposes, and thus designed what we know today as the popular Sabot sailing dinghy.

In regard to its inception in Australia, credit must, be given to Major H. T. Shaw and Gerald Benson, partners of the Melbourne boat building firm of Benson and Shaw.”

“Initially plywood was used in the construction of aircraft and it was these two persons, through their vast experience in this field realised that plywood could be adapted for marine construction as well. Ultimately in 1946 they built the first plywood boat in the Commonwealth and we are proud to mention that it was the Sabot.

Basically, they kept to McGregor’s design, but because of the added strength in plywood it was considered unnecessary to use frames and heavy thwarts in the Sabot, which the designer intended. Thus the Sabot is made on a building jig and ultimately making the finished hull lighter in weight. In 1947 the Sabot was adopted by the Black Rock Yacht Club as a junior training class and since then the class has become so popular that practically all the Victorian Clubs have adopted them. Needless to mention their growing popularity in the other States of the Commonwealth.

The Sabot is 8′ in length, 4′ in beam and is cat rigged with 36 sq ft of sail. It is very easy and economical to build: the simplicity of rigging and light-weight of hull enables easy transportation.”

There appears to be some dispute to the fact of who actually commenced first, as can be gained from an article written by Gil Wahlquist in the December 1963 “Seacraft Magazine” which, in part, states:

“Design, incidentally, is defined as the one introduced to Australia from New Zealand by the Vaucluse 12 ft Sailing Club.”

This statement is supported by an article in the Vaucluse Amateur 12 ft Sailing Club Book “The First Half Century 1926 -1976” by T, C. Martin which states, in part:

“Vaucluse Amateur 12 ft Sailing Club introduced the Sabot dinghy into N.S.W. in 1958 and there are now hundreds racing all over Australia. Sabots had been built on a limited scale in Melbourne two or three years earlier, but our inspiration came from New Zealand when Don Brooke who came over with the first Interdominion team in 1956 told us about the successful training boat used in Auckland, the American designed Sabot, and supplied the club with a set-of plans. Club members made a mould and the first 5 sabots were built in the Clubhouse under the guidance of Rob. Stephenson, to the dismay of the fire insurers who were convinced that a fire would, start amongst the wood shavings. The sabot is a cat rigged hard chine pram dinghy (i.e. two blunt ends) 8 ft in length, 3ft 9 in beam & 1 ft 4 in depth amidships, carrying a mainsail of 36 sq ft. It is a very stiff boat, but like all cat rigged craft it is easily put into “irons” when going about.

On 5th November 1958 five sabots: “Imp” (R. Stephenson), “Trio” (R. Stephenson Jnr.), “Quarto” (I. Sparrows), “Noddy” (P. Shipway) and “Comet” (R. Marr) sailed the first race, which was won by “Noddy”.

Not to be outdone a summary of the introduction and control of the Sabot Class in North Queensland has been unearthed, unfortunately unsigned and undated, however, from reading the full document it would appear to be written in 1964. It states in part:

“As early as 1950 it was apparent to a few far sighted sailing men in North Queensland that a lot more youngsters in their early teens would have to be attracted to sailing in order to effect a general expansion of the sport. The Mackay Regatta Club, keen to bring youth into their club, investigated classes available at the time and came up with the ` “Rudder” designed “Sabot”.

At the Annual Regatta Meeting of the North Queensland Yachting Association at Easter 1953 Claude Darwen of Bowen proposed that the Sabot be adopted as a junior, class in all N.Q. clubs. Although the principle of a junior class was agreed upon by delegates, the Sabot class was not adopted by the N.Q.Y.A. However, keen to follow up the idea, the M.R.C. and the Port Denison Sailing Club introduced Sabots to their Clubs and by the end of the 1953-54 season the P.D.S.C. was sailing seven new Sabots and the M.R.C. six. An unofficial N.Q. Championship was held at the 1954 Easter Regatta in Mackay and was won by the Bowen Sabot “Tonizone”. However, the other clubs present did not seem impressed with this new class and due to strong opposition from Townsville and Cairns delegates, the N.Q.Y.A. once again would not adopt the Sabot.

The following year at the 1955 Easter Regatta in Townsville the dissenting clubs saw how the Sabot was bringing strength by way of youngsters and their parents to the Bowen and Mackay clubs and so after sailing for more than two years in North Queensland the Sabot was adopted by the N.Q.Y.A. as its junior class. This proved a major step forward for the class as it lead to the introduction of Sabots into all the clubs and placed control of the class in the hands of a central body.

The first official N.Q.Y.A. sponsored North Queensland Championship was held in Mackay in 1958. Twenty-five entries were received- and the first N.Q. Champion was “SLICK CHICK” from Bowen. Since then the N.Q. Sabot Championship has become a keenly contested annual event.”

Therefore, it would appear that North Queensland has the distinction of conducting the first recorded State Championship.
There were four States originally represented at the first Australian Championship won by T. Sutcliffe in “Villian” from Victoria.

No record can be found regarding the beginning in other States. The story of thee establishment of the class at Abbotsford bears repeating as told by Ross Riley in his history of the Abbotsford 12′ Flying Squadron “Fifty Years on the River 1936-1986”, which illustrates the enthusiasm of Sabot sailors.

“Abbotsford were looking for a suitable boat for a junior class, and after seeing the Vaucluse Sabots in action. decided to adopt them. Copies of plans were easily obtained. The boats were finished in time to race during the 1959-60 sailing season. Another interested party in getting the class started was Harry Moir who cat-rigged a small boat tender to enable his sons Brian and Ken to sail in the first race on the 31st October 1959. There were three boats to face the starter “Tinkerbell” (S. Rowe), “Sea Hound” (B. Mour), and “Nimno” (A. Binet). “Tinkerbell” the boat built by Jack McColl, was first.
Harry Moir, intent on putting, Brian into a new boat, quickly set about building one. Within a few weeks he had completed a new Sabot called “Ajax”. As a matter of record, “Ajax” went on to win the first five Club Championships at Abbotsford and also two at Vaucluse.

Brian and young Ken obviously enjoyed their sailing and used to sail: “Ajax” from Gladesville to Vaucluse each Sunday to take part in the Sabot race and then sail home again, a distance of at least twenty-five miles or more.

A humorous story is often told of the day that boys sailed to Vaucluse with an ever increasing westerly building up behind them. According to Vaucluse Official, Mr Lionel Shipway, who was on duty at the time; the wind had reached near gale proportions. He and other members were absolutely astounded to see a small boat with two small boys sailing towards Vaucluse in an otherwise deserted harbour. When the boys were advised that the race had been postponed because of high winds, they were bitterly disappointed, turned their boat around and headed for home. The ending has never been verified nor should it be queried, it is too good .a story to have it changed in any way.”

This appears to be the history of the Sabot class in Australia; perhaps other facts will emerge for the telling in our 25th year, who knows? Many thanks to Vaucluse and Abbotsford for their co-operation in allowing the quotes from. their history books.

National Secretary – 1988