Club History - The first 100 years


The following is a brief history of the Club. To celebrate the Club achieving its Centenary, local historian Helen Gregory was commissioned to write about the history of the Club. This book is available from the Club for $25 plus postage.

As the Club enters its 110th season, it looks back at having survived the Depression, the Global Financial Crisis, 3 floods and many boom & busts in its Club memberships. It has helped produce numerous Australian Champions, some Olympians, and some internationally recognized sailors.

The Club has celebrated major milestones along the way with gala dinners celebrating 21 years, 50 years and 100 years of success.

Along with the books/booklets celebrating these milestones, nearly all annual reports are stored with the John Oxley library at Southbank and these documents are available to the public to access.

Some of the highlights

  • 1909-10 championship in 12 footer abandoned due to lack of breeze (some things never change)
  • 1919-1920 – only 3 heats in the club championship
  • 1920 – membership sat at 250
  • 1921- the club installed electric lights (Gasp!!)
  • 1921-22 – the interclub race with Oxley inaugurated
  • 1923 – Waterloo Bay Skiff club formed

A brief history

The Club was formed in 1903 and was known as the Victoria Sailing Club being given that name as it met in the basement of the Victoria Hotel in Stanley Street South Brisbane, almost next to the Victoria Bridge. This makes us the third oldest sailing Club in Queensland. It then shifted to a house right next to the bridge, then later occupied by the Fish Markets.. The Club “reformed” on 13th September, 1906 , with a membership of 222 senior members formed the South Brisbane Sailing Club and had its Club Rooms in J.D. O’Connor’s South Brisbane Hotel.

It catered for ‘all boats’ varying in size, 10 foot (3.1 metres) to 21 foot (6.4 metres) Long, The Club flag was then a navy blue pennant bearing the letters S.B.S.C. in white. The Club only held five (5) or six (6) races a season and a boat was charted to follow the races.

Financially the Club was not very well off, often having to wait until funds came in to pay outstanding accounts. Fund raising activities included Cinderella Balls and Smoke Concerts (Mens Only Night).

On 9th December, 1909, at a Special General Meeting it was decided to accept an offer from Port Jackson Sailing Skiff Club (Sydney) to send two (2) skiffs to S.B.S.C. for a Championship race, in the interest of promoting sixteen foot skiffs racing. The course was from the Tug Company’s Jetty at Hamilton down to and around a bouy moored off the Powder Magazine at Pinkenba finishing-at the Starting Mark. An odd course you may think for S.B.S.C. In the early days of the Club, its courses varied anywhere from Milton to Hamilton.

The first prize for the race was a trophy and prize money of £5.0.0 and the race was won by “MINORU” sailed by Mr H. Rodrick of Port Jackson Sailing Club.

In 1913 the Club was invited by the Queensland Amateur Athletic Association to form an Olympic Association. After the formation meeting with the QA.A.A., the Club delegate stated “it was a good inducement for land sports but not beneficial to the water sports”.

Several seasons passed without interstate sailing, and some of the leading members of the club came to the conclusion that they were not doing the best thing for the sport by catering for all classes of boats and sharpies; so in the off season of 1915 Mr. A.F. Reid, then Club President, and supported by Mr. K.H. Laidlaw, Life Member, called a special meeting of all Club members to decide what class of sailing boat the Club should cater for. At that time the Club had about 20 sharpies and only four (4) skiffs on the register. After much bartering and bickering at the meeting, it was decided to cater for the 16 foot skiff class only. Several members at the meeting promised to build skiffs for the coming season, and in 1918 the Club had 20 skiffs racing. The Club then changed its name to the South Brisbane Sailing Club. At that stage S.B.S.C. was the only one of modern day skiff clubs.

1924 – 1925

The following is an extract from the 21st Annual Report

“Following on the last annual meeting a Birthday Dinner was held to commemorate the 21st birthday of the Club, which privilege has not been enjoyed by any other sailing club in Queensland. Whilst the dinner meant an outlay to the Club the event was well worthy of it, and the handsome booklet compiled showing the history of the Club since its inception is an historical document as far as sailing is concerned. A copy was placed along with other matter appertaining to the Centenary of Brisbane in a sealed casket, so that sailing men a hundred years hence, when the casket will be opened, will read of the doings of your Club”.

Unfortunately it is not recorded where the casket was buried, and to date there has been no success in discovering the location of the casket. A copy of the 21st celebration booklet has been donated to the Club by the family of Tomas Athol John Broughton (known as Athol Broughton).


The Club’s meeting place was then shifted to Fish Lane which was opposite the Cremorne Theatre (near where the Cultural Centre is now located). After a great number of years the club shifted its meeting place to the Boy Scout Hall in the Hailway Yards at Wooloongabba (now the site of the Queensland Government Printing Office). After approximately thirty years, on the 16th July, 1953, the Secretary, Harold Bryant made application to the Brisbane City Council to build a clubhouse in the vicinity of Patrick Lane, Toowong (near the Regatta Hotel); however, the application was rejected.

The Club then made application to build in the vicinity of Orleigh Street, West End. This application was approved in February 1954. Through representations made by Vice Mayor Col Bennett, the Club was given permission to build on its present site. The distance between the back of the Clubhouse and the waters edge was less than sixteen feet. The Club house was built by volunteer labour at an approximate cost of £1945 ($3,890). Fifty-three years after the Club was formed, on the 9th June, 1956 at 2.30 p.m. the South Brisbane Sailing Club club house was officially opened.


In 1966 – 1967 the Club hit an all time low with only a few cherubs and moths racing regularily. The future of the Club did not look promising. At the next Annual General Meeting, a boat subsidy scheme was re-introduced to assist members to buy and maintain their boats. This scheme was so successful that by 1976 the club had twelve skiffs racing.

In 1971 – 1972 season a new class was introduced to the Club by Ken Smith, the heron. The heron is now an integral part of the Club. This season also was the introduction of the sabot as a junior class.


In January 1974, alerted by Brian Finniss to the rising flood waters at 5:00 a.m., a number of club members swam and groped around in flood waters to attempt the rescue of Club records and boats stored under the club house. Fortunately most of the Club records were stored by the Secretary at his house. Only three boats were unable to be rescued – a sabot, a cherub and a skiff. After the flood waters stated to subside, the task of cleaning up began. The water had risen to a height of six foot in the top floor and the mud was three feet deep under the Club. After cleaning out the Club house with a fire hose, members then proceeded to help our neighbours clean t’heir houses. The Club had owned a piano which managed to float off the existing stage into the ladies canteen with a clearance of only one inch. As there was no way of getting it out, it had to be destroyed. The Club was undoubtably saved by the “back water” created by the trees along the St Lucia reach, only five anchor bolts remained securing the Club house to the concrete stumps. The Club was assisted financially in its rehabilitation by the Queensland Skiff Association, Georges River Sailing Club and the Queensland Government.


During the period 1975 – 1980 members representing the Club won five Australian Championships.

  • Cathy and Neil Hackett (125) in Sparkler (1977-78)
  • David Miers (sabot) in Leprechaun (1976-77)
  • Ian Kennedy (sabot) in Magpie (1975-76)
  • Craig Taylor (sabot) in Minx (1975-76)
  • Brad Taylor (sabot) in Mystic (1974-75)

In the 1981 – 82 season, the sixteen foot skiff class altered their style of racing by changing their spinaker size from 140 square feet single luff to 330 square feet double luff. This was introduced to attempt to bolstger flagging numbers.

In the 1976 – 77 season, Dennis O’Connor introduced to the club the 125 class which proved to be extremely successful. By their fourth season they had 38 boats on register. Since then other clubs have started racing the 125 class and over the last few seasons numbers have dropped to a still healthy 15 boats.

This particular period saw strong fleets in the 125, heron, skiffs and sabots with over 50 boats racing every week-end, with 92 boats on register.


Unfortunately, the 125 class never again rose to the heights of the 1980-81 season, and over the next decade declined until they finally stopped sailing in 1990.

The Lasers had a few good years in the mid 80’s with numbers bolstered with the help of NS14s and Tasars. Today there is an equal number of Tasars and Lasers racing. The herons have had a steady decade and on reflection would seem to have a bright future.

It was sad to see the decline of the sabot at the Club. These boats produced some of today’s champions and will be missed.

Fortunately, the skiff fleet stayed relatively steady, with the other classes supplying ready made crews and skippers, as the older skiffies retired.

On July 17th 1986, the South Brisbane Sailing Club was incorporated and became the South Brisbane Sailing Club Inc. the benefit of having the club incorporated was to protect the club members and management committee from legal liabilities should the club fall into financial difficulties.

The Club itself has seen a steady decline in membership over the past 10 years. Decisions to associate with other local sporting bodies in 1993 are aimed at reversing this trend.

The 1993-94 season saw an affiliation with the West End Sports Association and responsibility for hiring the hall bestowed upon them. Also, the West End Canoe Club started using the club as its base, therefore providing more much needed income for the club. The results of this venture has been an increase in revenues for the club as well as potential memberships.

1994 – 2013

In 1995, Allan Clark became President which saw the introduction of professional “Learn to Sail” classes. While these training boats were “cobbled together”, the training fleet are top performing boats. These boats were maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers including Tom Robertson, Allan Clark, & Max Poole. This step was the important in trying to arrest the decline in membership the Club was again facing. This has continued to bolster club membership, however, the number of people that learn to sail does not mean they will continue sailing; some see it as a “tick in their bucket list”. Under Allan’s tutelage, the Club saw:

  • the development of a Vision Document that resulted from various discussions with club members, and which focussed our efforts to increase club membership,
  • the rise in membership to a little below 100 members,
  • fleets returning the 25 boats most week-ends,
  • the focus on financial support from various charities, such a Jupiter’s, to develop club infrastructure, yielding in excess of $100,000 in funds for club development,
  • the re-direction of the club’s hall hiring operations. The Club’s previous foray into leasing the hall met with disaster; local business owners Ian Mackay (Manaccom) & Rob Hyland (Hylec Energy Solutions) lent their staff to initially manage the the hall. This has now been passed onto Kelly Fletcher who has the hall rented out on most available days, thus giving the Club a good source of external revenue.
  • The working with the Brisbane City Council to improve our community profile

From the small start of just Phill Cooper and Max Poole sailing their NS14, this class grew. Nev Murray sailing his Fourteen-footer against the NS14s saw this as an opportunity of a class to move to. He suggested to his uncle, Bob Murray, a former club champion in Trainees, that this would be a good boat for him to sail. Next season saw Bob & Nev battling it out against Max and his daughter Sarah Briant for the Club Championship. The following season saw Nev’s brother Neil join the fleet; Nev go into his own boat, and a class was born. The NS14 fleet has grown over the season and peaked at fourteen boats on register.

Of course, it was during this period that South Brisbane Sailing Club attained notoriety by turning 100 years old. This event was celebrated at the Drift Restaurant on Milton Reach by a large number of past and present members. This event also saw the launch of the club’s 100 year history publication in the form of Helen Gregory’s “Century of Sail”.

Stephanie Duggan became our first female president in 2003, and since, their has been no further male presidents.

The 2004 – 2005 season saw the demise of the skiff class. The class that had sustained the Club for 100 years finally saw the expense of racing these fine boats exceed what people were prepared to invest.

The success of any season depends on the amount of breeze blowing on the river on a Saturday afternoon. During periods of drought, the breezes are generally good. Throughout the 2010-11 season, the Club was faced with consistent wet weather, which equated to not good conditions for sailing in tidal conditions. Older members were starting to get nervous when the soil could no longer hold any more water, and a cyclone appeared. For the second time in under forty years, the Club was inundated with flood waters. Once again the members rallied to shift the boats from under the clubhouse, to upstairs (again), and again shifted the boats from upstairs to another secure environment. While the flood levels did not reach the same height as 1974, the cost was substantially bigger – $150,000. While a lot of the damages were repaired using funds from government grants and its own funds, the damage to the number of members in the Club was catastrophic. The river was unavailable until the start of the following season, which also was not a good one. To prove bad luck comes in threes, 2013 saw another flood hit Brisbane, but this time saw no damage to the clubhouse.

Our club's sailing prowess in Heron’s is reflected in having several winners of the Australian Championship, and many more featured in the major placings.

  • 2007 Peter Bailey in Little Red Rocket
  • 2009 John Nobbs in Sobraon
  • 2011 David Johnson in Triceratops and Carnotaur

In 2010, the Club adopted the Pacer as its main training boat in line with most other training organizations. To assist in getting people to sail, the Club invested in buying a number of Club owned boat viz 6 Pacers, 3 Herons, 1 Tasar, 2 NS14s, and 3 Lasers.

2014 to Present

Our Heron class has continues to great success with club members continuing to win National Championships.

  • 2015 David Johnson in Heronasaurus
  • 2017 Justin Carey in Two Fools Fumbling

Looking forward, the Club is excited at the prospect of forming a partnership with one of the local schools, that will see our facilities used more frequently, and the possibility of these students also sailing on Saturdays.

The club has consolidated an active fleet with va healthy number of junior, youth and adult sailors in Lasers, Herons and NS14. with Pacers continuing to be the main training boat. In 2018-19 the club elected Mary-Ann Pattison as our first female Commodore.