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Catamarans at SYC - BOAT HISTORY


Yvonne, Tornado

Sail No

Current Owner Name(s)


Charlie Cunningham, Peter Hooks/Peter Joubert

Build Year











Charlie Cunningham



Current Club

Other Past Boat Names and/or Owners

1959 1960 Toowit Toowoo SYC Frank Strange / John Dentry
1961 1962 Wongdoolie SYC Albert Smith / Chris Wilson
1965 1966 Ditto II SYC Chris Wilson / Robin Rust

Notable Race Events

1959/60 Australian Yvonne Championships Yvonne Toowit Toowoo (F Strange / J. Dentry) - 1st
1961/61 Australian Yvonne Championships Yvonne Wongdoolie (A. Smith / C. Wilson) - 1st
1965/66 Australian Yvonne Championships Yvonne Ditto II (C. Wilson / R. Rust) - 1st


1950's Sailing catamarans first entered the small boat sailing scene in the early 1950s, initially in the UK but in Australia shortly after. Yacht clubs around Australia did not rush to sponsor a ctaamaran class and were not well understood by clubs, required additional storage space and many traditional yachties considered them "not really sailing". Catamaran sailors had trouble convincing other yachties not to call them "catamarangs". The Australian cat scene was pioneered by designer/boat builder Charlie Cunningham, with his initial design - the 20ft Yvonne, which started appearing at SYC in the early 1950s. Unlike many other off-the-beach catamarans around the world, the Yvonne carried a spinnaker. SYC was keen to promote the Yvonne as there was plenty of storage space available at the time. The class attracted sailors from other clubs that did not sponsor this class. SYC members that sailed Yvonnes included Bruce Edmunds, Peter Bolton, Robin Rust, Ted Kaine, Doug Lloyd, Tom Cottle, Col Hunting, John Dentry, Frank Strange, Alf Neate, John Drury, Max Hazlewood, Albert Smith, Chris Wilson, John Whitbread, Duncan McMurtrie, John Aitken, Ken Strickland, Peter Scarfe, Graeme Watt, John Bennett, Ken Glaskin, John Leith and many others. The Yvonnes were stored on individual wheeled trolleys that ran on the club's rail lines in the keelboat winter storage yard. They were launched off the small slipway near the eastern boundary fence. The water at the launch point was often not a beach but a mass of black, rotting seaweed which many called "the black death" - not an ideal place to jump off your boat! At one stage there were 15 Yvonnes based at SYC. During the 1956 Olympics, HRH Prince Philip took particular interest in the Yvonne class that was assembled for his inspection. Triple Olympic Gold medalist Paul Elvstrom also has a sail on an Yvonne and purchased a set of plans. The friendship and fun-loving nature amongst the SYC Yvonne sailors was quite unique with many memorable events such as the annual race t Geelong, the annual sleep-over at Portarlington and a cruise to Frankston.
1960's In the early 1960's anoter Yvonne fleet had formed at Frankston Yacht Club which facilitated some inter-club racing between the two fleets. There were also sizeable fleets of Yvonnes at Nedlands Yacht Club in Perth and Glenelg in Adelaide. Sydney and Brisbane also had a couple of boats. The Yvonne Class Association was quite strong and well organised with state championships and a Australian Championship conducted each season - hosted in Perth, Adelaide, SYC and Frankston. It was not long before a competitor to the Yvonne emerged - the Attunga - another 20ft plywood catamaran designed and promoted by Peter Hooks and Peter Joubert of SYC. The Cunninghams (Peter and his son Lindsay) responded with another 20ft cat design with moulded fibreglass hulls - the Austral 20, ans a few of these also appeared at SYC. Frank Strange with John Dentry (1959/60 - Toowit Toowoo) and Albert Smith with Chris Wilson (1961/62 - Wongdoolie) were both winners of the Australian Yvonne Championships held at SYC. Chris Wilson with Robin Rust (1965/66 - Ditto II) won the Nationals conducted at Frankston YC. By now, catamarans has become popular at many off-the-beach yacht clubs. The Australian Catamaran Association also conducted a large, annual, multi-class Catamaran Week Regatta and the Catamaran Classic - hosted a couple of times by SYC, but also by Sorrento, Blairhgowrie, Lake Macquarie, Darwin and a few other locations. In 1962 the Australian Catamaran Association challenged the United Kingdom for the Little Americas Cup, and two new boats were launched in a ceremony at SYC by the wife of the then-Premier, Lady Bolte. They later competed for the right to become the challenger. One was the Cunningham-designed Quest. The other was Matilda, designed by Peter Hooks, Jack Shaw and Peter Joubert (all SYC members). Quest won the selection trials at Blairgowrie and then in 1963 went on to unsuccessfully challenge the UK. The sailing catamaran was becoming popular throughout the rest of the sailing world, so the IYRU (as World Sailing was known then) set out to select an Olympic Class Catamaran. After selection trials in the UK, the British-designed Tornado was ultimately selected. A few of the Yvonne sailors (including Peter Bolton and Chris Wilson) moved into the Tornado Class, also based at SYC.
1970's In summer 1969/70 SYC hosted the world Tornado championships. Competitors came from Germany, USA, New Zealand and of course Australia. Chris Wilson was invited by the German competitor to compete in the 1970 European Championship in Copenhagen, where he represented SYC - winning one heat and finishing 5th overall.
Information provided by Chris Wilson, May 2021.

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