Somerton Beginnings by John Schlanck

SOMERTON SAILING CLUB By John Schlanck

The Somerton Yacht Club developed from the Broadway Sailing Club or Broadway Yacht Squadron, as it was referred to, which was founded by a group of teenagers living in the vicinity of the Broadway at Glenelg in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

These teenagers had progressed from swimming, tin canoes and canvas covered canoes of backyard construction, to elementary forms of sailing yachts, also of backyard construction and design,

The early models had lath and painted canvas hulls, following the general principle of canoe construction of those days, before the universal use of marine ply. By virtue of broader beams and flat transoms and the addition of centre-board, rudder and sails, the strenuous task of paddling a canoe against the wind was avoided.

In those days, the beach at the Broadway and areas north and south of it was a vastly different sight from the present day. There was a broad expanse of beach even above high tide mark and a comprehensive system of lawns, kiosks and changing rooms enclosed with a ‘sea wall’.

The leasee of the Broadway kiosk was a Mr. Barren who assisted with some form of organisation and meetings were held on the tables in the open kiosk area, The Broadway Yacht Squadron had no formal constitution, but had a secretary and a treasurer who kept tally on the elementary finances provided by members’ subscriptions which were in the order of a few shillings a season.

The Schlank brothers were first with a sailing boat of canvas in about 1937. This was named Bounty. It was about 10 feet long and the lines hardly approached Australia II. However, it had a pointed bow and a flat stern. The sails were calico, without sail battens. The centre board was a piece of 14 gauge mild steel purchased from Puxton, the Glenelg blacksmith on Jetty Road. The general construction was transverse frames made from packing case timber and longitudinal ribs salvaged from a demolition site and placed on the frame anything but close enough together, causing some bulging of canvas between ribs when sailing. A lack of finance for materials was the problem in those days, Bounty cost probably less than £5, but she sailed quite well.
After Bounty, there were a number of other improvements by various local hoys culminating in a fleet of about 10 boats including three backyard timber hulls and two Cadet Dinghies purchased from the Seacliff Sailing Club. Races were conducted off the Broadway, Early participants coming to mind were Norm LeCornu, Bob Lamerton, Rex Young, Norm Tiver, Cordon Rowett, lan Rowert. Jack DeCure, Maurice DcCure, Dick Fidock, John Schlank, Peter Schlank, John Sampson and a number of others,

With progress of World War II into the 40s an appreciable number of original members of the Broadway Yacht Squadron went into the services and some commenced sailing in Fourteens and Sharpies at the Glenelg Sailing Club. The younger element carried on and with the help of fathers and older interested persons, came the idea of a more permanent and organised club structure.

With the end of World War II and return of some of the older original members of the Broadway Sailing Club/Yacht Squadron, a meeting was held in St. Martin’s Church Hall in Ramsgate Street, Glenelg. The Somerton Sailing Club was officially founded. The residue of the funds of the Broadway Yacht Squadron, amounting to the grand sum of about 30 shillings was subsequently handed over to the committee of the new club as the certain successor of the Broadway Sailing Club. The Somerton Sailing Club for the first year or so, operated off Farrell Street with the boats which originally sailed as the Broadway Sailing Club. This rather motley collection was known as ‘Open Class”. An old, disused corrugated iron beach shed owned by the ‘Amateur Swimming Club’ was used as a club room.

The club bought a yacht rigged 20 to 25 foot boat named Astra for use as a life boat The club later had a boat built by MacFarlane of Port Adelaide. This was powered by a Dodge 4 car engine and was much better suited for towing. This boat was moored off Farrell Street until the club moved to new premises in the late 40s on the beach near Whyte Street, Somerton.
The new premises were the ‘Nurses’ Quarters’ from the dismantled Army camp at the Wayville Showground. It consisted of a large prefabricated corrugated iron building which was re-erected on the beach just above normal high tide mark. After a couple of ‘near misses’ around 1948 through violent storms and high tides, this club house eventually succumbed to the elements in the early 50s and the clubhouse existing today was built on ‘reserve’ land on the seafront.
With the original ‘open class’ nucleus, the club promoted the Sydney ‘VJ’ (Vaucluse Junior) and a sizeable fleet was built up. This class served its purpose in introducing a number of well known names as juniors to the art of sailing, including John Parrington and Bryan Price, both of whom were later prominent in ‘Five 0 Five’ world championship sailing overseas and many more prominent sailing men of later years.

The inaugural meeting to found the club was convened by a group of active fathers. These included Messrs. Fidock, Murray, Searcy, Andrews, Parham, Taylor and others. A committee was elected with Arthur Searcy an early commodore.

Foundation or early members still associated with sailing include the following (mostly at the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron): David Judell, John Parrington, Bryan Price, Dick Fidock, Arthur Searcy, lan Rowett, Arthur Shanks, Peter Remilton, John Schlank, and probably quite a few more.

John Schlanck