120 Year Anniversary of Bruny Island Race

  • February 6, 2018

Maysie. Photo : W.L. Crowther Library

This year marks 120 years since the first Bruny Island Race, then called the Ocean Race, was run on 19th March 1898.  It wasn’t a sure thing that the race could be organised by the Derwent Sailing Club (RYCT) as outlined in the below article, published in The Mercury newspaper on Monday 21st March 1898, with prize money being the biggest hurdle.  But the race was undertaken by 8 starters with close racing and some challenging conditions :


Please note:  the following article is exactly transcribed from the original article published in 1898 with only minor spelling corrections.  It is believed the finishing times are + 1 day.



The ocean yacht race has been the theme of general discussion in yachting circles for weeks past. Enthusiasts were anxious that the proposal when mooted should be converted into a reality as soon as possible, but there was a difficulty to be surmounted in the matter of providing prizes. This happily, was overcome by some subscribers donating the first prize, the second and third being made up from the money received for entries. It was decided that the race should be sailed under the auspices of the Derwent Sailing Club, which is entitled to more liberal support than it is accorded because to its officers the public are indebted in no small measure for keeping the yachting spirit alive in the Southern portion of the Island.

The ocean race is the first of its kind held In Tasmania, and, so far as can be ascertained, in Australia. The prizes are rather small, but endeavours will be made to make the event an annual one, with much increased awards. Such contests as these are calculated to go a long way in keeping yachting to the front. On this occasion, only cruisers on the Derwent Sailing Club’s register were eligible to compete. A desire has been expressed that next year the race should be open to yachts in any part of the island on the register of Tasmanian clubs. The latter condition would be likely to make the event much more popular and would tend in a far greater degree to a better class of boats being added to the clubs’ register.

Saturday last was the day fixed for the inauguration of the ocean race, and if people were anxious for it to start they were equally, if not more eager, for it to be concluded. Earlier in the week it was resolved to send the yachts away at 9 a.m., but out of respect to the memory of the late Chief Justice (Sir Lambert Dobson), whose funeral was appointed for Saturday forenoon, the committee of the Derwent Sailing Club postponed the departure of competitors until noon. Shortly before this hour a number of enthusiasts assembled on the Esplanade, off which was the starting point, and the hoisting of the Derwent Sailing Club’s ensign on the staff de-noted that the course was round Bruny as arranged, the yachts returning by way of the channel. The race was a handicap one. The starting of all the yachts together and deducting time allowances on completion of the race is far better than doing otherwise, all yachts thereby being on equal terms as regards the wind and weather.

There were eight starters, and the following were the handicaps: – Gift, 42ft , scratch; Clytie, 40ft, and Niobe 35ft 1 hour; Ella, 33ft, and Surprise, 28ft 6in , 2 hours; Viking, 21ft, 3 hours; Maysie, 25ft and Sunbeam, 28ft, 3 1/2 hours. The Coquette, which was the only other entry, was placed in the same category as the Maysie and Sunbeam, but did not compete.

At noon the signal to start was given Niobe and Viking were first to cross the line, followed by Ella and Clytie, then Maysie. Gift, Surprise, and Sunbeam came to the line later on, the first named crossing it 10 min after those first away The Sur-prise and Sunbeam lost a little time in passing outside the buoy, having to be called back to go inside. These two were 4 min behind the Gift. The wind was S.E. Mr. Duffy, the signalman at Mount Nelson, kindly supplied the times of the yachts passing the Iron Pot as follows: -Gift, 3 55 p.m.; Niobe, 3 55; Ella, 4 3;  Clytie, 4 5; Sunbeam, 4 25;  Maysie, 4 40;  Viking,4 42; Surprise, 4 45.

Viking Photo: Bellerive Yacht Club

A very even race ensued with Niobe, Clytie, and Ella for first place to Derwent light. Light S.E winds then prevailed, and all boats but Maysie got on western shore, with Gift leading. Cape Frederick Henry was passed by the Niobe at 10 45 p.m. , very little wind all night; Fluted Cape at 3 50 a.m. , and Friars Rocks at 6 40 a.m. Surprise and Gift were well ahead, the other boats close together in the following order: -Sunbeam, Niobe, Clytie, Ella, with Viking and Maysie well behind. A smart N.W. breeze, with confused sea, prevailed to South Bruny light, on the lead to which the Niobe, Clytie, and Ella passed the Sunbeam. The Niobe exchanged signals with keeper at 8.35 a.m.; moderate but buffing winds to Partridge Island, passed at 10.45 a.m. by Clytie, Niobe, and Ella all close together, and well ahead of Sunbeam, Viking, and Maysie. A splendid race ensued to Three Hut Point between Niobe, Clytie, and Ella, with hard N.W. breeze in heavy squalls. A lengths difference between the three boats at jetty, which was passed at 12.20 p.m. Ella lost ground by trouble with her jib-topsail, Clytie being in the lead at King Horn Point, passed at 1.20 p.m.  Heavy S.W. squalls with rain struck the boats off Barnes Bay, causing them to take in their topsails and lower mainsails on deck. The Pilot Station was passed at 2 20 p.m. by the Niobe. The breeze moderated, and squaresails and topsails were carried, bringing the little vessels along at a good speed.

The yachts passed the winning buoy in the following order: – Gift, 3h. 5min. 30sec. ; Surpirse, 3h. 40min.; Clytie, 3h. 47min. 25sec. , Niobe, 3h. 57min. 6sec. , Ella 4hr. 16min. 10sec. , Sunbeam, 4h. 46min. 12sec. , Viking, 5h. 36min. 5sec. , Maysie, 5h. 37min. 3sec.

Deducting time allowances the position of the yachts as regards prizes stand thus: -Sunbeam, £12 1, Surprise, £6, 2 , Maysie, £3 3; Viking, Ella, Clytie, Niobe, Gift.

The Sunbeam was sailed by Mr. Percival Douglas, the crew consisting of Messers. J. Douglas, D. Addison, and L. A. Evans

The sailing committee comprised Messers H.W. Knight (Commodore), J. W. Tarleton and J. E. Philip, assisted by Captain Milford McArthur.