History of a Classic and the RYCT’s premier yacht from 1910 to 1945.
Compiled by Jeff Gordon from the books “Sailing On” and “100 Years of Yachting,”
with additional anecdotal evidence.
a one design class
Designed by William Hand jnr
Spindrift was launched for her owner, E. H. Webster on the 17th October 1910, from the Lucas Yard in Battery Point. She was built as a 21foot (LWL) restricted class design by noted US naval architect William Hand Junior. A prototype of the original design, Elf had already been launched in 1908. This design had been reviewed and. was revised by Hobart yacht designer Alf Blor to make It more suitable the River Derwent. The Alf Blor design was accepted by the Club and called the “One Design Class’.
A fortnight after Spindrift was launched, D. Barclay Jnr. launched Pandora. In Feb 1911 Curlew was launched for Messrs. Tarleton, Douglas & Knight. The Vanity was then built for Messrs. Darling, Crisp and Dr. Keland. Just before Christmas 1911, the 5th of the Class was built by A.E. Jack in Launceston called Pilgrim. The Spindrift subsequently changed hands, and was purchased by W.P. (Perse) & H.C.L. (Harry) Batt and renamed Weenè. On the 16th November 1911, the Gannet was launched from Lucas’s Yard at Battery Point.
Before 1910, Harry and Perse Batt had been successfully racing the 15-foot boxies (a dinghy class), and the Weenè was their first excursion into keelboat ownership. The 15-foot boxies had a number of aboriginal names including Lalhoo (H Batt), Lalla Rookh and Lalla Berri (P. Batt). The name Weenè may have had its origins in Tasmanian Aboriginal History. Pronounced by the Batt Family as Weena it is reported to mean, “We try”. (The Hobart Mercury recorded on the 4th November 1911 that it was aboriginal for “trier”)
To have these boats built would cost 225 -250 pounds each. ($450-$500).
In the first year of WW1 (1914), races were still held on the Derwent and a race for the Lipton Cup was won by Weenè.
The much-admired one design class race was won by Weenè (W.P. Batt).
This win gave the Batt bros. the championship pennant and the Derwent shield.
The ‘A’ Class Boats were started on Handicap, Redpa was first away at 3pm … the last boat off was Weenè at 3.15pm. …it was during this race that Vanity turned the Leeward mark rather quickly and collided with Weenè. For some time the position looked quite dangerous, but eventually the two boats parted without serious damage to either boat.
The ‘A’ class comprising Weenè, Vanity, Grayling, Canobie, Alwyn, Elf, Crescent, and Redpa produced extremely competitive sailing amongst the crews. … Weenè was successful in both line and handicap honours for this year.
The Batt Bros. made the decision to convert Weenè to the new Marconi rig and she was completed during the week ending 17th Oct. 1925. Her new mast was 51 ft long, compared with her old mast 47 ft long. With the altered sail plan, her total canvas was only half the topsail less than formerly.
P. Coverdale lengthened Weenè to 36 feet (3ft added amidships) The lengthening was done to the eye of Perc and the brothers Batt… they knew instinctively when was “right”.
Starters in the ‘A’ class were Ninie, 3%, Vanity 7% , Weenè scratch Anitra 2%, Tassie 3%, Redpa 4.5%, Kathleen 4.5%,Star 7%, and Marie Joe 10%.
The Centenary regatta; see COLLISIONS.
So close was the racing in this season the Weenè and Ninie dead heated for the championship pennant. In the sail-off on Sunday 28th Feb.1937 Weenè was successful by 26 seconds.
Harry Batt passed the yacht to his son Ken Batt who continued to race and cruise her. Nearly every Sunday the Batt family would take the Weenè and sometimes in company with Neal Batt’s Pandora go to Mary -Ann Bay and have a family picnic and fish for flathead. In his younger days, the late (and great Tasmanian sailor) Neal Batt told me the family Sundays aboard the Weenè were a bit of a chore for him as he was the one who had to bait and get the fish off his mothers hook, he had to stay on board whilst the others were allowed to go ashore.
Weenè was refitted earlier in the year and was in excellent condition but she was not raced, as here owner Ken Batt was seriously ill during the season.
Weenè rejoined the first division fleet. She had been owned by the Batt family almost since the year she was launched, was purchased by Rex Strong. Weenè continued to be maintained in excellent order under the ownership of Rex Strong.
The yacht was sold to Rex Strong on the condition that Ken’s children Jenny, Bill, Ken, and Jackie would still be taken out on the yacht. Rex honoured this agreement by taking them on many yacht club picnics, Easter holidays and Sunday outings into the 1970’s. In the early years after the sale, Ken Batt continued to helm the boat even though he was paralysed on his right side, the bulk of the work being done by Rex Strong and the crew.
Rex had the yacht painted black for her 60th Birthday. Before painting, her topsides were undercoated in silverfrost paint to reflect the heat and prevent the topside timbers moving. She was up on the RYCT slip when “some wag” taped F111 on her bow. Rex thought this was a great joke… until he took the tape off a few days later, and most of the paint with it!
Rex Strong, Bruce Davies and other crew (not named) took the Weenè around to Port Davey in early February leaving the RYCT at 1910, rounding SW cape at 2105 the next night. They pressed on in the dark and got hit by a fresh N-Easterly. Steering by the stars until the Moon came out they ran South for a while getting the sail off whilst dipping the bowsprit under. After turning around to the NW and some fairly hard going they rounded up into Spain Bay at 0300. The intrepid sailors spent 10 beautiful days in the Port Davey area visiting Denny King and having dinner cooked by Mary and Janet. On the way home the Weenè under the assistance of fisherman, “Bull” Malone sheltered at Louisa Bay for a day or two. At this stage, the Weenè had a petrol engine, which was soon to be replaced by a single cylinder Yanmah 12 hp diesel. (a full report of this tale is in the Tasmanian Yachtsman -Winter 1994). The Weenè made 4 trips to Port Davey during Rex Strong’s ownership and a number of trips up the East Coast in alternate years.
Ownership changed again on the 7th April 1979. The veteran Weenè which had been so much part of the history of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, since the early days was sold to David A. Bayne. Rex Strong and his crew had raced Weenè with excellent results since 1963.
David Bayne had the yacht splined at Muir’s Boatyard under the direction of Jock Muir. She had previously been refastened in the early 1970’s at the same yard. The splining reputably cost $7,000, more than his purchase price!
Weenè was sold to Paul Conde and completely restored over the next 8 years. Refitting included a complete removal of the interior fixtures, stripping of the hull inside and out and repaint, and rebuild interior furnishings in Queensland Cedar and Tas. Myrtle. New electrics, reconditioning of the single ‘sideways’ cylinder, YSE 12 hp Yanmah Diesel, new SS rigging, and new boom, (replacing the Batt designed ‘Park Avenue’ boom) new cabin sole and cockpit floor and varnish work.
The mast, gunwale and cabin sides had been ‘painted out’ by the previous owner and although this protected the timber underneath an enormous amount of work stretching over 5 years was needed to refurbish the yacht.
The Weenè was purchased by Jeff Gordon and Jeff Stander, and was cruised in Southern Tasmanian waters and raced in Vintage Boat and Club events.
Jeff Gordon bought out Jeff Stander as per their agreement of 18 months dual ownership. She had visited Coles Bay, Port Arthur and sailed to Recherche Bay during their ownership plus received the gun in a few (selected) racing events, proving there is still life and much enjoyment to be had in the “Old Girl”.
After nine summers of enjoyment for him and his young family, sailing the waters of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the upper reaches of the River Derwent, Jeff reluctantly sold Weenè to buy a cruising yacht and set sail for an 18 month sojourn up the East Australian seaboard.
Weenè sold to mark Smith of Sydney. Transported to Sydney and will sail on Sydney Harbour.
It is a undisputed fact that the Batt brothers, Percy (Skipper) and Harry, were distinguished helmsmen and would often take the “Weene” into close quarters during her racing career. Listed above is an account of the Collision between the Vanity and the Weenè in 1923.
One collision known to have occurred of spectacular proportions at the Centenary Regatta in 1938 concerned the Vanity and the Alice M.
Jack Hansen an eyewitness on board the Weenè described the situation as this:
It was an all class start at the Hobart Regatta Grounds and the yachts headed down river towards Droughty Point close hauled until a strong nor’easterly came in making it a lead to the top mark, (situated between Droughty and Howrah Points). Weenè gybed coming into the mark and the Vanity sailed by Frank Harris, tried to get inside the Weenè at the mark. Vanity speared the Weenè just below the windward runner punching a hole in her starboard side and snapping the runner resulting in the mast going over the side.
The Alice M, making to the mark, put in her gybe and the runner was not let go resulting in a broach. She drove up onto the Weene’s port side scraping alongside and hooking her forestay in the gammon iron of the Weenè, bursting her bow open.’
On reaching the slipway under the Batt family residence in Napoleon Street, Battery Point, Harry asked Perce what did he think? To which he replied that “I think you’ve done it this time Harry”…and walked off. When a bystander asked Harry if his brother was upset he said, “Oh no, he’s gone up to think of a way to repair her” Between the brothers they had an excellent rapport combined with a superb knowledge of water-craft, from design, building, sailing and repair. One thing they were never accused of, however, was wasting money!
The winter of ‘38 saw Jack Hansen and Neal Batt make a new mast for Weenè. The Oregon was purchased from Risby’s Yard and it was shaped in the backyard of the Batt family residences in Napoleon Street Battery Point. Apparently, Harry, concerned about weight aloft got into the mast one night with a plane, taking more timber off until the dowels showed. This apparently worried him as he only did the one side, packed up and went home, leaving Jack to discover it the next day.
The new stem was searched for on the side of Mt Wellington near Collinsvale. A suitable she-oak selected and the bough cut, shaped and seasoned by hanging it in salt water off their jetty for a winter. In early Spring they shaped the new stem and steamed the planks back In place. Not one was lost, a tribute to Jack Hansen’s skills and the Batt’s ingenuity and knowledge.
An account of the collision with the Ozone has the Weenè holed on the starboard side above the waterline amidships. A crew member below, (packing the spinnaker) was hailed by Harry just prior to the collision and narrowly avoided a sever headache by quickly jumping out of the cabin.
Another collision occurred during Rex Strong’s ownership and in this; the bowsprit was driven into another yacht’s hull. The forestay snapped with a loud crack, followed by another CRACK as the mast bent backwards and nearly fell over the side. The split was repaired and the bands around the mast today are testimony to the repair and inherent strength of the solid oregon spar. This 1938 mast is still in the vessel today.
An interesting story concerns the first petrol motor occurred on a trip to New Norfolk during the late 60s. Dudley Shearman (a regular crewmember during Rex Strong’s ownership), was below getting a ‘refresher’ for the Captain. Rex was fond of gin and tonic and would have a demijohn of gin on board. Whilst he was below, the jib sheet wrapped around the flywheel of the running motor. The flywheel came off and chased poor Dudley around the cabin. (He didn’t spill a drop of the Master’s G&T though)
Another incident that occurred during the regular Sunday picnic has been relayed from a first hand experience by Ray Balfe.
“We were returning from Mary Anne beach after our usual Sunday picnic and running home with a good sea breeze and well out in the middle of the River when young Ken Batt, walking from the fwd hatch, fell overboard at the main rigging. Neall (H.N.) was sitting on the afterdeck and dropped straight in on top of Ken who had not even gone under, as Neall’s action was so quick, Harry Batt took the helm from young Betty and ordered a quick gybe. As Weenè came round, Perse Batt jumped into their clinker dinghy, Narmer let her go & picked Neall and Ken up. In a matter of minutes he was back on Board and H.C.L. squared Weenè away for home.”