Minnow Association Newsletter - August 2022

Despite winter being the ‘off’ season, there has been exciting sailing for the Minnow class, with the national championship in Darwin and WinterSail at Albert Park both happening in July.

We’re sending out our ‘September’ newsletter a little early, to make sure everyone remembers to book for Sail Country. The regatta is 30th & 31st October (Melbourne Cup weekend), but bookings open 12:01am on Thursday 1st of September 2022, and often sell out within hours so get in quick! This is a fabulous family event that will be the 3rd event in our Traveller series, and Minnows are often the largest class.

There are lots of exciting plans for the coming season, so grab a cuppa and your diary, and settle down to read. In this newsletter we have:

  • Plans for the 2022/23 season

  • Report from the nationals in Darwin

  • Report from WinterSail

  • Sightings of a scale model Minnow at Albert Park

  • Reflections on the first Minnow from Rex Fettell

  • A call-out for reps at each of the clubs in Victoria where the blue sail is on the water

  • A reminder about 2022 membership renewals.

Look forward to seeing you on the water!

2022/23 season plan

We’ve got an action packed season lined up for our young sailors!

Traveller series

Our Traveller series will run across 7 events from September to April. The Notice of Race will be published on the Association website shortly - for now make sure you get your entries in for each of the regattas

  • Sat 17th September – Club sailing at Albert Park Yacht Club (race briefing between 1.15pm and 1.30pm, race start at 2pm)

  • Sat 15th - Sun 16th October – Sail Sandy

  • Sat 29th - Sun 30th October – Sail Country

  • Sat 17th December – Club sailing at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron

  • Sat 25th - Sun 26th February – State championship regatta at Parkdale Yacht Club

  • Sat 25th March – Club sailing at Altona Yacht Club

  • Thu 20th - Sun 23rd April (TBC) – Youth Sail Vic coaching clinic and Youth championships, location TBC

Additional regattas

Sat 10th - Sun 11th September – CitySail at Albert Park Yacht Club

CitySail is a Women & Girls coaching and racing Regatta at Albert Park Yacht Club, with a combination of coaching on both Saturday and Sunday mornings and short course racing, with coaching, in the afternoons. There will be a BBQ on Saturday evening after racing. Book via the Club website.

Sat 7th - Fri 13th January – 2023 national championships at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron

After the Northern Territory, it’s Victoria’s turn next to run the national championships. Planning is already underway for the regatta to be hosted by Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, so make sure you save the dates and get your accommodation booked.

43rd National championship regatta report

Richard Backwell, MSA President

A few weeks ago we packed 10 BYS Minnows into a Shipping container bound for Darwin Sailing Club. Thanks to John Plumridge for the use of the Maw Civil yard in Rosebud to pack and thanks to Northline for shipping.

In the weeks after the container was picked up three of our young sailors were out injured. Or so we thought.

The seven families all made their way to Darwin on different days and different times. There was even an eighth family, with the Warners making an appearance at the Regatta.

On my arrival I noticed that things were a bit different to 2019. It was overcast, a bit on the cool side and it had been raining in the dry season. It was also windy.

The next day we were set to crack open the container to start unpacking. But the locals warned us that it was Territory Day and that during the evening it would rain down fireworks. We took their advice and left the boats where they were.

Territory Day is in a word bonkers. It is a day where every Territorian has the right to buy fireworks and let them off wherever they like. A few visiting minnow sailors also got in on the act! Thankfully no one was hurt. Although a fire in the scrub near the club was a bit close.

The next day was measurement. We quickly unpacked in the morning. Including Andrew Kudnig's boat. He was recuperating from a procedure but was keen. Again, it was on the cool side and it was windy. The wind was coming from a southerly direction.

A practice sail was put off to the next morning. When three of our fleet hit the water, the breeze was fresh and again from southerly direction. This year Sam Backwell stepped up to be the coach. He re familiarized himself with the tide and the wind direction and had the kids do a few drills to shake out the cob webs.

In the afternoon the invitation race was run and won by Will Hailes. The next day competition was to start.

Andrew Kudnig was the only BYS sailor in the novice division. He sat out the invitation race and heat 1. After that he had a solid regatta and always had a smile on his face.

On Monday the Open fleet kids hit the water. They were followed out by the coach boat, the Hailes RIB and a tinny that Alby's grandfather owned. The breeze was up and again from a southerly direction.

There were 4 races scheduled each day. Honours on the first day went to Will Hailes. He did not have it all his own way but found a way to win 4 from 4.

The Will Hailes show continued on day 2. This time it was three bullets and a second. As the breeze faded the last race of the day local sailor Tiger Batenburg took the win.

Wednesday morning came around with a lot of activity in the boat park from the Moorhouses. Alby had had enough of spectating. His hand felt strong enough to sail his boat.

He finished the day with a 1 2 1 2 score line. Will Hailes and Abbey Young made him work for it.

Thursday was the lay day. The sailors and parents had earned a well-deserved rest.

The last day of the regatta saw the final two races sailed. Again, Alby stole the show with two wins. Fred O'Brien did enough to maintain his second overall with two fourths.

The fleet headed ashore. The Victorians wasted no time in unrigging, washing boats and packing them for transport back home.

After Presentation the kids and some parents got into the karaoke.


  • Invitation Race - Will Hailes

  • First overall - Will Hailes

  • Second Overall - Fred O'Brien

  • Third Overall and First Female - Abbey Young

  • First Junior- Emily Hailes

  • Second Junior - Tiger Batenburg

  • Third Junior - Hugh Backwell

Special thanks to Ronstan for their ongoing support.

I am sure everyone who attended had a great time. A regatta is Darwin really should be on your bucket list.

Next up it is Nationals at BYS 7 - 13 January 2022.

Close fleet racing in Darwin

Trophy winners! Top left: Open fleet, top right: Novice fleet, bottom: 1st Females (Open & Novice)

WinterSail regatta report

Over the last weekend of the school holidays, Albert Park Yacht Club again ran WinterSail, a coached regatta over 3 days for juniors and youth. 30 young sailors took part, representing 8 Clubs in 6 classes. Minnows firmly dominated though - 17 boats from 5 Clubs!

The kids all had a fantastic time, while the parents enjoyed socialising on the shore. The weekend finished with 3 races in light winds that were fiercely contested. Congratulations to the Minnow class winners (clearly it was the year of James!)

  • 1st - James Moore (Rhyll Yacht Club)

  • 2nd - Will James (Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron)

  • 3rd - James Ingram (Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron)

ileSmileSmileMany thanks to APYC for running such a great event.

All the participants, plus the Minnow class winners

Reflection from Theresa Morton:

It was an amazing event with so many boats and people. On the first day of coaching it was wet and windy (the opposite of last year), and a bunch of people capsized and my mast fell down! On the second day, the wind had died down to almost nothing but it was still raining, making it a rather boring and cold sail, although I did get to practice my roll tacks and light winds race starts. On the last day, the sun was shining but the wind was dead. In the morning, our group practiced boat handling and racking up. After a briefing and a photo of all the minnows we got on the water. We only managed to do 3 short races in front of the club. I overtook Will a few times but never managed to beat him and on the last race I got people’s dirty air at the bottom mark (the wind shift didn’t help either) and was overtaken by everyone! It was a great weekend and I’m really looking forward to Citysail and next year’s Wintersail.

Reflection from Hamish Douglas:

Despite the cold, it was a lot of fun sailing somewhere different. It was quite challenging because the wind kept changing direction, when there was actually wind! I look forward to next years WinterSail.

Reflection from Kassia Jack:

I loved Wintersail because we got to learn about sailing, new techniques, racing and we got to make friends along the way. In Wintersail there are opportunities to have fun and try something new. For me it was my first time sailing on a lake and I found out it's as much fun as sailing in the bay. That is why I loved wintersail.

All the Clubs! Sailors from Blairgowrie (top left), Altona (top right), Williamstown (centre), Albert Park (bottom left) and Rhyll (bottom right)

Honey I shrunk the boat

Not content with constructing 2 Minnows, John Gibson has taken things a step further… He’s put together a working scale model of a Minnow dinghy as a coaching aid, complete with genuine Irwin sail! The boat is well balanced and sails nicely, with some gentle controls via string attached to the bow.

Now who’s up for a model boat competition?

Minnow history from Rex Fettell

The Association recently received the following correspondence from Rex Fettell, designer of the Minnow (and it’s big sister the Sabre)

To: Secretary Alex Morton &

President Richard Backwell.

Gentlemen Good afternoon.

I have found a “Minnow” Facebook page dated 23rd October, 2021 with a photo of Minnow No 20 and a request from John Chapman for additional information and possibly photos of early Minnows. [ed. this post here: Victorian Minnow Sailing Association – Posts | Facebook]

You may be able to contact John Chapman and even pass onto him the photos and my notations included in this email. [ed. we have done so!]

For your interest and possibly for Minnow Archives, I forward to you photos of the final design, build and “sea trials” of the first little boat for my kids, later to be a Minnow.

The photos of my two little sons together in this new little boat were taken from the Jetty at Black Rock YC on a very calm day. I was however ready to jump into the water and rescue the kids if the boat capsized.

There is no sail number, it was just a fun and learning boat for my boys and I did not dream that in 2022 replicas of this little boat I designed and built are still being sailed.

David and Tim Fettell in first Minnow at Half Moon Bay Black Rock, Victoria.

The next series of 4 photos are taken in the Bay at Point Lonsdale, of David Fettell, now a little more capable and confident and possibly 12 months older than the first two photos.

Note: Timber mast and boom, end boom sheeting and two perchers.

The following 2 photos are some years later, of Tim Fettell sailing No 182 on Albert Park Lake.

By this time the infant Minnow Sailing Association had been formed, boat numbers allocated and a tightening up of my original construction measurement and fitting notations. By this time Minnow numbers were quite rapidly increasing at various Port Phillip Bay sailing clubs.

The early Minnow Sailing Association was made up by a group of parents passionate about sailing, excited about the possible growth of this new little boat for their children and determined to promote the Minnow as a safe, re-rightable class of kids boat.

For quite some years The Minnow Sailing Association created and manned a display stand at the Annual Boat Show in the Exhibition Building, helping the class grow considerably.

The first photo showing No 23 and 32 were complete boats. The front of the stand shows a wired up hull ready for decking.

The second photo showing No 98 possible the following year.

I have followed the Minnow Sailing Association activities for many, many years. I am sure the enthusiasm of parent controlled Association Committees plus great support from Sailing and Yacht Clubs has enabled to Minnow to be a strong class, despite more recent competition from new developments of similar size sailing boats.

Over 50 years ago I designed and built a little sailing boat for my sons. I look back today and this little boat now called a Minnow is sailing in great numbers from many Clubs around Australia.

I commend every person on Minnow Committees over the years who were passionate about the Minnow for their children….. and now, in 2022 youngsters are still sailing Minnows, are sailing competitively and enjoying the challenge and growing in skill and confidence in single handed sailing.

Now at 90 years of age it gives me great joy as I follow Minnow activities on Facebook, admiring the skills of the youngsters in the dramatic action photos - kids hanging out, trying to keep the boat flat in heavy winds, or highly competitive fleets rounding a mark.

For me this is great viewing and exciting action sailing.

Rex (16th June 2022)

[ed. Rex provided the following additional information on Facebook: In response to the requests as to what year these photos of the first Minnow were taken - I estimate it was 1967 or 1968. David thinks he was about 6 years old.]

… and a follow up from Alistair Danks

When the first photos from Rex were posted on Facebook, Alistair Danks followed up in the comments:

Our first Minnow, no. 10, was perhaps the first registered sail number. Had end boom sheeting and was well over the weight limit.

Sailing club representatives

There are at least 11 sailing clubs round Victoria with active Minnow sailors, based on entries from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 state championship regattas, and another 6 clubs that entered boats in the previous 4 years. Are you willing to be a contact for your sailing club? Please get in contact with the association

Current Minnow representatives are:

  • Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron - Richard Backwell

  • Williamstown Sailing Club - Alex & Ruth Morton

  • McCrae Yacht Cllub - Murray O’Brien, Donovan Bailey

  • Beaumaris Yacht Club - Peter Kemp

  • Ballarat Yacht Club - Michelle Styles

  • Rhyll Yacht Club - Wesley Moore

  • Altona Yacht Club - Gail Lines

Other clubs where we’d like Minnow representatives are: Parkdale Yacht Club, Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club, Rye Yacht Club, Mount Martha Yacht Club, Portland Yacht Club, Albert Park Yacht Club

2022 membership renewals

2022 memberships are now available - $25 / child or $40 for a family

Class membership is required for entry to state and national championship regattas, and class coaching events - separate event fees will apply

Don’t forget that Minnow Association membership runs from January to December (it doesn’t match the sailing season) so you need 2022 membership for the events planned in the spring!

Click here to renew your membership