The Perth Dinghy Club, as it was called, was formed in June 1903 and its original clubhouse was built in 1905. The club was located on the then marshy Perth foreshore of the Swan River in close proximity to the Barrack Street jetty. Because of the muddy nature of the riverbed along the shore, the clubhouse was built out over the water on piles. All boats were stored on the premises and were rigged and launched from wooden ramps. The clubhouse was constructed of jarrah weatherboard. Because the cotton sails were stored on the premises, in the dry summer months, the fire risk was high. The original fleet consisted of 14-foot and 10-foot plumbstem, gaff-rigged dinghies, which carried mountains on sail and crews of seven or eight men.
Races were held on Saturdays and started and finished at “The Narrows”. The course was an uncomplicated beat down to “Bricklanding” near Point Walter and return.
The club was incorporated and its name changed in 1913 to Perth 14ft Dinghy Sailing Club, which was clear evidence of the popularity of the 14-footers as a class. In its long history, the club has survived periods of trial and tribulation. The first such test was the destruction of the clubhouse and most of the fleet by fire on September 19, 1920. The second was another devastating fire on February 21, 1922. But the club spirit prevailed and the premises were rebuilt. The second fire, however, heralded the end of the 10-footers and club policy was altered to direct that only 14-footers would be sailed.
As the years passed, Perth Waters continued to silt up and a bridge was planned for “The Narrows” which would restrict sailing to the Perth Water area. Above all, the new type of lightweight racing dinghy did not lend itself to being rigged upright on wooden ramps. They had to be finely tuned on their sides, which required an expansive river-beach location. To meet this serious challenge to the club’s existence a bold decision was made to vacate the Perth Water location.
The club endured because of the characteristic high calibre of its Flag Officers and enthusiasm of its supporters, who have enabled it to respond to any serious challenge. In addition to their normal enthusiasm, the Flag Officers at the helm in this period were experienced builders and gave the club outstanding service on the major project of organising and building by self-help, a new clubhouse on a superb site, which had been obtained in Crawley Bay. The new clubhouse was officially opened in 1960 and in 1966 the club’s name was shortened to Perth 14ft Sailing Club inc. Since then the clubhouse has undergone many changes, and is now difficult to determine what constituted the original building. All extensions and renovations have been carried out basically on a self-help basis in the same way the original clubhouse was built.
Today, the club is known as the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club inc and sails a variety of classes from junior fleets through to the modern day International 14 (Footer). The club continues to survive with a strong membership base with all club services provided by member volunteers.
From Sail OH! (2002) Authored by Hilary Arber