Norm Fennell builder of the first OK Dinghy in NSW, 1958/59


Bill with Norm Fennell July 2012
Bill with Norm Fennell July 2012
Bill Tyler, Sydney, NSW, Monday, 16 July 2012

The highlight of our NSW Association's recent 50th Anniversary Dinner was the fantastic support we received from our foundation members and other "Golden Oldies".  It was great to see so many of our early members able to attend the function and enjoy meeting up with their fellow members from the early 1960s as well as our current members.

One such foundation member is Norm Fennell, now 89 years old.  Norm built the first OK dinghy in NSW, OK no. 5 "Vitesse" which was launched at Balmoral SC early in 1959.  By 1961 Norm had introduced his OK to members of the Western Suburbs SC at Cabarita on Hen and Chicken Bay where some of his fellow foundation members were then sailing in the VS class.  Don Board and John Powell built the first of their boats and then others including John Hardie, Mike Kirkbride, Phil Maloney, David Pitt and Ray Stone followed them into OKs at the club.  Norm, Don Board and John Powell built a few more beautiful timber boats over the following years and then later Phil Maloney and David Pitt commenced building their Pamcraft fibreglass boats to consolidate the Sydney based OK fleet at Western Suburbs SC together with the members at Vaucluse YC and Mosman ASC.

Bob Chapman and I followed up on our meeting with Norm at the 50th Anniversary Dinner by visiting him and his wife Jean at their Gladesville home to present Norm with a copy of "Completely OK".  We found Norm hard at work in his garage fine-tuning his rigs for his radio yachts which he still sails regularly with the Chipping Norton Lake SC.  Norm used to sail his radio yachts at Drummoyne SC with our radio yacht division but the flat grassed bank at Chipping Norton Lakes is now easier for him than the height of the stone wall at Drummoyne.  Norm also proudly showed us hulls he has built for his radio yachts in recent years, demonstrating his timber craftsmanship skills that he has developed over a lifetime from his engineering background.

Norm explained how he had heard about the OK dinghy when designed by Knud Olsen and how he wrote to Will David in Western Australia to buy a set of plans sometime around 1957/58.  He built his first boat OK no. 5 and then a few years later his second boat KA 170.  Norm was the NSW OK association measurer in those first few years and then was very involved in the Finn class as a competitor and measurer from the late 1960s and into the 1970s.  He spoke of being at the Finn Gold Cup at Long Beach, California, USA in August, 1974 with another ex OK sailor Tony James where he received his international accreditation as a Finn class measurer and of meeting President Richard Nixon there immediately prior to his resignation from the Presidency of the USA  on 9 August, 1974.

We were joined later in the morning by Bill Adams, a long-time friend of Norm and another old OK sailor from the 1960s.  Bill sailing his KA 176 "Impulsive", an ex John Powell built and owned boat, was runner-up to Dave Blundell from NZ in the 1966 Australian Championship at Cairns and to Don Board in the 1966 NSW Championship sailed on Botany Bay.  Norm and Bill spoke of their time in the OKs together and later in the Finn class too when Norm, with Bill's help sweeping up the shavings etc., built their two Finns in the garage at Norm's home.

Bob and I really enjoyed a great morning with these two wonderful OK members from our first decade and were happy to present Norm with a copy of "Completely OK" on behalf of current members of our association for his outstanding contributions to the OKs in NSW in our early years.

Bill Tyler - Life Member - 16 July, 2012


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