Scroll down for:
Connewarre Flattie
Williamstown Punt
8 Footers
Elwood Seahorse
Sandridge Sharpie
Payne-Mortlock Canoe
Port Phillip12

The following classes originated in Victoria (except for the Payne-Mortlock Canoe which was designed in Sydney but launched in Victoria at Hobsons Bay YC). 
The earliest of these classes started sailing in the 1860's and by the end of the 1960's all of these classes had died out and disapeared.
The Victorian classes differed from the evolving skiff classes of Sydney Harbour. They had narrower hulls which were decked and most had swivel centreplates and rudders to cope with the shallower water and sandbanks. They also carried less crew and less sail area with any extras restricted to spinnakers only and most classes didn't have bowsprits.
These histories are still being researched and will be continually added to as new archival material is discovered. We want to ensure that these classes are not lost to history and that their legacy is known, appreciated and celebrated. 


The Williamstown Punt evolved from the duck-shooting punts that were used for duck hunting, fishing and catching eels around Williamstown in the late 19th century.
These were small, flat-bottomed, flat-sided canoe-ended boats, which were paddled around the shallow waters and marshlands at the mouth of the Yarra. They were roughly built of timber planks salvaged from packing crates and other salvaged timber from ships holds. In order to assist the paddling over long distances some boats started to use primitive sails downwind, sometimes overcoats held aloft with a paddle, and reportedly even bed-sheets which were “borrowed” from neighbouring clothes lines. Later on, home-made calico sails were used, which soon led to informal racing. These early sailing boats were steered with paddles and buoyancy was provided by empty kerosene tins. 
By 1906 races were regularly being held by the “Duck Punt Club” generally over a six mile course in the sheltered waters off the Strand.  The fleet numbered 6 boats. Trophies were presented for both line honours and handicap winners and cash prizes were awarded. The punts rapidly became more sophisticated in design and restrictions on the punts were introduced: the flat-bottomed, flat-sided hulls were 16ft long at deck level, 15ft long on the bottom, 2ft 3inches wide and carried a mainsail and jib with a total of 70 square feet of sail. The rig was inboard - no bowsprits or other extensions were allowed. Steering was done using a paddle. Buoyancy was provided by “safety compartments” (buoyancy tanks).  The first professionally made sails, mostly by local sail maker Harold Morwick, soon started to appear.
 By 1910 the duck punt club had become the Williamstown Punt Club with 8 boats on the register and 30 members. The punts became a sailing class.
By 1916 the boats had become more sophisticated. Paddles had been replaced with rudders in 1914 and the hulls were completely decked in and watertight with a small self-draining cockpit. Swivel centreplates were also added allowing the boats to sail efficiently to windward and in shallow water. In terms of design they were decades ahead of any other class. It wasn’t until 1931 that a similar concept of a sailing dinghy that was fully watertight and rightable after a capsize was designed – the Vaucluse Junior.
Crowds of spectators regularly gathered on the Stevedore pier to watch the racing.
The design restrictions of the class were altered to: length at deck level 18ft 9inches, length on the bottom 16ft 9 inches, width 2ft 6 inches, depth 15 inches and a combined sail area of 95 square feet. Boats sailed with larger sails in light weather “a cloud” and smaller sails in stronger breezes. The punts were raced both single-handed and double-handed.
Although World War I left membership depleted as many “puntsmen” enlisted, the club continued to hold races and by 1917 numbers started to pick up again. In 1918 the club had 20 punts with a club membership of 200 and the club moved into its own premises, the Marine Underwriters boat shed.  This building still stands and is currently used by the Williamstown 4th Sea Scouts.  However the rapid growth of the punt fleet and club members meant that a larger building was soon needed. In 1919 a proposal was made to build a new clubhouse and on the 5th of November 1921 the “Williamstown Punt Club” building was opened with much fanfare by the Governor General Lord Foster with a crowd of over a thousand in attendance.
The opening day of each season was a huge event and by 1920 was attracting crowds of thousands of spectators watching from motor launches, the pier and along the Strand, with the Lord Mayor officiating. The punts, the clubhouse, the pier and the surrounding area were heavily decorated with flags and bunting and a brass band played popular songs. Ladies attending the opening dressed in nautical themed outfits. The press started referring to these opening days as Australia’s Henley Regatta. The Williamstown Advertiser wrote the following on the 21st of February 1920:
 “PUNT CLUB AQUATIC CARNIVAL.  GALA DAY ON THE BAY.   A CROWD OF 5,000 SPECTATORS.”  “What is regarded as the largest crowd ever attracted to an aquatic carnival on this side of Hobson’s Bay was present on Saturday afternoon at the Punt Club turn out. The well-worn Stevedore Street Pier seemed likely to collapse with the weight of the crowd it carried. The foreshore was lined with people. Tents, booths, marquees for the sale of fruit, drinks and ice-cream studded the waterfront, the vacant spaces being filled by jinkers, buggies and motors. The bay itself was gay with animation. Besides the fourteen or fifteen boats engaged in the competition and the local crowd, there was a large party of visitors from Geelong. The navy sent two boats and the State Government granted the use of one of its powder hoppers for the greasy pole.”
The huge number of spectators on the pier so alarmed the Harbour Trust that in November 1920 they “barb-wired it off” before the season opening festivities and it was demolished three years later.  
In the 1920’s the punts regularly sailed across the bay to participate in regattas held by the Victorian Yacht Racing Association at St. Kilda. They also participated in a number of inter-club events at various yacht clubs around the bay. In 1922 a punt club was established at Grange in South Australia with the intention of starting interstate competitions, but it’s not known if this ever happened. The Williamstown Punt Club started holding “Ladies Day Competitions” and in 1924 the first female sailors started racing in regular events at Williamstown. Punts were also built at Port Melbourne and Elwood and they sailed to Williamstown to compete in races at the punt club. However in the late 1920’s two factors started to cause a decline in numbers: firstly the Depression meant that there was very little money for recreational pursuits and secondly the increasing sophistication of hull designs, including round-bilged boats, meant that the punts were becoming more expensive.  By 1929 the punt fleet had declined in number to 13 and other boats were added to the club register. However in the 1930’s numbers started to pick up again. In December 1932 six punts were transported by rail to Colac to compete in a series of races there over the Christmas/New Year period. In 1937 seven punts from Elwood joined the fleet at Williamstown.
During World War II membership numbers again declined as 39 members enlisted and sadly 5 were killed in action. At the same time a number of newer classes appeared at the club – the New Zealand designed Idle-Alongs in 1938, and later, Vee Jays, Sharpies, Gwens and Moths.  The punt fleet never recovered and the name of the club was changed to the Williamstown Sailing Club. By the end of the 1940’s the punts had all but disappeared and the last known punt was seen in the clubhouse in the 1960’s. In 1996 a replica of the 1919 boat “Colleen” was built and sailed in Sydney by descendants of Williamstown Punt sailors.  
The Williamstown Punt was the first true sailing dinghy class in Victoria and deserves recognition for the significant part it played in the establishment of dinghy sailing both in Victoria and in Australia. It was a radical and innovative craft and for a long time there was nothing like it in the world.
Some of its innovations were: “Ladies Day Competitions”, female sailors (1924), airtight hulls which could be righted after a capsize, self-draining cockpits, club owned boats for training, invitation races for sailors from other clubs, novice sailor days, experimenting with “Marconi” rigs (1929), a gymnasium for members and having cinematographers film events which were then shown at the local cinema (1919).


The history of the Williamstown Punts was researched and written by John Fairfax from the VCDN and John Gibson from the Williamstown SC and grandson of William Gibson, one of the most prominent puntsmen.
Click on this link for an article from THE ARGUS newspaper of  30 November 1929 entitled "Nautical Acrobats. Thrills at the Punt Club". It describes what it was like to sail a punt. This is a transcription of the original article, which is barely legible.
Click on this link for an article about the Milgate Duck Punt. On the Essex coast of England a small group of sailors have revived an old sailing duck punt. The article explains how the boat sails without a centreboard and steers with a paddle just like the early Williamstown Punts. (article provided by Ray Ellard)
Click on this link for some videos of the Milgate Duck Punts sailing.
 Click on any photo to open gallery
Click on any photo to open gallery
  1. Managing Director
  2. Managing Director
  3. Managing Director
  4. Managing Director
  5. Managing Director
  6. Managing Director
  7. Managing Director
  8. Managing Director
  1. Managing Director
  2. Managing Director
  3. Managing Director
  4. Managing Director
  5. Managing Director
  6. Managing Director
  7. Managing Director
  8. Managing Director
 Two Punts and a 14tf Skiff, Grange S.A.1922

In the 1920's, on the other side of the world, a very similar type of sailing punt evolved in the same way and for the same reasons as the Williamstown Punt. They also died out during WWII but a group of sailors decided to revive them using the newly invented marine plywood. The class was reborn and is still sailing today. Being a development class it has adapted to trends and is now sailed with trapeze, asymmetrical spinnakers, carbon spars and fbreglass hulls. Among the designers of earlier punts were Uffa Fox and Jack Holt.
The Norfolk Punts are between 19 and 22 feet long with a maximum beam of 2 feet making them slightly longer and narrower than the Williamstown Punts and their cockpits are also much larger (see photo). The total sail area allowed including spinnaker is 236 sq. feet (22sq. metres)
It is not known what connection if any there was between the Williamstown Punt and the Norfolk Punt as no contact has yet been found.
For more information on the Norfolk Punts, including history photos and technical specifications visit their website:



The first 8 footers started sailing at the newly formed Albert Park Boys Dinghy Club in 1911. In 1929 a fleet of 8 footers was transported from Albert Park to 
Ballaarat YC for a Christmas holiday weekend regatta. The winning boat was "Swastika." The photos below were taken during the event on Lake Wendouree.

Click on any of the four images below to enlarge
  1. Managing Director
  2. Managing Director
  3. Managing Director
  4. Managing Director

The St Kilda 8 footer was designed in the 1940's as a training boat for the 14 footers sailing at the St Kilda 14 Foot Sailing Club. They had a planked hull and a single sail of 70 sq. feet on a 17 foot mast. The class and the 14 footer club have long since disappeared. In 1963 the club house was badly damaged in a storm. The building was demolished and the club was amalgamated with the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron. 
There is not much information available on the 8 footers. If you know of the existence of one, or have any information or photos, please contact us. 
Click on the link for a description of building and sailing the St. Kilda 8 footer.


The Elwood Seahorse class was established in 1934 and was soon sailing at many clubs around Port Phillip Bay. It was an 18ft long canoe-sterned boat with a sail area of 135sq feet and a crew of 3  or 4.  It had all but disappeared by the early 1960's. There is a restored Elwood Seahorse hull on display at the Elwood Sailing Club (photo below left).
If anyone has an Elwood Seahorse or knows of the existence of one, or has any photos of one, please contact us and the Elwood Sailing Club.
Click on this link for a comprehensive history of the Elwood Seahorse and more photos.
Click on the link for the Elwood Sailing Club history of the club and the Elwood Seahorse and more photos. 
Click here for recollections and photos of Elwood Seahorses and the ESC in the 1940's & 1950's by Ron Dovey.
    (3 pages - click on buttons below)
"Aquila II" beautifully restored and on display at Elwood YC


The Sandridge Sharpie, a hard-chine 12 foot plywood boat,  first appeared at Port Melbourne YC in the 1940's. It was sailed by a crew of three and was rightable after a capsize.
By 1947 there were more than 20 boats in the club fleet and there was also a fleet sailing at Wiliamstown SC.
In February 1948 three Sandridge Sharpies were flown to Tasmania to compete in the Royal Hobart Regatta in order to promote the class.
The boats attracted the attention of sailors from Sandy Bay. It was decided that a dinghy club for teenage boys and girls would be formed and a fleet of Sandridge Sharpies was built. The club became the Sandy Bay Sailing Club, which is still going strong today.
In 1955 a new class, the Port Phillip 12, was designed and launched at Port Melbourne YC and it replaced the Sandridge Sharpie fleets in Victoria. 
(The photos were taken in 1948 at Sandy Bay.)   


The Payne-Mortlock Sailing Canoe was designed by Alan Payne (who is better known as the designer of Gretel 1 and Gretel 2) and Bryce Mortlock in the late 1940's. It was first sailed at Hobsons Bay YC and quickly became popular at various Victorian clubs and interstate. It died out in the early 1960's everywhere except at the Brighton & Seacliff YC in South Australia where it is still sailed.
We would love to have a Payne-Mortlock Canoe sailing at the Inverloch CWDR or any of our other events. If you know of the existence of one or you have any information about the Payne-Mortlock, please contact us.
Click on this link for the Brighton & Seacliff YC Payne-Mortlock page.
Click on this link for the Wikipedia page on the Payne-Mortlock.
Click on these  links for some scratchy videos of Payne-Mortlock Canoes and other classes sailing at the opening day of the Brighton & Seacliff YC circa 1960.
Payne-Mortlock Canoe "Quest" sailing at Brighton & Seacliff YC


The Port Phillip12 was designed by Ron Young in 1955. It was sailed at a number of clubs at the northern end of Port Plillip Bay, particularly Port Melbourne Yacht Club and Williamstown Sailing Club, in the 1950s until the mid 1960s.
It was similar to a Gwen12 except that it had a pressure veneer moulded round-bilge hull. It originally had a sail area of 140 sq. feet but this was later reduced to 125 sq. feet and a 120 sq. foot spinnaker. A junior rig of 97 sq. feet was designed in 1959 for the standard PP12 hull and spars but without the bowsprit. It was called the Port Phillip12 Graduate.
If you know of the existence of a Port Phillip12 other than the one owned by the Wooden Boat Association, or if you have photos or information about the class, please contact us.
The Wooden Boat Association of Victoria has possibly the only PP12 remaining. Click on the link to find out more