Researched and written by Rex Jarman
Botany Bay saw it’s first sailing events with the arrival of Lt. James Cook’s HMS Endeavour Bark in 1770 and Capt. Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet in January, 1778. Preferring Sydney Harbour for the new colony, Botany Bay was left in the doldrums for some years but eventually the growing population expanded southward and sailing returned to the bay. Over the decades a number small sailing clubs were established around the bay and along the shores of its tributaries (Georges and Cooks Rivers) to cater for locals interested in sailing small boats. The new construction methods of the mid 1900’s made larger craft more affordable and yachts became more common in the area.
A challenge between Reg Gardner’s Thunderbird and Alan Hearne’s Bluebird in late 1963 saw a few friends join in to expand the race ‘fleet’ to about 7 yachts. The race inspired the idea of forming a club specifically for yachts and, according to our oldest record, the first race took place on the 19th of January, 1964 with 9 yachts entered. The formation of Botany Bay Yacht Club created “headlines in many circles as a possible Olympic course for the future”. By August, 1964 the fleet had increased to 12 yachts and membership rose to 35. By mid 1966 the fleet was up to 30 yachts and membership reached 100. That sailing year saw BBYC join Yachting NSW as an associate member and it also saw the introduction of the first Endeavour yacht with 10 in the water by July and 6 more under construction by founding member Reg Gardner.
With the assistance of St.George Sailing Club and nearby St.George Motor Boat Club as venues for meetings and social activities and Endeavour Boat Shed Wharf providing access to boats, BBYC turned its attention to the search for a home of our own. The long drawn out process came to an end when Endeavour Boat Shed, 44 Endeavour Street, Sans Souci was purchased in 1973. The boatshed had been involved in boat building, repairs, boat sales and the hire of boats and equipment for something like a century, Kogarah 10’ Sailing Club used it in the 1940’s, small naval craft were refitted there during World War II, torpedo boats and the like were converted to pleasure craft during the 1950’s and commercial work continued into the mid 1980’s.
By the 1985, the club had demolished the old timber sheds and erected the current 2 storey building, had reclaimed (in co-operation with Kogarah Council) much of the old slipway and wharf area to form a hardstand area and separate public wharf and installed our own wharf and pontoon. Two slipways were retained: the large slip catering for vessels up to about 50 feet and the smaller slip handling those up to about 35 feet. A two tonne, rotating crane was installed to transfer smaller boats to cradles on the hardstand which also has a work area for repairs.
Almost from its inception, Botany Bay Yacht Club has hosted Class, State, National and World Championships on a regular basis. Classes represented include: Bluebird, Tornado, 5.5 metre, OK Dinghy, Laser, Endeavour (24s, 26s and larger), Finn, Dragon, Etchell, Flying Dutchman, 470, J24, Adams 8, Timpenny 670. The Prince Phillip Cup for Dragons and the World Youth Sailing Championships were hosted in 1988 to mark Australia’s Bicentenary. Many champions have sailed with the club during these regattas (Sir James Hardy, Harold Cudmore, Dennis Connor and Colin Beaschell to mention a few). State, National and World champions are or have been counted among club members over the years. Reg Gardner with Endeavour II was one of the Australian representatives for the Junior Offshore Group races in UK followed by the World Titles in Holland and many members have represented the club in the world renowned Sydney-Hobart ocean race.