With a little help from crowdfunding, a group of enthusiasts have brought one of Tasmania’s original famous racing boats back to the waters of the River Derwent.
Tassie Too, a 6.4-metre wooden boat built in Hobart in 1927, won the Forster Cup — Australia’s sailing championship in its day — a record 10 times between 1928 and 1952.
The Friends of Tassie Too (FOTT) organisation has raised money from individuals and corporate sponsors to bring it back to Hobart and keep it out on the water.
FOTT president Ken Batt has a special family connection to the boat.
His uncle WP ‘Skipper’ Batt designed the first Tassie boat, then Tassie Too and Tassie Three.
“There wasn’t any caulking used at all so the timber sits on timber, which back then was probably a very new thing,” Ken Batt said of the design.
“The underwater shape of Tassie Too, along with the seams and the way the boat was rigged gave it exceptional speeds upwind and crosswind and downwind — so it was able to, most of the time, easily beat the other boats.”
The boat was constructed with Huon and King Billy pine, Tasmanian timbers that are now rare.
A small boat, huge in Tasmania’s sailing history
Maritime historian Colin Grazules said the original Tassie was finished barely a month before that year’s Forster Cup, and most of the other entries scoffed at the fact it was even racing.
“They said it’ll never win, it’s been built very hurriedly … what are you bothering for, really?” he said.
“Well, Skipper Batt and Tassie thrashed the pants off them.”
That boat won two more Forster Cups before Tassie Too was built.
By then, sailing culture had a grip on the Tasmanian public.
During the 1927 cup, sailed in Perth, a crowd waited outside the Hobart Mercury office and cheered when Tassie’s winning result was read out.
It was also flashed on Hobart cinema screens.
“When Tassie Too won its first race, when the crew arrived back, they were actually escorted through the streets, there was a huge street parade, they were taken to the town hall for a civic reception, there were speeches and all sorts of things,” Mr Grazules said.
“Tassie Too, for some reason, there was just the magic.
“People were interested. Tasmania just adopted them, so Tassie Too is certainly a big part of Tasmanian maritime history — it’s a pivotal boat in many ways.”
It is believed the first Tassie was lost in a fire.
Tassie Too was converted to a cruiser at one stage, but a later owner restored it back to its original design.
Tassie Too returns to the Derwent
On a bright and breezy Saturday morning in early February, the Tassie Too sailed the waters of the Derwent again.
It is now being kept at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, not far from where it was first built.
The most recent owner of the Tassie Too was keeping it at Sandringham in Victoria, but sold it to the FOTT group last year at a reduced price, believing it deserved to head home to the island state.
FOTT plan to make the Tassie Too a fixture in the Wooden Boat Festival and are considering setting up a re-enactment of the Forster Cup. They also want to make it available for recreational sailing on the Derwent and use it in events and regattas.
“The idea is to make it a living testament to the 21s [21-foot vessels] and the sailors that sailed them,” Mr Grazules said.
“I never thought I’d see the day this early,” Mr Batt said.
“But thanks to everyone involved we’ve managed to get the boat on the water sooner rather than later.”