Situated in a picturesque location on the banks of the Mersey River in Devonport, Tasmania, The Mersey Yacht Club has a history dating back to 1923.
Our club attracts a diverse membership base; sailors, power boaters, dragon boat paddlers, divers, junior sailors, and people who just love relaxing beside the water enjoying the appealing view across boats moored on the river. Even if you just like taking in the view, the Mersey Yacht Club welcomes you as a member.
In fact, the definition of yacht is far more that just a sailing boat; “a vessel used for private cruising, racing, or other noncommercial purposes” (www.dictionary.com).
If it floats it likely fits the definition – so all are welcome.
The Mersey Yacht Club recently hosted a very successful Australian and Oceania Laser Titles, with competitors, including a world champion, coming to Devonport from many countries around the world. Our testing courses set off the Mersey Bluff in Bass Strait offered a variety of weather conditions including big seas and wind, testing the competitors. Such offshore conditions are not usually experienced at regattas and feedback indicated they loved the challenge Bass Strait offered.
Each year between Christmas and New Year the Mersey Yacht Club hosts the finish of the ORCV Melbourne to Devonport Ocean Race. The final race of the Rudder Cup series for competing yachts is the Top of the Island Race, conducted by the Club off the Mersey Bluff on a triangular course.
Recognising that not everyone races, the Club encourages everyone to bring their boat out for each event to have a “boating experience” - those who want to race can race, and those who don't can enjoy being on the water.
Although authentic records covering the early period are hard to come by, extensive research into yachting on the Mersey was done by the late Mr George D. Johnson in 1970.
His investigations revealed that the first regatta held at Sayer's Point, where the original Club House stood, was in 1877. It was not certain whether a club-house was actually built at that time, but it is certain regattas and other yachting events were held then.
A Yacht or Aquatic Club was inaugurated in September, 1893. Mr William Buck was elected to the chair of foundation Commodore in that year.
The inaugural meeting of the Mersey Yacht Club, as we know it today, was held at Curwen's Salon in Rooke Street, Devonport on 12th November 1923. From that meeting the following Officers were elected:-
The first Opening Day was held on 1st December 1923 and sailing was conducted on Saturday afternoons. Membership grew to fifty in the first year and an application for lease of the area known as Sayer's Point was made as a site for a Club House.
The first Club House was built between 1935 and 1938 with extensions in 1950. In the early 1970's the planned extensions to the East Devonport Port by the Devonport Marine Board required the relocation of the Club to its present site at Anchor Drive. The present spacious Club House on its prominent waterfront position with its spacious grounds was completed in 1972.
In the past years the sport of yachting has always been popular in Devonport, and sailing craft have advance greatly with many new designs and equipment.
Commodore Morrie Cropp wrote in the Jubilee Anniversary Program in 1972:
"Half a century is a goodly length of time. For the Mersey Yacht Club it embraces a span from the first early sailing on the Mersey River in an assortment of craft manned by gentlemen attired in gear resembling something more akin to an English cricket green than modern dinghies and ocean going yachts. We have progressed through the heavy-weight Sharpies era until today we find an assortment of light, alloy rigged and synthetic canvassed classes like Moths, Lightweight Sharpies, Cherubs and Manly Juniors crewed by agile adroit young men. We also have a small fleet of blue water keelboats, which will no doubt grow as the next half century moves swiftly on"
In the intervening 40 years since these comments were written the Club has progressed through various dinghy classes, Fireballs, Cherubs, Lasers to the modern carbon rigged and mylar sails of the B14 and performance sports boats.
Training boats are now the venerable Pacers and the exciting RS Feva.
The keelboat fleet has developed over the years into ocean racing with the Club represented in the Sydney-Hobart, Southern Cross Cup, West Coaster and the Melbourne to Devonport Races. The highlight being the efforts of Bob Cumming and crew on Screw Loose in taking overall handicap honours in the 1979 Sydney to Hobart race.
Club members Phillip Marshall (5 wins on Slingshot 2005-2009) and Terry Travers (4 wins on Excess 2001-2004) were the most successful skippers during the 25 years the gruelling running/sailing challenge The Australian Three Peaks Race was held in Tasmanian waters; 1989 – 2013.
The Club has also hosted numerous State and National Titles such as the Laser Nationals in 1977, Diamond Nationals in 1985 and the Mirror Nationals in 1987.
Hosting the Australian and Oceania Laser Titles in January 2019 was the culmination on more than two years of effort by the committee and a host of members.
The Mersey Yacht Club currently caters for all levels of sailing from Juniors, beginning Seniors, Cruisers and social sailing, to competitive club and inter club racing. Regular racing is scheduled on Saturdays during the Summer sailing season between October and April each year. A Winter Series is also run on a fortnightly basis from May to July each year.