The history of the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club (QCYC) and that of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race are inextricably linked. The idea for both came from Doug Drouyn, who had sailed his yacht, Sea Tang, in the 1947 Sydney to Hobart Ocean Cruising Race.
Although Doug failed to finish that race due to his boat having a broken boom, he had caught the ocean racing bug and wanted to bring a similar event to Queensland. Despite receiving little interest from the existing Brisbane yacht clubs, he refused to be deterred. He canvassed his chums and was heartened by the level of support he uncovered.
A group of interested people were mustered by Doug in his music store situated at 187 George Street, Brisbane and after several unofficial gatherings, the first official meeting took place. Here the 14 members present agreed unanimously to form the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club. The inspiration for the Club was to give those interested a base from which to practice, gain experience and enter major ocean/cruise races.
The club’s first race was held on Sunday 17 October 1948, the course was from Peel Island to Bishop Island, a distance of 17 miles. A report at the time prophetically stated: “More races of this description where the finish can be seen by the public, will undoubtedly do a great deal to encourage both yacht owners, crews, and sponsors of this class of sport.”
Less than a month later, members had begun to seriously discuss a ‘cruise race’ to Bowen. QCYC officers regretted that insufficient funds were available to stage such a race and it was considered dangerous to set a course that would require night sailing through unlit reefs and islands.
When Bowen proved impractical, Gladstone was suggested and was enthusiastically accepted. Gladstone had a suitable safe port, an established yacht club whose members when approached were enthusiastic and helpful and it was close enough to deliver the yachts home in the Easter period.
A cyclone hit Gladstone just prior to the first race and caused widespread devastation, throwing the inaugural event into doubt. Financial help was offered by QCYC members, but Gladstone’s need for funds was less urgent than the desire for the race and the event proceeded as planned.
The first race in 1949 saw seven vessels start, with nearly 6,000 people watching from Woody Point. Only two of the boats carried radios while Brisbane’s Homing Pigeon Club supplied pigeons to the others for position reporting.
First across the line was Hoana, in 47hrs 08min 25sec, a very creditable time, which stood until 1955. Sea Prince, the last boat to arrive at 56hrs 48min 45sec, was declared the winner after her Time Correction Factor (TCF) was applied.
The Brisbane to Gladstone was initially billed as a cruising race although by the time the race started on Good Friday the term cruising had been dropped, it had become a ‘race’. The boats were still required to be a sturdy cruising design, racing boats back then were only for sheltered waters. It was only in the mid-sixties that racing designs began to prove they were also able to go offshore in safety and comfort.
The second race in 1950 saw prize money increased to over £750 ($1,500), which, it was said, made it the richest yacht race in the Commonwealth. With one newspaper report estimating that up to 30,000 people lined the Peninsula to see the boats off, it was clear this event was hugely popular and here to stay.
In 1955 the start was moved to Sandgate and in 1957 Lady Elliott Island was made a mark of the course, to be left to port. By and large the course has remained the same since.
Of equal importance to the development of a thriving and well-rounded Club was the opening of the present Clubhouse on Sinbad Street, Shorncliffe, on February 2, 1980. After years of holding meetings at a variety of premises, the QCYC finally had somewhere to call home. Sailor or not, new members are warmly invited to write their own chapter in the exciting history of our prestigious Club.