Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Yachting was unique amongst the Olympic sports in a number of ways, perhaps none more so that there were no disputes over venues, and no concerns over delays with well-established facilities already available.

Port Phillip Bay was an ideal venue, almost an inland sea covering 725 square miles, virtually free of current or tidal streams at the northern end (meaning the local yachtsmen had no advantage over those the visiting), and with several well-established yachting clubs and their facilities available.

The original schedule was for the events to be held from 26 November to 5 December, this eventually extended by one day after high winds on the 29 November made it impossible to complete the small Finn class

Five local clubs in total contributed to the Regatta.  

The yachting headquarters were established at the Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club which also hosted the Star class; they were joined by the Royal Brighton Yacht Club (Dragon class); Royal Yacht Club (5.5 square metre class); Elwood Sailing Club (12 square metre class) and the Sandringham Yacht Club (Finn Monotype, a single-seat dinghy).

Three courses were laid - the closest to shore and southernmost was a six-mile course sailed by the Finn class; further north a 14-mile course for 5.5 square metre and Dragons, and closest to Melbourne, a ten-mile course for the Star and 12 Square metre classes (the latter a new event).

All provided a water frontage, slipways, laying-up berths, masting derricks, gear lockers, spar and dinghy racks and dining facilities, but no residential accommodation.

In addition to the competition courses, a large patrolled spectator boat area was established off Point Gellibrand at Williamstown.  Obviously with limited appeal to spectators stationed on-shore, there were no enclosures and no tickets were sold.

Each class sailed seven heats with points accumulating from the placings in each   The smallest Finn class used 35 dinghies built in Australia with mainsails including spares imported from England

Australia's defence forces contributed considerably to the conduct of the yachting events.

The Navy was responsible for several specialist tasks - producing and laying marker buoys for the course, publishing charts for competitors, establishing and manning a radio communication centre, smoke launches and control boats on the course, and sentry duties and general duties at  the yacht clubs.  

It also provided three warships (H.M.A.S. Warramunga, Swan and Sprightly) to act as starter vessels and to accommodate the Judges.  The vessels also relayed the on-going positions of boats back to shore and were equipped with progress boards for the benefit of competitors.

An emergency crash launch and its crew were supplied by the Royal Australian Air Force - the R.A.A.F. Band played on twelve days of the Games, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Other than the bad weather on 29 November caused the Finn dinghy event to be postponed, the weather proved ideal for competitive racing with wind shifts and strengths varying from day-to-day testing competitors to their limit.  By common consent, the yachting regatta was adjudged among the most successful in the history of the Olympic Games.

Twenty-eight nations competed across the five classes; for virtually all events in the Games, three entry forms were required - for the nation, sport, and individual, but for yachting, another was required describing the boat involved.


Playgrounds : Port Phillip Bay

Click above for the Yachting courses

H.M.A.S. Warramunga of the Royal Australian Navy acting as starting and committee vessel. Progress board is on the forward deck.

Above : Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club, headquarters for the yachting events at the Melbourne Olympics

Below : Variation on an old themer “Many hands make yacht work” - spectators help to launch a 12 sq. metre through choppy seas on the Elwood beach.