bendy toy

“The wind was gusting at 35 knots. By the time the two leaders, Fred Neill and John Cuneo, came to the last leg – a run in front of the Glenelg clubhouse – many of the other boats had either retired or capsized. Fred was in front with Cuneo not far behind.

Whoever crossed first would win the whole series. None of the boats flew spinnakers. But the large spectator fleet, all cheering for Fred, then saw Cuneo’s kite go up. A second later Fred hoisted his. The Sharpies were flying in big seas doing close to 20 knots. Fred was still comfortably in front closing in on the finishing line. Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd.

Fred’s mast slowly bent and collapsed under the extreme pressure. Fred’s for’d hand held up a section of the mainsail to catch some wind, but it wasn’t enough. Cuneo sailed past. It was a bitter disappointment.”

David Binks – recalls the final race of the 1965 Australian Lightweight Sharpie Championship

(Binks, the South Australian who had built Neill’s ill-fated Sharpie – but not its De Havilland mast – has been one of Australia’s most versatile and innovative production boat builders. He built everything from Cadet dinghies and world champion 505s to Black Soos and 80 of the legendary glass-fibre Farr fractionals. In 1987 Fred Neill went on to helm the 12 metre South Australia.)