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"Nature having provided us with a sheet of water exactly suitable for our requirements, we ought to avail ourselves as far as possible of the facilities for that most inexpensive and attractive pastime which may be included generally under the term ‘boating’." [41]

"Few cities are so blessed as Perth with water suitable for aquatic sports and pursuits, and having this great advantage, it is the duty of the citizens to make the greatest possible use of it both for pleasure and business." [42]

Sailing and boating as a sport, rather than as a means of river transport was slow to start in Perth. From the 1840s there were a small number of sailing boats in the colony and several attempts to organize sailing sports. However, from the 1870s organised regattas on the River became popular ways to celebrate anniversaries such as the Prince of Wales’ birthday or Foundation Day. Visitors would flock into Perth from Fremantle and Guildford, by boat and by van, to create a festive atmosphere. Food was sold from stalls along the River’s edge and around the jetties. Races were organized for all types of craft from cargo boats to yachts, to two and four oared gigs and small dingies. Judges sat on a steamer moored in the River and the Volunteer Band usually played on another boat. Novelty races such as the Duck Hunt and a greasy pole hung over the River concluded festivities.

Sam Lawrence, son of a successful boat builder and born in Perth in 1833, looked back on his life:

"He saw the foreshore grow from its original rush-fringed state to the ornamental promenades of today, He remembers days when it was possible to shoot ducks along the Perth foreshore and to rake in crabs by the dozen. Fifty or sixty years ago regattas on the river were the chief form of organized sport in Perth. Contests were of a Herculean nature. Mr Lawrence said he had taken part in rowing races in which four oarsmen pulled a 36 foot gig three miles around Perth Water or from Crawley to the City." [43]

Boats for hire, H. Sutton's Boatshed at the Barrack Street jetty, 1906. Battye Library [009647PD]

As a result of early successful events, the Perth Yacht and Boat Club was formed in 1876 and granted reclaimed land north west of the Barrack Street Jetty for a jetty and Club House, opened in late 1889. The West Australian Rowing Club (WARC) had already got underway, operating from 1868 from a small boat shed at the foot of Barrack Street but moving to a new building east of Barrack Street in 1905. The Perth Dinghy Club was formed in 1903 and constructed a club house in the same area in 1905.

Spectators on the Ferry SS Perth watch a sailing contest, 1939. Battye Library [6106B/27]

The number of sails on Perth Water decreased with further reclamation of the shores for Riverside Drive, the disappearance of the Perth wharves and with the growing popularity of the sport, the need for more space and the construction of a bridge at the Narrows. The Royal Perth Yacht Club relocated to Crawley in 1953, where in 1960 the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club also opened their new premises.

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Page last updated: Tuesday 23 November 2010 by Nick Cowie Asset ID 13038
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