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Charlie Peel

Charlie Peel Classic Wooden Boat Builder and Designer, of the Famous Acrospire series of racing yachts, the 21ft Restricted class and Jubilee class.


Charlie Peel and his boats..

ARHV Builder; ARHV Designer. Charlie Peel was undoubtably one of the fore fathers of Modern day Australian Boatbuilders. His enduring designs and impeccably constructed classic wooden yachts still sail Australian waters today, as living testament to his remarkable skills.

Charlie Peel was born in Victoria in 1878. His outstanding contribution to workboat and racing boat design over a long period made him the premier designer in Victoria during the first half of the 20th century. He worked with his brother, building many craft of their own design and to other designer's plans. Peel was self taught and worked up his designs on paper. Many of his plans were well detailed and show a complete understanding of typical drafting standards of the period. Originally from Melbourne, he moved to Sydney and worked at the yard of Hayes and Sons before returning to Melbourne. During World War II he worked in an Adelaide shipyard.

The big yachts ACROSPIRE III and IV are well known and still extant, but his major contribution to Australia's yachting heritage was in the smaller centreboard designs.

The 1909 design IDLER and near sister NAOMI were adopted as models for a new Victorian class in 1913 , which then became the 21 Foot Restricted Class, Australia's first locally formed development rule class. He designed many boats to the rule in later years, including the three sister ships CORELLA, BOOMERANG and E.O.J which started the class in NSW. Other designs include GYMEA, NSW I, MARY LOUISE, 1820 and NERANA. More about Charlie Peels 21 foot Restricted Class Yachts. Over 70 craft were built, showcasing the talents of designers and builders such as Charlie Peel, Walter Reeks, 'Skipper' Batt, the Hayes family, the Savage Brothers, Whearet, Norman Wright, even William Fife from Scotland and Charles Nicholson for the UK. The yachts were fast, handy and demanding. It started out as a knockabout sailing yacht, but the evolution that appeared over the eight boats built for the first series in 1922 showed how quickly it became a dedicated racing machine. Many design variants were created and the class continued to develop through to the late 1940s with new craft.

A special feature of the class was that it was often supported by owners acting as benefactors, or supported by club fundraising activities. In this way the craft were owned by a club or well known identity, but actually crewed and skippered by the best available sailors from the state. The class supported and encouraged many talented sailors who otherwise could not afford to own a yacht of this type. This happened in all of the states and was vital to the class being able to continue through the Depression, and a principal reason why it fostered skippers and crews who otherwise would not have gained the yacht racing experience the class provided.

Late in the 1940s after World War II the racing resumed, but only a handful of the fleet joined in the series, and only a couple of new craft were built. The final three series in 1953 to 1955 were won convincingly by NERANA from South Australia. The class then disbanded as newer International and Olympic classes from outside of Australia were adopted. The yachts found new homes in various states, in particular Melbourne where they formed a training class and were re-rigged with Dragon class sail plans.

In the 1980s about five of the craft began to race again at Goolwa in South Australia, and for a period they also raced against some of the boats in Victoria at Ballarat and Albert Park.

In 2006 the fleet in Goolwa had expanded to include nearly ten boats racing regularly as a class, including a rebuilt NERANA, and NAUTILUS bought from Victoria. Almost all have modern Bermudan rigs and masthead spinnakers, and have their aging hulls reinforced with fibreglass laminates. The class has been officially reformed at state level (South Australia) and rules established. These rules are a combination of the 1928 document with revisions and additions to accommodate new materials and details not considered when the rules were first drafted.

During 2008 they will be joined by the first of two new 21 Foot Restricted Class yachts to have been designed and built since the late 1940s, and the famous class may one day race again for the two trophies that were prized by the states nearly 50 years ago.

Other famous Charlie Peel Classic Wooden Yachts. This class saw fierce interstate competition for The Forster Cup in the years prior to WW II. The 50 foot gaff topsail cutter ACROSPIRE III built in 1923 raced for the Sayonara Cup. ACROSPIRE IV followed in 1929. The snub nosed skiff was a concept used by Peel on a number of designs, and an article in The Anchor 1911/1912 shows a 14-foot skiff with this feature. The idea was the try and create a longer boat within a specific length limit by designing a longer hull than the limit. It was then cut off at the stem to the required length leaving a snub or transom bow. It was quite successful for a period. The light weight THERA from 1911 is an outstanding Peel design. Initially raced on Port Phillip Bay THERA she was considered a freak by disgruntled competitors and became unpopular. At one stage she was put up a class, and still managed to beat bigger boats on line and handicap times. THERA moved across to Western Australia under new owners and raced on the Swan River where much the same thing happened. The boat was also called a live ballast sloop, meaning the crew sitting out on the gunwale formed a large part of her ballast for stability. THERA has been restored and still races on the Swan River.

The Jubilee Class designed by Peel in 1935 was an 18 foot long one design class, which came about after a severe storm wrecked many small craft on Port Phillip Bay, and a new class was created to boost numbers again. It remains popular with hulls now available in fibreglass. Acrospire IV History Mr Joe White, a Malt house owner, built Acrospire IV in Melbourne in 1928-29. We have listed this boat's history first in the Acrospire series of yachts, and will bring you further Acrospires as we uncover them. White was a member of The Royal St. Kilda Sailing Club, later to become the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron and had built and owned three Acrospires before Acrospire IV, the largest of the fleet. It is said that his yachts were named Acrospire because they were built in the malt house and Joe White saw a similarity between their growth and the growth of the tiny sprout from the barley seed known to brewers as the Acrospire, which indicates to the brewer that the barley is ready for brewing. In fact, not all the Acrospires were built in the malt house.

Acrospire I: no records exist as to who built her and where Acrospire II: Built by Charlie Peel of Port Melbourne. Acrospire III: Built by Charlie Peel and Hayes & Sons in Sydney. Acrospire IV: Built in a malt house in Collingwood. Acrospire V: Built in Brunswick Victoria by Charlie Peel. Acrospire I, II, III were all referred to by the abbreviation ‘Ack’ and when Acrospire IV arrived she was immediately dubbed ‘Big Ack’ and Acrospire III as ‘Little Ack’. She was known by this name for all the years she sailed on Port Phillip Bay. She was the pride of the St. Kilda fleet and was launched in November 1929. At the time her dimensions were: LOA 54ft 16.5m LWL 34ft 10.4m Beam 9ft2in 2.8 Draft 6ft11in 2.1m Sail Area 1,104sq ft 102.6 sqm Rating 9.31metres British Registry 5 of 1929 (Melbourne)

Acrospire V. In 1934 Acrospire V was launched. She was built by Charlie Peel to a 6 metre design by William Fife of Fairlie Scotland. She is believed to be in Sydney, her condition is unknown at the time of writing. ( see newest addition of articles, to the Acrospire family of yachts for more history). Acrospire IV was originally a flush decked gaff cutter but was converted to a Bermudan rig in the winter of 1930. The legend goes that she never raced without an open keg of the owner’s beer in the bilge,however former crew of White’s would testify that this is totally incorrect. Joe White drank very little and forbade drink on board his yachts. The season of 1937-8 the Hobart Centenary Regatta was held. Commodore Joe White took her to Hobart for the occasion. During this event she won the 100-mile race around Bruny Island in atrocious conditions, sometimes reduced to bare poles, but she produced a record time which stood until the advent of the maxis in the mid 1980’s. She also won the Sir Ernest Clark, Sir Thomas Lipton and John Colvin Cups and Grand Aggregate Trophy. Big Ack was the pride and passion of Joe White’s life and in his will he expressed the desire for one of his crew to carry on sailing her, which was declined. She was sold to a syndicate at The Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, headed by A. S (Jock) Sturrock with the intention to train crews for the America’s Cup. At the time it was nearest thing in Australia to the 12 metre yachts then used to contest the cup. Jock Sturrock and his crew trained aboard her whilst they awaited the completion of Australia’s first 12 metre yacht ‘Dame Pattie’ for the 1967 challenge against the American defender ‘Intrepid’. For a period Acrospire IV was used as a trial horse against Dame Pattie and the story goes that she defeated Dame Pattie in trials on at least one occasion. Peel also designed a number of cruising yachts and launches.

The major significance of the craft designed and built by Peel is that they carry many of the construction and layout features common to regional working craft, and are therefore genuine Australian derived racing craft. They were all sturdy and elegant, with fine proportions. Many craft either designed or built by Peel are still extant and now sought after for restoration. Some plans still exist but the major part of this documentation has been lost.

Peel died in 1947, but his son Charlie junior and then grandsons Wayne and Barrie have continued boat building in this tradition.

Acrospire lll. Her current history and specifications. History. Designed by Charlie Peel and built by Charlie Peel and Hayes Brothers in Sydney in 1923. Acrospire lll competed in The Sayonara Cup in 1928 against the 8 metre Norn. She also raced successfully for a decade in Port Phillip A class. LOD 50ft LOA 59ft Beam 8ft Draft 7ft Displacement. 8tons Rating 9mtrs. Rig. Pole masted Gaff Topsail Cutter Hull New Zealand Kauri. Deck Queensland Beech. Spars 8 section hollow aircraft grade Sitka Spruce.

Acrospire 111 has been completely restored to original condition over 2 years and re-launched in 1997.

Her restoration involved replacement of all ribs (west Australian Karri), keel floors (Iroko and Tasmanian Celery Top), deck beams (Celery Top), beam shelfs (Oregon), sheer planks (Kauri), garboards (Tasmanian Huon Pine), deck (Queensland Beech over epoxy covered 8mm ply), stern post (European Oak), king planks, gunwales,cabin, main hatch forward hatch (Eastern Mahogany) and a new rudder was fitted. Where appropriate replacements were increased from original to increase strength. All fastenings were replaced including new Keel bolts. The remaining main original structural timbers including the keel, deadwood, bilge stringers (45ft single piece fine grain Oregon), internal strongback (Iron Bark) and sub floors forward were as new.

Bronze straps were fitted from deck to keel to take the four shroud chainplates each side. Acrospire 111's hull has been fully splined and is not sheathed. The Mainmast,Boom, Gaff, Topsail Yard, Jackyard and Bowsprit were made using hollow Stave construction with 8 sections of tapered Aircraft grade Sitka Spruce. These spars are extremely light yet very strong.All spars and brightwork are finished in International Epivar Epoxy and are like brand new due to the recent refit. Standing rigging is hand spliced Dynex with soft eyes on spars and served lower ends around Aluminium Bronze thimbles. Rigging screws are Aluminium Bronze. Running rigging is Marlow Hardy Hemp and has just been replaced. All Blocks were made by Dragonfly with bronze bearings, Aluminium Bronze bindings and English Ash shells.

All hardware has been replaced with Aluminium Bronze including chainplates, rudder head, tiller fitting, gooseneck, gaff jaws and mainsheet horse to original patterns,.Tiller, spreaders and cleats are American white Ash. The new sail wardrobe is are by Doyle using taffeta/Taffeta Vectran Stratis membranes.Wardrobe consists of Mainsail, Jib, Staysail, Jackyard Topsail and Jib Top. All sails are in excellent condition. There is a new Mainsail cover and new all over cover from end of bowsprit to stern. Acrospire111 has been maintained to the highest standards and is reluctantly on the market for the owner to make way for the next project. This is a very fast, easily driven yacht especially in 0-15knots yet is extremely docile and light on the helm,a joy to sail. In the past she has been sailed in 20-30 knots and gybed in these conditions but the current owner prefers to sail these days in winds under 20 knots.

Acrospire lll is currently on the market, the asking price is AUS$200,000 which is considerably less than replacement cost.

Arcrospire V... and The William Fife letter. Classic Wooden Boat acknowledges the assistance of David Meik, Melbourne yachtsman and avid historian, for the provision of this letter from William Fife regarding the design and sailing optimisation of Joe White's Acrospire V, built by Charlie Peel in Brunswick in 1933-4. The contents of the letter are self explanatory and best read as sent by the famous British Yacht builder. This contribution greatly increases our historical data base on the life and achievements of Charlie Peel, Classic Wooden boat builder and designer.