Tasmanian One Design yacht Vanity celebrates 100th birthday

Vanity racing in the early 1900s on the Derwent
Rob Cruse
The Tasmanian One Design yacht Vanity which was built in Hobart in 1911 celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday, 2nd November 2011, joining the Sydney-based Weene in reaching a century, and still actively racing.

Vanity, which had been lovingly restored in Queensland by her current owner, now Hobart-based Robert Virtue, returned to Hobart late last year and was one of the significant attractions at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart last February.

For owner Virtue, a hydrogeologist with a passion for old wooden boats, this was the end of a five year restoration of Vanity, one of seven wooden Tasmanian One Design class yacht built in Tasmania between 1910 and 1912.

Remarkably, all are still afloat or under restoration. The first to be launched, Weene, raced in the Classic Yachts division of the 175th Australia Day Regatta on Sydney Harbour. Another ‘One Designer’, Canobie, has also been restored in Perth, WA.

The Tasmanian One Design class was based on plans published in the USA magazine The Rudder in 1910 for a ‘knockabout’ yacht designed by William Hand Jr.

Hobart naval architect Arthur Blore modified Hand’s design to suit local sailing conditions, and by 1910 had persuaded several prominent yachtsmen to build these identical boats, for the sum of about £200.

They became known simply as ‘One Designers’, and they went on to dominate racing on the River Derwent until the late 1920s.

Vanity was launched on November 3, 1911, for W F Darling, G S Crisp and Dr E J Ireland, who raced her successfully for several seasons, including three times placing second (to other One Designers, Pandora, Curlew and Weene) in the 89 nautical mile Bruny Island Race and winning the North v South Cup on the Tamar River at Launceston – after being taken there by train.

Several Tasmanian One Designers were lengthened in the 1930s to make them more competitive against the new and larger A class yachts racing in Hobart.

Vanity was extended from 32ft 8in (9.96m) to 40ft (12.0m) under the direction of naval architect Arthur Blore and continued racing with success, including winning the RYCT’s Dewar Shield Challenge four times in the 1930s. She was still racing on the Derwent in the 1970s.

Sold to a Sydney owner in the early 1980s, Vanity fell into disrepair and when Virtue bought her on E-bay in 2005 'for the price of the lead in her keel', she was 'held together by the algae in the water at Pittwater' and headed for the tip.

Virtue then set about a five year restoration program in Brisbane, aimed at bringing her back home to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in Hobart.

'The Huon pine planking of the hull was still good, but the deck, the deck beams and ribs in the hull had just about disintegrated,' Virtue said.. 'Her original gaff rig had gone, too.'

The Tasmanian One Designer Vanity has been re-born as a magnificent looking gaff-rigged cutter, sailing and social racing again on Hobart’s River Derwent where she since she first ‘took the water’ a century ago.

Owner and skipper Rob Virtue and son Liam with two past crew members of the early 1950s
Rob Cruse