The Carlton Draught surf boat was built in 1985 by Clymer Boats at Brookvale NSW for the Grange Surf Life Saving Club in Adelaide, South Australia and was the boat used in 1988 by the first and only crew from South Australia to ever win the National Surf Boat Championship Title. This was one of the most sought after and fiercly contested surf life saving titles. They won the event which included a series of heats, semi-finals and a final, all raced in challenging conditions including periods of dramatic waves that reflected the iconic nature of surf boat racing, a sport forever linked to Australian character. The crew included members of South Australia triple Kings Cup winning eight (TOYOTA HV000461) from earlier in the decade. Clymer Boats have remained involved with surf craft since the 1960s. It has a composite foam core and fibreglass skin hull with timber fitout and represents an interim construction phase between the original wooden boats and current completely fibreglass boats.
DescriptionThe Carlton Draught surf boat weighed approximately 205kgs and was 7.92 m long and 1.65m wide. It was constructed with Kevlar laminates around a foam core. The hull was then fitted out internally with mountain ash and imported western red cedar. The boat was also fitted with bilge pumps, driven by 12 volt motor-cycle batteries fitted under the No 3 seat. This was a more recent addition to the competition rules and had made a remarkable difference to surf rowing around that time as crews were now able to rely on mechanisation to empty water taken in as they negotiated waves at the break line onshore.
Grange SLSC was able to order the new boat following a successful request put to Carlton and United Brewery for sponsorship. The cost was approximately $10,000 and delivery was expected to take in the order of 4 months. CUB provided tee-shirts, visors and some product to the surf club as part of their sponsorship package. The latter was used for raising money to support the club’s efforts to transport the boat interstate for carnivals, seen as crucial for the campaign to win an elusive National Surf Boat Championship Title.
Grange SLSC took delivery in November 1985 and crews won the Open Men’s and Reserve Grade Boat Titles at the 1986 State Championships in the boat’s inaugural season of competition.
During 1986 new recruits from S.A.’s Kings Cup crew improved performances and another State Title in 1987 was added to the competition records as well as some much improved National Championship performances in March in WA, where the Open “A” crew competed in the semi-finals. During the Championships in WA the Grange crew decided to contest the George Bass Marathon, a long distance rowing event from Bateman’s Bay to Eden in NSW, conducted over seven days and 187kms in January 1988.
Competition for a seat in the top Grange crew for the 1987/88 season was strong and training intense in order to compete in the George Bass Marathon. In January 1988, the Grange crew competed against 29 other crews from all over Australia and NZ and were eventually placed 7th overall in the gruelling event. In early March, Grange crews were placed 1st and 2nd in the SA State Championship Open Men’s surfboat and then travelled to Sydney in mid-March feeling reasonably confident of their chances at national glory.
The National Championships were conducted at Cronulla Beach in NSW in 1988, Australia’s Bicentennial year. The early heats of the Interclub competition between 106 other Open Men’s crews were conducted in 1.5m surf over two days. The Grange crew members were: Sweep: Gilbert Barton, Stroke: Wayne Thompson, 2nd Stroke: Chester MacDonald, 2nd Bow: Mike Neilsen and Bow: Bill Gaynor. Coming from the Adeliade coastline they did not have the ocean swell and wave background and experience that was common amongst other state crews, but it did not handicap them and they dominated early heats, but the semi–final was to be their moment of truth.
Conditions had become worse, and leaving the beach at the start they were hit by a dumping wave and took in a huge amount of water, relegating them to last position when they need 3rd or better to advance to the final. Not ready to concede defeat, the crew continued to row out towards the turning buoys as the bilge pumps slowly emptied the boat. Opposition crews were some 8-10 lengths ahead of Grange as they approached the wave zone on the return leg. Grange had turned their buoy last but heading back to shore their sweep could see drama unfolding ahead. The other crews were in huge difficulties in the waves, broaching across the heavy swells and losing control. Counting the cost ahead as the boats capsized in succesion, the sweep Gil Barton yelled, ‘we are third…’ then soon after- ‘ back it off boys, we are now winning, all crews have wiped out!’ Grange backed over the crest of an exceptionally large wave, choosing the next smaller one to catch. They held on, riding it to shore and first place while the other crews continued to struggle and manoeuvre their swamped boats over the finish line. This was classic surfboat racing in demanding and dangerous conditions where the race was never truly won until the line was crossed, and everyone was in with a chance.
In the final, Grange successfully negotiated a steep dumping wave at the start to row strongly to the lead, holding the position throughout and finishing a wave ahead of the next crew to record South Australia’s historic first win, by a substantial margin of 13 seconds. Grange was the only non-NSW crew in the final at Cronulla during that eventful Sunday afternoon and it was the first time in surf life saving history that a surfboat crew from South Australia had won a National Surfboat Rowing Title. No other SA crew has managed to row in a National Open Boat Final since that year.
Despite their win they were overlooked by selectors for the Trans-Tasman Test Series. Later in January the Grange crew convincingly won the Sun 60 Surf Boat Title in Queensland from 65 other open men’s crews from Victoria, NSW, Qld and Tasmania, another first from a SA crew.
The 1989 SA State Title was again won by Grange –it’s 6th in a row during a succession of 10 titles it was to win from 1983 to 1992, setting an Australian record. The same Grange crew again rowed in the Carlton Draught surf boat at the National Championships in Queensland in March 1989. They qualified for the final and were the only crew from the previous year's final to again appear in the 1989 final. The racing had been held in atrocious conditions and Grange was leading the final with just 100m to the finish line. However this time it was the other crews coming in from behind who caught the best waves, and Grange were passed finishing fifth overall.
The Carlton Draught boat was soon out dated for competition by newer craft adopting modern materials and fit out, however the club continued to use the Carlton Draught boat for many years afterwards until it was decommissioned in 1995, then restored and donated to the SA Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide.
Current status:inside building
Current status:not on display
Deck material and construction:synthetic core/fibreglass
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:sweep oar
Hull material and construction:synthetic core/fibreglass
Hull shape:round bottom