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Clinker Coxed Four Rowing Shell

Vessel Number: HV000536
Vessel Dimensions: 11.62 m x 0.71 m (38.13 ft x 2.33 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
The Clinker Coxed Four Rowing Shell came from Caulfield Grammar School and the Bairnsdale Rowing Club in Victoria, and it was acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum in 1988. Details of its builder and early background remained unknown at the time of acquisition, but hallmarks in the construction and detailing have since confirmed it was built by George Towns and Sons in Sydney. It has been identified as matching the pre-World War II requirements for a Victorian Regulation Training Four. The hull and fit out are all in very good condition, and it has a new set of outriggers built to replicate those used in the 1940s and 50s.
DescriptionThe lapstrake construction of the Clinker Coxed Four Rowing Shell is a heavier and more robust form of construction than the thin cedar veneer planking used on Australian built wooden competition shells. This heavier construction, along with the moderate beam, indicates the likely use for this boat is training, and also fits with details of the Victorian Regulation Training Fours used in the 1920s -1930s. Their all-purpose design was used for training by men, women and children rowers in Victoria until the beginning of World War II. However the shortage of boats, labour and materials immediately after the war kept clinker boats in use in many clubs well into the 1960s. It was rowed by a crew of four on sweep oars and steered by a coxswain.

George Towns and Sons in Sydney NSW had a number of signature features which appear on this boat and confirm it was built by them. The most notable of these are the ornate stretcher plate ends and the double scribed lines on the edge of timbers. Their style of brass bracing rods also appear onthis and many other Towns boats. The hull is 11.62 m long and is planked with an imported hard wood timber which has been identified as either Borneo cedar or meranti, and the planking has some patch repairs made using an unidentified timber. The fore deck and aft deck are covered with a thin veneer of cedar ply. The boat is finished with a clear oil based varnish. The cox seat and sliding seats are made of cedar, and are fitted with brass rollers that slide along brass rod. The foot stretchers are made of spruce and pine, and are fitted with leather foot straps and steel buckles. The seats and foot stretchers are supported by a wooden frame that is reinforced with brass rods. Steering is enabled by two hemp rope cables attached to the plywood rudder's yoke and lead forward to the coxswain’s seat. The outriggers that came with the shell have been replaced by ones made by the museum.

According to Tom Hoffman from the Bairnsdale Rowing Club the planking is Borneo cedar, and this would indicate it was made pre 1939 when that material was available. However the alternate identification of meranti suggests post 1945 construction, so it remains unclear just how old the craft might be.

Bairnsdale Rowing Club was founded in 1873 on the Mitchell River in the Gippsland area of Victoria, where it held regular competitions. The club helped to produce many champion oarsmen and women. The club was closed in the 1960s until it reopened in 1987 and made an appeal for boats and oars from metropolitan rowing clubs. One of the donations to the club that came from Caulfield Grammar school was this clinker shell. It was not used by the club, and shortly after they donated it to the Australian National Maritime Museum where it was taken into the National Maritime Collection as an example of an Australian-built training craft. It provides a strong contrast to the German-built coxless four that won a Gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games with the first Oarsome Foursome crew, AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMITTEE ( HV000103). In 2012 the two shells are currently on display together in the Watermarks Gallery of the museum.

Vessel Details
Current status:non-operational
Current status:on public display
Deck layout:decked with cockpit
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:clinkerglued lapstrakelapstrake
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:transom rudder

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