Search the Register
Advanced Search
A Charlie Peel designed Jubilee class yacht  on Sydney Harbour in the late 1930s.

Charlie Peel

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. 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.

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.

Simon Sadubin, Sydney shipwright, has collected documentation on Peel and his boats.
Bert Ferris has written a short biography circulated privately in Victoria.