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Alf Figgis, JH Whereat and Norman Wright at the 1930 Forster Cup.

JH Whereat

Two generations of the Whereat family managed one of the most successful boatbuilding yards in Brisbane Queensland, operating from the late 19th century through to the late 1930s. As well as many champion racing craft, they built fine motor vessels and other vessels. Amongst the many skilled tradesmen who worked with the firm was Norman Wright (snr) who set up his own firm, and carried on the same traditions he had learnt from Whereats.

The Whereat family emigrated from England, leaving their home in the town of Frome, Somerset in May 1873, travelling first to London by train, then by ship to Australia, before disembarking and settling in Brisbane. John Whereat (senior) died ten years later in 1883. One of his sons, John Hawkins (JH) Whereat, established a boat-building firm at Bulimba, on the Brisbane River. His son AJ 'Toby' Whereat worked with him in the same business.

John Hawkins Whereat died in 1938, and the business was then closed. An obituary noted:

“Mr. Whereat was always a keen yachtsman, and was the owner of several famous boats in the eighties and nineties of the last century, including the Vendetta and the Bulletin. With the progress of the 16-foot open skiff Mr. Whereat was a prominent contestant and winner. He was the builder and his son, the late Mr. Alf Whereat, the skipper of the boat which gained for Queensland the inter-State 16ft. skiff championship."

Toby Whereat had died earlier in 1932 from pneumonia, he had been Commodore of the Brisbane Sailing Club, and had built four Australian Champion 16 footers called AJAX, as well as the first Australian Champion 12-Foot Skiff, DEFIANCE.

The Whereats were designers and builders of many of their craft, including the 21 Foot Restricted class boats CARESS I and II, MISS AJAX, MISS BRISBANE, MAROOMBA ( designed by Brier), MOONGALBA, GWLYAN and DOLPHIN. GWYLAN was the only Queensland 21 to win the prestigious interstate series for the Forster Cup trophy. A feature of many Queensland boats and probably the Whereat designs in particular was that many used a drooping bow profile, where the 3 feet of stem overhang was lowered to run close and nearly parallel to the measured waterline. Once the crew and gear came aboard the yacht it trimmed down and had a much longer effective waterline.

Their seven foot beam, 18-foot skiff ABERDARE caused a rift in the class in the 1930s, one of many upsets created by Queensland craft, when it easily won against the wider and more traditional NSW boats. It was nick-named ‘The Galloping Ghost' for the way it had speed past the NSW craft. It was that dramatic that it caused a new club to be formed in NSW, the NSW 18 Footers' Sailing League, made up by those opposed to the 7 foot beam designs.

The Whereat 16-footers included the AJAX series, CLAR MELV, CM, VICTOR I to III, MEMORY, VERONICA and ACE. CALR MELV, named after Tony's children Clarice and Melville, was sailed by Toby to victory in an Australian Championship series.

JH Whereat had designed and built champion 22s and 24 footers in the late 1880s, along with the 18s VERA, OU-LA-LAH II, DEFIANCE and KIWI. He introduced the dagger board fin to Australian centreboard yachts with trials on the 18-foot skiff VERA. In t1880s he designed and built three vessels to navigate the Oxley Creek to the south of the Brisbane River. COWSLIP, REX and ECLIPSE were squat, shallow craft , 13 metres long and built to service the Foggitt Jones wharf, carrying their produce- Rex ham and bacon, Eclipse cheeses and Cowslip butter- from the creek to Brisbane.

One of the surviving Whereat built boats is the Morton Bay cruiser ARDATH, built for Robert ( Bobby) Dath, a timber merchant from Newstead. He came to Bulimba when he bought the Whereat yard in 1939, and lived aboard ARDATH until his death in 1966.

The Whereat 12 foot skiff DEFIANCE has a wonderful story. In the mid-1920s the NSW 12-Foot Skiff association had challenged the Brisbane sailors to a race in 12-foot skiffs, but there was no specific skiff in Brisbane at the time that was similar to the NSW boats, which had been developing as a type for some years. The Whereats answered the challenge by cutting down a 14-foot skiff, with the modifications finished the day before the race. Toby then skippered the skiff called DEFIANCE to victory the next day, and the family still has the pennant it won.

In 1934 a memorial was made in honour of AJ Toby Whereat, located on the grounds of the Brisbane Sailing Club.