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Cec Quilkey

Cec Quilkey was born in 1936 and lived in Camperdown Sydney. He left school after World War II and became an apprentice shipwright at Lars Halvorsen Sons, where his uncle who also called Cec Quilkey worked. He spent a year at the Halvorsen’s Neutral Bay yard then finished his last four years as an apprentice at their Ryde shed.

Once he was a qualified tradesman he went to work for himself in the mid-1950s, operating out of his backyard in San Souci and building small craft. He organised a set of templates from Europe for the new Olympic Flying Dutchman class dinghy, and quickly built a reputation for first class construction of these craft in the late 1950s.

Quilkey then leased a property at another site in Sans Souci building speedboats and Moth class dinghies amongst other craft. His reputation and ability with timber cold-moulded construction attracted Ted Kaufmann who wanted a moulded timber lightweight ocean racing yacht. Designed largely by Bob Miller ( later Ben Lexcen) this yacht MERCEDES III became the champion Australian ocean racer and top individual yacht at the 1967 Admirals Cup series, won by the Australian team which included MERCEDES III. It was triumph of construction, surviving an accident on the way to being launched when it fell from the truck, and had to have part of the hull repaired. Quilkey’s work made it appear the accident had never happened, and the yacht’s strength was never affected.

Quilkey built a number of other champion racing yachts such as KOOMOOLOO, RAGAMUFFIN, SALACIA II and LOVE AND WAR. All were wooden craft and built to the highest standards, impressing the renowned US designer Olin Stephens when he paid a visit to see one of his designs being built.

Modern Boating in June 1968 reported: “Boatbuilder Cec Quilkey is rushing to finish two Admiral’s Cup triallists in time for the Montague Island race in September. Interior work is well advanced on Dennis O’Neil's 41ft Koomooloo …. but the 50-footer Ragamuffin, being built for Syd Fischer, was only recently turned over.”

They were finished in time, and both were selected for the Admirals Cup team, along with MERCEDES III, giving Quilkey a rare and probably unique honour of having built all three craft representing a country in any of the Admiral’s Cup regattas held.

KOOMOOLOO earned this accolade from Modern Boating's reporter Bob Ross in October 1968: " Koomooloo, built with love by Cec and Bob Quilkey of Taren Point for Dennis O'Neil, is the most beautiful-looking ocean-racing yacht I have ever seen, with her varnished Honduras mahogany topsides, kingplank, and coachhouse, and laid beech decks."

Quilkey also built SMOKEY CAPE, a small Len Randell designed yawl for marine artist Jack Earl, and then repaired Jack’s former yacht the Alan Payne designed Tasman Seabird MARIS after it had been damaged when washed ashore at Coffs Harbour. One of his last yachts that he built was the John Ward design RAETARA.

In the late 1970s he was part of the team that supported Ken Warby’s successful World Water Speed record on Blowering Dam NSW with Warby’s jet powered three-point hydroplane SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA.

In 1987 he entered into an arrangement to help set up a yacht building project in China. Months of work were put into planning and preparation, but it was ultimately abandoned without anything being built when China closed its doors to the west for a period after the Tiananmen Square incident in June 1989.

After the disappointment of that failed project he returned to Australian and rather than build any further new craft carried on his business with repair work before retiring. In 2012 Cec Quilkey keeps some work in hand through maintaining a couple of large cruisers in the Georges River area, where he is a senior member and official with the St George Motor Yacht Club.