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Cadets on Sydney Harbour, probably in the early 1920s, a classic William Hall photograph, with his pennant in the foreground. The sail numbers correspond to the following names: D4 AJAX, D5 PETREL and D17 R.A.N.D

Australian 12' Cadet Dinghy Class

1922 - 2007

The Australian 12' Cadet Dinghy Class is a training class developed in Australia in the early 1920s. It has three crew, and is rigged with a mainsail, jib and spinnaker. It is 12 foot (3.657 m) long, 5ft (1.53m) wide and weighs 225 pounds (102 kgs).


The Australian 12' Cadet Dinghy Class is Australia's oldest sailing class involved in interstate competition.
It is one of the oldest one design classes created in Australia.
It was created to encourage youths to enter sailing after World War One when there was a serious reduction in the numbers of men involved in yachting
It has close associations with the 21 Foot Restricted Class, created around the same time with similar motives and encouragement from clubs.
The Stonehaven Cup is the longest running trophy to be contested by the same class in Australia.
The Stonehaven Cup shares many connections with The Forster Cup for the 21 Foot Restricted Class, which was also donated by a Governor-General and intended to encourage a class and sailing in general.


The origins of the Australian 12' Cadet Dinghy Class lie in the period following the end of the First World War, and have close connections to the 21 Foot Restricted Class. This had become established as a national class during 1921 and showed its potential early 1922 with the first interstate series for The Forster Cup. The winner of this series was James Alderton's 21 called GUMLEAF, a yacht he had designed himself. Along with other prominent sailors Alderton had supported the class because it was recognized that there was a need to encourage yachting with new ideas, to bring newcomers into the sport and give broad racing experience to everyone.

The 21's became a success in a short period, but Alderton still felt that the same approach should be applied to encourage youth sailing. He had in mind juniors, including the sons and relations of club members and felt that dingy sailing was the best option, because the 21's were only suited to adults.

He drew a draft set of plans for a 12 foot long, lug-rigged, clinker dinghy for three crew, inspired by the European International 14 foot class. At the June 22nd 1922 meeting of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club he presented his plans and members responded with enthusiasm establishing a sub-committee to implement the scheme. In August 1922 eight club members agreed to support the class, and in October an order for eight of the dinghies was placed with the boatbuilding firm Stewart Sandeman at Careening Cove Sydney, while the club moved to create an Associate Membership category for 10 to 19 year old boys.

Australian Coal, Shipping, Steel and the Harbour, September 1 1922 carried an initial report of this in their regular Yachting Notes pages.

A scheme of considerable importance to yachtsmen was expounded by Mr. Jas. Alderton, owner of the Australian Champion Gumleaf, at the prize-giving dinner of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. For some time he has been thinking over the advantages of an inexpensive dingy for class racing, as a means of getting the younger enthusiasts on to the water, thus assuring the supply of recruits to the ranks of yachtsmen. He went thoroughly into the scheme, even getting out a design. To members of the R.P.A.Y.C. Mr. Alderton said “What have the clubs done towards getting the youngsters interested in the sport?" There was no answer. The scheme is for each yacht club to adopt the design and help the juniors to get the dinghies, or get them and allot them to sons of members, or members nominees. The design got out by Mr. Alderton shows that the dinghies will be 12 ft long, 5 ft beam and have a sail area of 100 sq feet. In order that every one who may sail in them shall have an equal chance, he suggests that the dinghies shall be of one-design and sail plan, and shall be identical in every way. The scheme was received with enthusiasm by the members, and soon eight boats had been promised towards the class.'

The class debut was the Anniversary Regatta on the 26th of January 1923. The fleet of craft all had the names of the owners' keel yachts such as SAYONARA, RAWHITI and EUN-NA-MARA II, beginning the longstanding tradition of the dinghies being sailed by youngsters but funded by a club's yacht owners. The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and Sydney Amateur Sailing Club all took notice and by the next season had established their own club fleets along similar lines.

Later that year during a visit to Hobart by a NSW committee member the class was brought to the attention of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. They took to the idea immediately and created a small fleet, then hosted the first Interstate Cup on the Derwent River in March 1924. It ended in a tie between representatives from both states.

During 1924 naval architect AC Barber was commissioned to modify the design with a few small changes and to prepare a full set of plans to be made available for professional and amateur builders. The second interstate series was then held in Port Adelaide South Australia, the next state to take up the class.

One of the classes most significant moments occurred in March 1927 when Lord Stonehaven, the Governor-General of Australia donated to the class a perpetual cup for interstate competition, called the Stonehaven Cup. In this way he emulated Lord Forsters' trophy for the 21 Foot Restricted Class, The Forster Cup. Lord Stonehaven was driven by similar ideals in his desire to promote yachting amongst juniors throughout the nation. For a number of seasons both classes and their national trophies were raced for in the same state at a similar time. Lady Stonehaven also donated a series of cups for state competition to encourage the class within the states; they were each called the Lady Stonehaven Cup.

Over the winter of 1927 Victoria established a fleet at Royal Brighton Yacht Club. They had three Cadets built for them in Hobart, and over the years this club became one of the stalwart class supporters.

Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron followed in 1928, and when Royal Perth Yacht Club took on Cadets in 1930 finally all states had a fleet. The spread was further enhanced by more clubs within each state taking on the class as a trainer. In fact interest was widespread amongst sailors as shown by this query in published 1 January 1929 issue of the Australian Motor Boat and Yachting Monthly.

'J.B. (Maryborough Queensland) writes: In the January 1928 issue of the Australian Motor Boat and Yachting Monthly there was an article on the one-design Cadet dinghies. Could you please advise me on where I could obtain working plans and specifications of these dinghies, and at what cost? I would like to have a go at building one of the above dinghies, and I think I could get several others to do the same, and in that way we might be able to star a club going here'.

Having achieved its objective the class then had to weather the Depression and competition from newer classes, in particular the simple plywood VJ during the 1930s. NSW temporarily dropped out of competition during this period.

No interstate sailing took place during World War II, but was revived soon after. In the post war years Queensland became the first state to drop out of the class when it was displaced by the locally designed Thorpe Trainers. This happened in Perth in the 1950s when the Len Randell designed Pelican class became favoured in WA as a trainer.

Numbers declined in the other states as well, and by the 1980s only Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania had active fleets. The situation remains the same in 2007, with the Stonehaven Cup becoming a competition between crews from those three states. It is still a strong series eagerly contested by young crews with enthusiastic support from parents and club members, many who had learnt to sail on Cadets in the class heyday.

There have been gradual changes to the boat over the years to accommodate some of the many developments in materials and rigs, but the essential character remains. After A.C. Barber's redraw of the plans, Mr. E Garrett revised some details in 1963. A spinnaker was added in 1948, the Bermudian rig was discussed in 1934, then trialed in the late 1960s but not taken up until 2002/2003. Fibreglass construction was phased in during the late 1970s and early 1980s, while new fittings, materials, layout details and sail designs were adopted at different times. One constant was that it remained a three person boat and allowed crew members to progress from bow to stern gaining valuable and wide ranging experience before they moved on to other dinghies or yachts.

Australian Motorboat and Yachting Monthly carried a number of reports about the Cadets in the early days. The January 1928 issue featured two pages written by E.G.Ulm about the dinghy and included the plans, while the December 1927 and February 1928 issues featured an exchange of letters from a Tasmanian correspondent 'Skipper' and the class designer James Alderton, disputing details that arose after the first interstate series for the Stonehaven Cup. Theses series and other developments were reported in the newspapers and other yachting media. Another intriguing report from the March 10 1934 issue was a camping cruise by a young South Australian crew in their Cadet NAIAD complete with a canvas dodger as a foredeck shelter.

By 1986 it was estimated 300 cadets had been built around the nation and around 2,500 sailors had passed through the class. It has maintained an excellent safety record, a credit to sound design and strong event management at all times.

The roll call of famous names associated with the class shows an impressive heritage which current members are extremely proud of. The list includes America's Cup skippers Jock Sturrock and Sir James Hardy, along with champion national sailors such as Archie Robertson, The Wrights, Neal Batt, Eddis Boyes and Tony Manford. The first female crew to win the trophy was skippered by Iona Flockhart from SA in 2005. She won in a boat called MAGPIE, which was an almost 30 year old fibreglass hull that originally belonged to her father. He located the boat being used as a fishing dinghy at Port Lincoln in SA, and restored it to sailing condition for his daughter.

There are also the well known builders from some of the states such as Savage, Guiterrez, Muir, Forster, McFarlane, Binks, and Hudson. Amateur builders also contributed, with Sir James Hardy making two, the second one NOCTOO won with Fred Neill at the tiller in 1956.

As a training class it was clearly a success and this was noted early on, as illustrated by this excerpt from a report on the 21s and The Forster Cup series of February 1926 written in the Australian Motorboat and Yachting Monthly, March1 1926.

'Mr. Andreas, I understand, was the youngest helmsman taking part in the Interstate events, which goes to show how wise the officials of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club and Royal yacht Club of Tasmania were when they decided to introduce the 12ft Dinghy class as a training ground for the rising generation.'

In 2007 the class still provides an excellent training ground, with the addition of a strong Australian heritage developed over almost 90 years of continuous racing.