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JUST ONE on display in the Wharf 7 Maritime Heritage Centre

Manly Junior Class

1959 - 2009

The Manly Junior Class turned 50 years old in 2009. The story of the this important training class and the latest news on racing and developments can be found on the class website : The following short history is based on their website information and other details from further research.

In mid 1959, members of the Manly 14’ Sailing Club noted a decline in membership. Their founding sailors were mostly in their 20’s, married and starting families. To counter this they decided to introduce a junior class that would attract new and younger members and progressively rebuild the club. The cat rigged Sabots and Pelican trainer classes were not considered an effective introduction to the light, fast 14 footers with their jibs and spinnakers, so in the winter of 1959 club member Ralph Tobias designed a craft with main, jib and spinnaker.

Once started it took Tobias only three weeks before the prototype Manly Junior was launched, and showed off its sailing characteristics with great success. Seacraft magazine first reported the craft in its November issue, calling it the Manly Midget. It is not reported when the name Manly Junior was finally adopted, but it was probably quite early in the class history.

One of the key issues in the design was storage. The 14’s took up the rack space so they concluded that the largest number of boats could be kept in the shed if they were stored vertically. The length of the new boat was determined by the ceiling height just over 2.59 metres (8’6"). To give the young sailors a boat with potential to plane and have the volume to support a crew of two, Tobias decided on a snub bow. Other criteria were that the boat should be able to be built by a handyman, and be low cost. Well known local sailmaker Laurie Mitchell developed a kit including sails, ropes, rigging and fittings. The price was 40 Pounds. A local timber yard provided a kit with all the timber parts cut to a pattern, this also cost 40 Pounds.

The original MJ layout had a buoyancy tank in the bow and another aft under a seat. The objective was to ensure crew safety in the event of a capsize, however this did not allow the boat to be righted, emptied of water, and then sail on. The jib rigging included a cord tie which could be released from the bow in the event of a capsize, releasing the rigging overboard. The crew would then sit in the swamped boat until rescued.

In 1967, this buoyancy was redesigned by removing the aft tank, installing a buoyancy compartment along each side and around the centreboard case. The first boat to the MK II design was named TRANSITION #1400. This boat won the NSW Championship in 1969. The MJ could now be righted after a capsize holding less water. The water could be drained out allowing the boat to continue sailing. They were now more or less self sufficient.

In the 1970s fibreglass construction became popular as many people could afford to use professional construction rather than build one themselves. The fibreglass boats were identical to the wooden ones, which were still built by the amateur parents.

In 2000 a second major change was introduced on MJ number 2720, the false floor. Common with many other more modern dinghy designs a self-draining floor was installed into the boats. After a capsize water would drain out the transom quite quickly and the young crew could right the boat and be sailing comfortably again inside two minutes. It was a popular move, with over 32 boats being manufactured over 24 months. In 2005 a new hull mould was made that took out some of the bumps and curves that had developed in the original mould after over 20 years use. MJ 2757 was made up as the plug for this mould.

After its introduction at the 14 footer club the Manly Junior was adopted by other Sydney clubs, and then interstate clubs. State and national championships saw big fleets and strong support form parents, many of whom were keen sailors themselves. In many cases the crews were siblings, and it was usual for the older one to be skipper. Girls took to the class with the same enthusiasm as the boys.

To maintain the class as a one design, a simple set of class restrictions which determined the shape of the hull, centreboard, rudder, mast, and sails was adopted and the class rules were updated in June 2003. In 1972 attempts to ‘rule cheat’ were circumvented by the addition of a new rule which was included on the advice of naval architect Alan Payne (designer of the Americas’ Cup yachts GRETEL and GRETEL II).

'The Manly Junior class is intended to be a training class for learning to sail, and a racing class in which success will be achieved by the skills of the helmsman, and crew. It is not intended as a development class to encourage the building of a finely finished, lavishly equipped lightweight boats.

A builder who constructs a "Manly Junior" with the intention of producing a faster boat than the standard design is not following the objectives of the Manly Junior Sailing Association of Australia.

The race committee at any race conducted by the Association may reject the entry of a boat which, in their opinion has not been constructed in accordance with objects of the Association. This rejection may even be made even though the boat complies with all existing requirements of the class.'

These rules and the constant policing of such have provided an excellent platform for young sailors are and some of them are amongst the best juniors in the world. MJ sailors have become International world and Olympic champions, and were there amongst the crew of AUSTRALIA II when the America's Cup was won in 1983.

In 2009 the class celebrated its 50th anniversary, and can see many years of sailing ahead.

Reference: Manly Junior Association website