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COSI FAN TUTTE, NS 2154 on display in 2009

Northbridge Senior Class

The Northbridge Senior class also known as the NS 14 was created in the early 1960s at the Northbridge Sailing Club in Sydney, NSW. It is a development class sailed by two crew, with a number of limitations to the hull and rig dimensions. The principle design concept came from pilot Frank Bethwaite who was later well known as a sailing weather consultant, and designer of small planing dinghies. He was member of the support team for a number of Olympic campaigns as a meteorologist in the 1970s. The class has grown from club to national status and in 2001 remains one of the few Australian created sailing classes popular throughout the country, with a strong membership and continued design development. The class has been pioneered new hull shapes, but is best known for adopting the over-rotating airfoil shaped mast and refining this to a high standard.

The Northbridge Senior began around 1960/61 as a simple idea to create a contemporary, fast sailing dinghy. New Zealand pilot, scientist and CSIRO meteorologist Frank Bethwate had come to Australia in the late 1950s and settled in Northbridge on the upper reaches of Sydney's Middle Harbour. He brought with him his own NZ designed Cherub class 12 footer, a high performance planing dinghy designed by ex pat Australian John Spencer.

Bethwaite sailed the Cherub with his wife in the mixed fleet Senior Dinghy group at the Northbirdge Sailing Club, but did not use the boat's trapeze or spinnaker that were normally associated with the Cherub. Even so, it had startling performance against the other craft due to its light weight and more modern, planing hull shape. This caused considerable interest amongst members who realised that no class existed to match the qualities of the boat in this arrangement. Eight club members formed a syndicate to build a new boat that met the following requirements :it could be handled by two adults of ordinary strength both in the water and out, sailed comforatbly without trapezes, as fast as possible consistent with reasonable stability, and carry no spinnaker.

Two boats were built, based on a hull that was essentially a Cherub stretched out to 14 feet long. They gave it 100sq feet of sail area over the main and jib, on an 18 foot long mast. Members trialled both craft extensively in 1961, and by October it was reported that up to eleven more craft were in various stages of construction. This was an enourmous vote of confidnece in the concept, and gave the class a solid foundation leading into 1962, all after just one season of sailing. The rules agreed to were quite simple, 14 feet long, maximum beam 6 feet, and 4 ft 1in minimum beam at the waterline, 140lb minimum hull weight and 100 sq feet maximum sail area, two crew, no trapezes.

By the middle of 1964 there were 50 Northbridge Seniors racing at nine different clubs in NSW, and a state association was formed in June 1965, with an ACT division formed soon after. By the end of the 1960s there were fleets established in each state. In the 1970s the national series became very popular regardless of whaer it was held, the family nature of the crews and the ability to tow or even cartop the boat made ti relatvely easy to transport and turn the event into part of the annual summer holiday experience.

Hull shapes quickly became more advanced as different designers followed thier ideas and eveolved a something new each year. Moulds were made for some of the most succesful designs, and sailmakers competed to produce the best suit of sails.

The class has spread outside of Australia and there are small fleets in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA. In 2011 it remains a very popular and well supported class through out Australia with a strong association.