Our History

Researched and written by Rex Jarman

Botany Bay saw its first sailing event with the arrival of Lt. James Cook’s HMS Endeavour Bark in 1770 and Capt. Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet in January 1778.  Preferring Sydney Harbour for the new colony, Botany Bay was left undeveloped for some years but eventually a growing population expanded southward and sailing returned to the bay.

Capt. James Cook
Capt. James Cook
Reg Gardner
Reg Gardner
Established in 1964

The formation of Botany Bay Yacht Club created “headlines in many circles as a possible Olympic course for the future.”  By August 1964 the fleet had increased to 12 yachts and membership rose to 35.  By mid-1966 the fleet was up to 30 yachts and membership reached 100.  That sailing year saw BBYC join Yachting NSW as an associate member and the first Endeavour class yacht was launched, with ten in the water by July and six more under construction by founding member Reg Gardner.

A challenge between Reg Gardner’s Thunderbird and Alan Hearne’s Bluebird in late 1963 saw a few friends join in to expand the race ‘fleet’ to about 7 yachts.  The race inspired the idea of forming a club specifically for yachts and according to our oldest record, the first race took place on the 19 January 1964 with nine yachts entered.

With meetings and social activities held at St. George Sailing Club and nearby St. George Motor Boat Club, the Endeavour Boat Shed Wharf provided crews with access to boats.  It wasn't long, however, before BBYC turned its attention to a search for a home of its own.

What was a long drawn out process came to an end when Endeavour Boat Shed, 44 Endeavour Street, Sans Souci was purchased, around 23 February 1972. Botany Bay Yacht Club Ltd became incorporated at the same time to take ownership.  Thomas Palmer Pty Ltd sold the land consisting of a Boat Shed, caretaker’s premises and Chandlery to the club. The boatshed had been involved in boat building, repairs, boat sales and the hire of boats and equipment for almost a century before this sale.  Kogarah 10ft Sailing Club used it in the 1940s, small naval craft were refitted there during World War II, torpedo boats and the like were converted to pleasure craft during the 1950s and commercial work continued into the late 60’s with Ches Fiumini operating from the Boatshed from 1955 to 1967 building speedboats and cruisers and carrying out repairs and maintenance thereafter[1]. Doug Chalmers may have been building the Marauder 24s in the early 1970s.

By mid-1971 a DA was lodged to convert the Boat Shed to a Club and provide parking and a new façade. Strong opposition was received from residents at the time citing issues with parking, noise, riotous behaviour and blocking of driveways. They also opposed the granting of any licensed premises be it liquor or gaming machines. Whilst the land was zoned residential 2(a) it had pre-existing use for boat building.

The application was not approved but the Club continued to operate out of the premises as noted by a letter from the Council to the Club date 3 September 1973, which appears to rely on complaints from neighbours that the premises was being used several nights a week, drinking on unlicensed premises and monopolising use of the public wharf and park area. Council also required that the club improve the toilet facilities, and by 1974 approval was given to construct a new toilet block.

In 1976 some reclamation works were undertaken with complaints from a local resident requiring Council intervention and inspection. Council required Dept of Land approval be granted and the Club submitted a claim with the Crown solicitor to extend its permissive occupancy.

The club had installed a pontoon to the Endeavour Street wharf to enable boarding of vessels regardless of the tides.  In May 1977 BBYC was seeking funding or a co contribution from Council for the cost of a ramp from the wharf to the pontoon.

By mid-1978 plans were afoot to reduce the boat building factory area, extend the toilet facilities and retain the chandlery and caretaker’s residence. The Club at this stage had 185 members and 105 boat owners.   Plans were amended in 1979 to raise the hardstand area and seal it to provide for more on-site parking. Consent was refused, leading to further amendments in late 1981 and 1982 with consent again refused.

The Board through its representative, Roy Gilkes and architects persisted with amended plans and discussions with Aldermen. Approval was finally granted on 14 December 1982 after several amendments reducing the building size and agreeing to limit membership to 250 persons. Further conditions of approval were imposed by Council and its Health Department in May and June 1983.

By 1985, the club had demolished the old timber sheds and erected the current two storey brick building and had reclaimed (in co-operation with Kogarah Council) much of the old slipway and wharf area to form a hardstand area and separate public wharf.  The Club then installed its own wharf and pontoon.  Two slipways were retained: the large slip catering for vessels up to about 50 feet and the smaller slip handling those up to about 35 feet.  A 2½ tonne, rotating crane was installed to transfer smaller boats to cradles on the hardstand, which also had a work area for repairs.

[1] Trade a Boat Issue 426 Apr-May 2012 Reader’s Yarn – Remember when