Drought Breaks for Bill Whelpton and ‘Masumi’

So starts a story of the early days of Paynesville, our Club, some of its members and a profile on Bill. When ‘Masumi’ won the JK Lloyd long distance race on 22nd Dec 2002 it was 52 years since Bill won a trophy race at GLYC. The previous win was the GJ Coles Cup in 1950 with ‘Blue Mist’, an International Snipe Class boat he had purchased from her builder Eddie Williams. His crew of that year was the late Arthur Renowden who was to become a highly respected Life member.

The GJ Coles Cup was last sailed for in 1954 when the Company presented the GLYC with the Sam Turner Memorial Trophy, first raced for in 1955 and won by Terry Webster’s Payne Mortlock sailing canoe ‘Havoc’. Sam Turner was a post-war member from 1945 and manager of Coles Bairnsdale store. A popular man and a keen sailor Sam later lost his life in a store fire in Sydney. GJ Coles saw fit to perpetuate his name in our Club by donation of the trophy bearing it.

Now, let me go back to the late 1920’s or early 30’s. Jack Thomson, who was an engineer, brother of Jim and Ralph, who was our foundation president, returned from Hong Kong bringing with him two boats – the larger, a motor boat on the lakes for many years named ‘Aileen’, teak built, a lovely cabin boat and stowed inside her large cockpit was ‘Maru’ a fourteen foot long day sailor, gunter rigged, a joy to sail. Jack had bought land next door to Hamilton’s ‘Ilfracombe’ also boating people, who had Peter Tierney of the present slip yard site build them ‘Boomerang’. Don Wilson built ‘Lynton’ named after a place in England on the site. On the other side of ‘Ilfracombe’ was Joe Taylor’s farm which extended right along to Grandview Road.

Fred Whelpton, then inspector of schools, and Bill’s father, arrived in 1939, purchased the south west corner of Joe’s farm abutting Grandview Road and built the family home, later sold to Ron Dahlsen. Wanting a boat for Bill he purchased ‘Maru’ in 1942, promptly changing her Japanese name to ‘Gauntlet’, possibly for patriotic reasons. My friendship with Bill started at Bairnsdale Tech, where we represented the school in cricket, Bill as an opening batsman and myself as opening bowler.

Boxing day 1945 saw the Victory Regatta held at Paynesville with an estimated 3000 spectators lining the foreshore to view the events. All visitors paid to enter the town through a road block. Ticket sales gave an indication of population increase. Bill was on holidays. ‘Gauntlet’ had been in a submerged state for over a month. I asked Fred for the use of it Boxing Day. He agrees so the pump out and clean up took place.

Our first race was at 11 am. Handicap Sailing Race for all boats under 18′ with the best from Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville all ready to go. Using some knowledge that Dad had passed on before we lost him when I was nine, we got away at the start in drifting conditions and completed one lap of the course, plus 75 yards into the next before any one else started, winning the two lap race by one lap plus 50 yards. I was a pretty proud skinny freckle faced 14 year old that day along with Heather Turner and Geoff Stanway who crewed for me.

Bill completed his studies at Bairnsdale School of Mines, the Technical Senior School, in applied chemistry and metallurgy. He then worked as an industrial chemist at ICI Yarraville, lakes Oil Ltd, Rutile and Zircon mining at Tweed Heads, APM Maryvale and Broadford, McRobertsons Chocolates, later to become Cadbury before he retired. Bill found time to have two years working holiday in England.

Apart from sailing at GLYC and VJ’s at Southport prior to ‘Masumi’, he also crewed cruising the ocean around the south of England and Ireland with two retired servicemen who chose to own yachts instead of homes. Interesting people and great memories for Bill. His sailing life then went into recession until 1970. The Endeavour Association of Victoria was formed in 1969. Bill liked the boat and visiting Rolly Taskers Yacht Shop in 1970 purchased ‘Masumi’ where she was on display. ‘Masumi’ along with Bill and his crew members have an impressive record on Port Phillip, still recognized by that name among the old timers. Jeff Kennet never won them over when he added Bay. ‘Masumi’s’ impressive Port Phillip achievements included:

  • 3rd Australian Endeavour Championship 1984
  • EYAV State Champion 1984, 88, 95
  • EYAV Overall Series Champion 1976-77
  • The Frank Konkoly Endeavour 24 Brighton to Port Arlington Trophy 1976, 84, 87, 88,89.
  • The prestigious EO Digby Memorial Trophy RYVC 1979 from over 70 of the larger top keel boats (Ernie Digby just happens to be our Peter Morrison’s grandfather and his first tutor in boat building and sailing. Talk to Peter to find out more of this remarkable man who is a legend in Victorian racing.)
  • The Edwards Cup of RBYC from a combined fleet of the best keel boats on Port Phillip sailed over 30 miles
  • Three times winner of RBYC’s Malta Cup donated to the Club by the Governor of Malta.

Bill returned to Bairnsdale and ‘Masumi’ followed in September of 1998 and has been a regular competitor in Club events ever since. Fred Leverton, along with Heidi and John Zimmer first crewed for Bill. Fred’s still there and has sailed with Jo Leamon, Freya Branwell, Geoff Leamon and Peter Fry since, the latter two being the existing crew with Bill and Fred.

Bill’s father Fred purchased ‘Boomerang’ from the Hamiltons in 1944 and turned her into a motor cruiser. He donated the mast to GLYC where it stands as our flagpole. Her boom stands outside St Peters by the Lake as their flagpole. ‘Aileen’ was sold to Jerry Hislop, then manager of Melbourne’s Mutual Store, who used Paynesville as his holiday destination.

Bill’s other crew, Alby Kyle from the late forties, along with his wife Pauline has for years followed Club events from the foreshore. This year, with ageing eyes and 7 x 50 binoculars, it’s becoming difficult to see them on the other side of the Lake. Bring them back to a broken jetty start so that we can see you out there. Hope you have all had a good read. Well done Bill.

Written by Leigh Robinson. First published in the January 2003 issue of Wanderer