- Written by FFIWA_webmaster
- Published: 15 Feb 2021
Clarrie Tilbrook who passed away on 20 January 2012 at the age of 91 was an enthusiastic member of the Freshie Flying 15 fleet during the 1980/90’s, a period of significant change and re development of the Flying 15 hull, keel and rig, of which Clarrie was at the forefront. He was also a significant contributor to the class as a member of the FFI WA Committee and as a Class Measurer.
Clarrie was a well respected educator, innovator. driver of change in many fields of his work and interests.
In 1979, after the 1st Flying15 Worlds in Perth, Clarrie decided he would take up sailing having never sailed before, bought a second hand Shand FF15 and joined the Freshie fleet.
Around this time Roy Windebank in the UK had begun experimenting with the FF15 hull shape utilizing the broad measurement tolerances existing at the time to significantly improve the shape and speed of the boat through the water compared to the conservative hull shapes offered by the then boatbuilders .
Clarrie quickly realized if he was going to be competitive he needed a new boat so he decided to build his own.
Being aware of the developments occurring in the UK considerable thought and research went into this project to the extent he forwarded a full set of Flying 15 plans to renown boat designer Ben Lexcen (Bob Millar) of the winged keel fame, who was at the time deeply involved with the development and design of the America’s Cup Challenger Australia II, asking him to give some comments on the FF15 design and recommendations on how to improve the boats performance.
Ben subsequently returned the plans marked up with his suggestions along with a long letter of explanation. His lines indicated a significant flattening of the hull’s hog, increasing the water-line length, broadening the beam aft and fining down the bow all within the tolerances of the day. On the keel shape he suggested maximizing the lateral profile but not to alter its shape as “it is better than you think”.
Clarrie set about building his new FF15 to these recommendations introducing many innovations for the time:- a fibre glass foam sandwich lay-up, substantial use of exotic Kevlar, fully enclosed cockpit with side tanks, braced forward bulkhead design, many unique homemade fittings, unique rigging ideas.
All this on a sensible low (small mag wheels) trailer with a decent big jockey wheel that meant getting into the boat and pushing it on the hard easy.
Clarrie also designed a mast jack system for applying and adjusting the rig tension, but much to his chagrin this was rejected by the then measurer (Tony Wood).
Other innovations at the time were the introduction of the first hobbles to the fleet, a 2 to 1 spinnaker hoisting system where you threw the tail of the hoisting line overboard downwind to prevent tangling, 2 to 1 end of boom sheeting, and the ultimate in sun protection sailing gear – a full white boiler suit!
Clarrie’s Flying15 “Super Fox” KA2829 was a rocket ship by comparison to the local boats available at the time and still is very fast. Checks of its measurement form indicate the hull measurements are all most the same as the current day preferred Ovington hulls.
Clarrie, often with his son Rohan as crew, competed with great success in “Super Fox” including many sorties over East to World and National championships, local State Championships, and regularly for many years in club racing.
A not to be missed feature of Clarrie’s father and son relationship could sometimes be witnessed when at a top or gybe mark rounding which was not going too well, the language emanating from the boat from both of them was enough to blister the ears of a bikie! However, later in the bar all was convivial and the humorist character of them both was to be enjoyed.
Clarrie was very proud of his Flying15 “Super Fox” and could never bring himself to part with it, even in later life after two hip replacements.