Mercedes is one of the oldest wooden gaff-rigged boats that has been sailed almost continuously since her construction in 1913.
She was designed by Frank Brigatti in Perth, Western Australia. Frank commenced her build but shortly after, he sold her in April 1913 to Roy Murray and Horace Rumble who completed the build nine months later at the Murray’s house in South Perth.
Custodian: Roy Murray and Horace Rumble; 1913 – 1997
Mercedes was named on 3rd May 1913 and launched on the 15th November 1913 at South Perth. Her first sail was on 30th November 1913. Less than a month later, on 13th December 1913, Horace met his future wife, who was a work colleague of Roy Murray’s, on board Mercedes.
The first reported race in which Mercedes competed was held at the Nedlands Flying Squadron Yacht Club in January 1914. She came 3rd and won £1 prize money. She then went on to win the Governor’s Cup, an annual event conducted at the Royal Perth Yacht Club in 1962, 1968, 1990, 1991 and Division 5.
Unlike the Victorian Couta Boat then emerging, Mercedes was rigged for racing, sporting a boom that overhung the transom by a considerable length and a top sail flown from its own staff extending above the mast and specific foresails used on a run downwind that were flown from the stem rather than the jibboom and held out with a whisker pole longer than the boom, reminiscent of the early 18 ft skiffs.
In October 1916, Horace Rumble and Roy Murray went to France for the Great War, World War I. Horace was wounded in action, losing most of his right hand and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He returned to Perth in January 1919. However, Roy never returned. Vale Roy.
On his return to Perth, Horace resumed sailing Mercedes. A normal crew included: Cecil Abbott, Owen Atkinson barman, Ray Axon early barman, Les Clements, Vic Fall main sheet, Richard Gardner, Jack Gorgan, Dick Lovegrove main sheet, Bill McGillivray, Charlie Spencer, Bob Rumble, Peter Rumble, Rod Tyler, and Keith Whitehouse,. There were generally six to eight crew onboard.
Owen ‘Ackie’ Atkinson was the longest standing onboard barman – a position that is still very important on Mercedes and is now referred to as the OICD (Officer In Charge of Drinks). Horace Rumble owned and sailed Mercedes until 1977.
Custodian: Roger Liggins;1997 – 1988
Roger Liggins bought Mercedes from Horace in 1977 and owned her until 1988. During the time Roger owned Mercedes, he put a fibreglass skin on her hull and deck, and some steel framing to keep her sailing.
Custodian: Patrick Bailey, Peter Long and Keith Williamson;1988 – Late 1989
Patrick Bailey, Peter Long and Keith Williamson brought Mercedes in a partnership from Roger in 1988. Peter passed away soon after and Keith brought Patrick’s share. Vale Peter.
On 1st December 1989, Horace passed away. That same day, Mercedes was found sunk in her pen. Vale Horace.
Custodian: Keith Williamson;1989 – 2006
In June 1995, the Williamson Family took Mercedes to the Wooden Boat Shop in Sorrento, Victoria, to have her restored.
Keith and his son Kane worked on the restoration for four months and together they replaced all 95 ribs. The original Jarrah ribs have been replaced with Celery Top Pine because the Pine is more flexible and less prone to rot.
The original Jarrah keelson has been replaced with Greybox Gum because of its resistance to worm. Most of the planking has remained original. The sections needing replacement were done with the original timber used – New Zealand Karri. The Garboard and Sister Garboard were replaced with Huon Pine due to a lack of available, correctly sized New Zealand Kauri. The original deck was a laid deck with canvas stretch over the top to waterproof it. This was later replaced with plywood and fibreglass. During the restoration, the deck was returned to a laid deck made of Queensland Beech.
Mercedes has returned to her post war sail plan with a 20 foot boom length. Her mast and gaff are original. The mast is, however, shorter than when it was first erected, due to an accident Horace had with the Fremantle traffic bridge on a return trip from Rottnest Island. The complete restoration of Mercedes took 12 months and over 5,000 hours. She was re-launched at Royal Perth Yacht Club in Western Australia on 27th September 1996 and is still sailing today.
Upon the ill health of Keith Williamson in 2006, Kane and Keith decided to make Mercedes easier and safer to use and installed an inboard diesel engine. The engine installation was Keith’s project but he died in August 2006 before he could complete it. Royal Perth Yacht Club member and shipwright, Rohan Chic, completed the installation. Vale Keith.
Custodian: Kane Williamson; 2006 – Present
Today, Mercedes can be seen most Thursday nights sailing on the Swan River from her pen at Royal Perth. These days her regular crew are Robert Boykett bowman, Graham Cunningham bowman, Ben Durham OICD, Andy Fethers OICD, Peter Ligovich OICD, Murray Barwick DOD and Kane Williamson skipper.
On 15th November 2013, Mercedes celebrated her 100th birthday and continues as the longest listed and one of the oldest boats at the Royal Perth Yacht Club and one of the oldest boats in the Couta Boat Association.