In 1934, the Melbourne Centennial Regatta was held to mark the centenary of the founding of the City of Melbourne, Victoria. The event ignited serious competition amongst the Couta Boat fishermen, giving them the chance to contest their sailing skills against their rivals in the Fishing Boat Series which carried prize money of 100 guineas. Rebecca was built in Rosebud by young Ken Lacco to race in this regatta.
Custodian: Ken Lacco; 1934
Ken decided to enter the competition to win the 100 guineas, so he built a boat for the occasion. Fishing folklore records that for this auspicious occasion Ken even fitted out the Rebecca with silk sails.
He named the boat after the Schooner, Rebecca, chartered by John Batman in 1835 for his voyage from Van Diemen’s Land, the former name of Tasmania, to establish the village of Melbourne on Port Phillip.
Built at 24 foot, Rebecca was smaller than some other Couta Boats, so she had to ‘test her mettle’ against the Queenscliff fishermen who were deemed the superior sailors. The Queenscliff mob was also aware that Rebecca was not built to the requirements of a Couta Boat, as she had a shallow draft.
Ken seconded his father Mitch and a few of his brothers as crew for the regatta, which was raced out of Williamstown at the top end of Port Phillip.
In the first race, Rebecca easily won by over three minutes. Before the second race, however, the disgruntled forces of the Queenscliff mob sailed hard and ‘took her jibboom out’ on the Start Line. As a result, Rebecca came over the Finish Line at 3rd. But now aware of the ‘tricksters at play’, Rebecca avoided the offending culprits and came in 1st for the third and final race, winning the regatta and prize money of 100 guineas. Apparently, Ken thrived on telling this tale for many years.
Custodian: Unknown; 1934 – 1980s
Rebecca’s whereabouts is not known during the years between 1934 and the 1980s, after which she was taken to Dugga Beazley in Port Melbourne for some repairs.
Custodian: Nick Williams; 1997 – 2001
In an interesting twist, Nick Williams from Sorrento heard Tim Phillips talking about the Rebecca and thought that one day he might purchase her. In 1997, Nick sold his Couta Boat Enterprise to do the purchase. He then took Rebecca to the Wooden Boat Shop (WBS) at Sorrento for some much needed repairs.
Nick owned Rebecca for five years. In this period he raced her with the Couta Boat fleet out of Sorrento with great success, due to his reputation as a skilled helmsman and, in part, to her shallow draft.
Custodian: Jonathan Dempsey; 2001 – Present
Rebecca is currently owned by Jonathan Dempsey and is moored at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club. After the purchase, Jonathan discovered the distinctive feature of a penny screwed to the step of Rebecca’s mast indicating the time of her build. Young Ken Lacco practised this nautical boat building tradition, to ensure a mystical safe passage in her travels.
Jonathan and his family use Rebecca for recreational sailing at the southern end of Port Phillip.