Rob Roy was built by Ken Lacco in Rosebud, Victoria from 1929 to 1930.
Although Couta Boats were generally built to a length of 24 foot to 26 foot, in 1929 professional fisherman Mr Roy Anderson of Newhaven, Victoria ordered Rob Roy; he wanted a big boat to work in Bass Strait. She was built at 28 foot in length, with an 11 foot beam.
Ken Lacco reported:
Mr Anderson was highly pleased with her exceptional weight – carrying capacity.
Custodian: Roy Anderson; 1929 – 1980s
Rob Roy successfully fished Western Port, Flinders Island, Bass Strait and King Island until the 1980s.
Custodian: Bob Wintle; 1980s – Unknown
It is known that fisherman Bob Wintle of San Remo purchased her from Roy Anderson. However, the year of this transaction is not recorded. She was rebuilt by Bob for crayfishing and he renamed her Morning Gale.
Long-term Rhyll resident John Jansson recalls Morning Gale being on the slip at Rhyll around the mid 1960s. George Henry Martin of Kew, was the custodian and then owner of the Kaloha Caravan Park in Cowes, Phillip Island, and kept on a mooring off Erehwon Point at Cowes, Western Port. At this stage she had been built up two or three planks and had a large cabin on her.
Tragedy, however, struck the owner of Rob Roy in February, 1971. He was swimming near the stern of the boat off Cowes when someone was working on the engine. Just as he was climbing up the stern, the engine was started and the propeller sliced his leg, causing him to bleed to death.
What became of Rob Roy after this period, until the late 1980s, is not on record.
Custodian: Denis Wilkins; Late 1980s – 1997
Port Melbourne fisherman Dugga Beazley came across the boat after she had sunk at St Kilda Pier, Port Phillip and suggested to local resident Denis Wilkins that the boat needed a new custodian. The custodian at the time was not available, but in an attempt by others to rescue the boat and tow her back to her Williamstown mooring, she had sunk again, this time directly off the mouth of the Yarra River.
Denis tells that Melbourne Port authorities insisted she be moved urgently, but not without a price!
Two slabs of beer and a word to my tugboat skipper friend BL.
The boat was raised early one morning from the riverbed and delivered to Knights’ boatyard.
From there she was taken to the Wooden Boat Shop (WBS) at Sorrento for a total rebuild. Restoration was completed in January 1993 and Rob Roy was invited as an historic boat to the opening of the $7 million Sorrento launching facilities by the Hon. Mark Burrell, Minister for Local Government. Much to the delight of her owner, this auspicious occasion became Rob Roy’s official relaunching too!
In the time of Denis’s custodianship, Rob Roy was moored at Portsea over the summer season and competed in the regular Couta Boat Club (CBC) events. She was then taken to the northern end of Port Phillip for the winter season and penned at St Kilda. From out of St Kilda she competed in various series and regattas at the top end of the bay. In 1995, she won the Royal Brighton Yacht Club Winter Series.
In addition to her racing, Rob Roy was used frequently by the family for recreational sailing and was reputed to be a real classic!
She’s an absolute classic, I want her;
exclaimed Dennis Connor in describing his first impression on seeing Rob Roy at Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC) during the world Etchell championships in 1994. Winning America’s Cup skippers Connor and John Bertrand borrowed and chose to share Rob Roy as their mother-ship for tows to and from the racetrack and transporting their spare sails during the competition.
Custodian: JB Rousselot and Malcolm Turnbull; 1997 –
In November 1997, Denis sold Rob Roy to Sydneysiders J B Rousselot and Malcolm Turnbull, after which she was transported to Sydney Harbour.
Rob Roy started racing with the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club (SASC) around 1998 and over the years she was a regular participant to its Sunday Gaffers and Classics racing programs. She also participated on a regular basis in the Gaffers Day event organised by the Club.
After the 2013 election, Malcolm Turnbull became Minister for Telecommunications while ‘JB’, after a long career in Telco, started working for NBN. This triggered a number of enquiries in the Australian Parliament Question Time, about the two yachting buddies. The situation was best summarised by Malcolm’s answer to a question from the Opposition in Parliament House, Canberra, in November 2013:
J B Rousselot and I own an ancient Couta Boat called the Rob Roy. It is the same age as my father-in-law although he insists he has more of his original parts. I am flattered it has been described as a yacht. Others have described it as a menace to shipping!
After Malcolm became Prime Minister, Rob Roy continued to race occasionally with the SASC but had to be escorted by a protection boat from the NSW water police. The crew suggested many times, but unsuccessfully, that the exclusion zone should prevent any boat from being in front of Rob Roy.
Having won the SASC’s Captain Joshua Slocum trophy five times, in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2011, the very occasional racing started to affect the crew’s performance, culminating in Rob Roy winning the Kelpie Trophy: ‘For the Gracing, not the Racing’, in 2015.
Rob Roy is moored on Sydney Harbour at the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club (RPEYC), Point Piper, NSW.