Concord & Ryde Sailing Club Inc

FROM THE ARCHIVES - #53. – UTR May 2023

Moving along to the start of 1994 and our February 1994 issue of Up The River. In my President’s report I reported that after a long trouble free period over Christmas and New Year holiday weekends that we had a spate of vandalism by some idiots as part of their celebrations took to the walls of our Club house with a heavy object and damaged 10 or 12 panels in the wall. Their fun caused additional expense to the Club as well as some of our members’ valuable time to repair the damage.

In his report our Commodore, Chris Lowe, advised that it appeared we had a problem with the start of our southerly #4 course with the new River Cat ferries making frequent trips back and forth on the river about our start time. This was partly due to our starting line being close to the bridge where the ferries had nowhere else to go except through the middle of the line. Chris included the comment “Exciting? No! Unsatisfactory? Yes!” and commented that the race Committee would be looking into this matter soon.

The Marathon Race I wrote about in my last article also caused our editor, Bob Lindsay, to have some thoughts about our marathon course and the history of Gladesville Bridge, As many of our current members would not have seen his article I have decided to include it here as it is an interesting bit of history of the area. He had it under an initial heading with another on the second page so both are included here at the start.

“To the marathon, the bridge, and all who sail under her!

Prawns and mullet gut travelled free by tram.”

Many of us had a great time sailing the long-awaited Marathon race but, if you were like me, you had great difficulty getting past the Gladesville Bridge (what the wind does under there is truly incredible). I recall tacking from the southern abutment and made a number of foolish moves to end up under the northern abutment I guess about 2 metres further ahead.

With that great monolith in mind and wondering who put the thing there in the first place, I will endeavour to relate some things of interest about the structure and the previous steel low-level bridge which was constructed between the years 1881 and 1884. At the same time work was proceeding on the Iron Cove Bridge opened 1884 and the Fig Tree Bridge, which was opened in 1885.

Just why it was and is called the Gladesville Bridge is somewhat of a puzzle because it is closer to Drummoyne but nonetheless it was this low level steel construction which was the first road bridge to be built across the main stream of Sydney Harbour. It was just five miles from the City to the North Shore travelling via Pyrmont Bridge, Glebe Island Bridge, Iron Cove Bridge and the Gladesville Bridge.

That made the route three miles shorter than the old way via Parramatta Road and the Great North Road which led to the Bedlam Point ferry. That ferry service was discontinued after the Gladesville Bridge was opened. The “five bridge” route remained the shortest way of crossing the harbour by bridges for 47 years – or until the Harbour Bridge was completed.

The Gladesville Bridge was the vital link for it crossed the main harbour, whereas the other four crossed only arms of the harbour and acted as ‘shortcuts’ and not really essential. With seven spans supported on concrete piles, the Gladesville Bridge was 1,000 feet long with the water in the channel being 30 feet deep. It had a swing span of approximately 60 feet which allowed cargo and sailing vessels access to navigate the upper reaches.

The bridge remained in operation for 80 years and in the latter times of its operation was cursed by motorists and vessel masters for the inevitable delays it produced in trying to cope with the ever-increasing road traffic. (It was also one of the only places in Sydney where you could get a free tram ride. Because there was no footway, transportation from one side to the other by tram was free and I can still vividly remember, when I was much younger, the stench of prawns and mullet gut as fishermen had no luck on one shore, decided to give it a fling on the other and caught the tram to do just that).

The need was apparent for a new, high-level bridge and work on the ‘junior coat hanger’ was commenced early 1960 and officially opened on October 2, 1964 by HRH Princess Marina. (For those like me who did not know, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark married Prince George, Duke of Kent and so she became the Duchess of Kent by marriage. - Archivist).

It was then the biggest single span concrete-arch bridge in the world. This new bridge crossed the river some 400 yards downstream from the old steel bridge and four miles upstream from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It has a span of 1,000 feet and the arch rises 134 feet above high water. The sandstone bedrock of Sydney provided the chief reason why this colossal single span arch concrete bridge was feasible and there are very few other harbours in the world where the geological and other conditions are as convenient for a construction such as this.

The Gladesville Bridge cost in excess of four million pounds and was built on four ‘ribs’ of concrete hollow-box units tied together by diaphragms of solid concrete. The concrete box units each weigh 50 tons and were cast and prestressed at a depot some three miles downstream, brought by lighters to the site and hoisted into position by a gigantic floating crane. The total weight of concrete in the bridge is 78,000 tons.

You would have to agree that the simplicity and clear proportions of the bridge make it a work of art as well as a triumph in engineering. I guess that the archaeologists in some remote period will refer to the ‘Age of Concrete’.

"There, so next time you sail under the bridge look up and appreciate what has been done. …. If you sail under there like me you will sure have plenty of time to look!

Bob Lindsay.”

Bob’s comment about the “five bridge route’ puzzled me as there are only four bridges involved. So I decided to do some research and found that the State Library on its website mentioned the Lennox Bridge at Parramatta which apparently was the 5th Bridge. The quote from the State Library read:-. “From the 1800s, a host of bridges were built over the bays and coves to the west of Sydney. One of the earliest was the stone arch Lennox Bridge over the Parramatta River. Built in 1830, the bridge enabled access to the northwest. By the 1880s, you could leave the city and travel across the Pyrmont, Glebe Island, Gladesville and Fig Tree Bridges. It took 20 kilometres off the old Parramatta route and became known as ‘the five bridges’ journey”.

As I have said many times it is good to find articles in Up the River that are still very interesting. Please help with some of your own!!!

In this February, 1994 issue there was also an advertisement for CRSC items which I will repeat here:


A1 Quality leather key rings with the Club insignia beautifully embossed for sale at an amazing price of just $3 each. Lose your favourite hat in the river lately? Have to put your hand to your brow to keep the sun from your eyes so you can see where the other boats have gone? Well, fear not, for we have just the cap for you! Available in a range of fashion colours, these caps are selling at an incredible $8.50 each with the Club insignia printed on the front free of charge. These caps are adjustable to fit any size head before or after the race … get yours while they last!”

You can still buy a CRSC cap or hat from the canteen at a somewhat higher price of $20 and they are in a range of colours. Also there maybe one of the old key rings still floating around the canteen. From some 30 years ago, I still carry mine in my pocket with my keys attached.

Again in this issue I found something else that I feel is worth repeating and our editor obtained permission from the writer of a letter to include it in that issue of Up the River.


This is the angle that Bob used to print the letter after commenting that it is not often do we receive a letter of thanks. As it happens that the son, David, was my crew in my Heron during the season and possibly he still has a couple of trophies that we won that season to remind him of his sailing period with CRSC.

Also in his Cadet report, Herbert Wiedemann wrote about the experiences of his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Naomi, at the Australia Day Spiral Nationals at Lake Macquarie. Naomi had recently changed over to the Spiral after being in the Cadet Class and hence the inclusion in his article. In the Nationals Naomi did well, she was only 15 years old, and was the second fastest in the women’s section.

However prior to the championship races she and Elizabeth were doing some practice sailing out on the lake and Herbert wrote about their experience of this as follows:-

“The confidence and boat handling skills learned in the Cadets at CRSC held Naomi in good stead when, prior to the Nationals, sailing on a 15 kms practice session on Lake Macquarie, she and her mother (both sailing Spirals) were caught in a severe electrical storm. Both Spirals were driven into shallow waters some distance apart, where they rode out the storm with the boats lying on their sides and the sailors hanging onto them as best they could. When the Water Police went looking for them after the storm both boats were under way again sailing on to destination with neither boat nor sailor having sustained any serious damage, In that storm many boats were damaged (including the Coast Guard launch which was driven onto rocks), houses were unroofed, trees uprooted and streets flooded.”

What an experience for a lass just 15 years old!!!

That year the Heron Nationals were held in Perth and Peter Carrick and family drove across for it with 2 Herons on board. son, Steven, finished 18th overall in the series with Peter a little further back in the field. Both, along with Sue, enjoyed the racing and social activities.

Three of our NS14s headed off to Albury for their National Titles and when they arrived at the Albury Wodonga Sailing Club the temperature was around 10 degrees and the thought of sailing in this was a little daunting. They were greeted with a sign which warned that the water was deep and cold and that hypothermia kills! Our three boats ended up in 23rd, 32nd and 40th overall.

The Catamaran Class Captain reported on the Catamaran Marathon hosted by CRSC in the prior December with 30 boats competing of eight different types of Cat. It was sailed in good conditions starting with 6+ knot north easterly which grew to around 20 knots on the Harbour itself. The course probably included sailing around Fort Denison as was done back then. He said that conditions were a little hairy causing some retirements and a search for a missing boat. The skipper of this vessel was drawn to the nearest haven which happened to be the bar at Drummoyne Sailing Club - “a great refuge from the strong breeze”. He then went on to report on the Maricat National held on the “not-too-inviting waters of Lake Illawarra” The first heat was a very gusty sou’wester 20 to 30 knots with a very steep chop. It ended up with downcast faces and a lot of broken gear. Our Class Captain, Bob Simpson came 3rd in the series with our Bern Leslie 5th in the Cats.

Moving on to the next issue of Up the River in April 1994. I mentioned in my last-article about my upcoming meeting with Waterways User’s Group representative about the rocks on our beach. In the intervening few months our pet rocks had seemed to have grown bigger. The representative had phoned me after the Group’s February meeting and said that our problem had received good support from those present. Hr had shown photos and expressed our concerns. At that meeting the group made a decision to refer the matter to the MSB with a recommendation that a scientific survey of the river be done to fully assess the problem of sand erosion. Apparently, the Group had received reports from other users of the river about the same problem. Some suggestions had been made to counteract the problem but we were awaiting further details about the matter. At the time we did not realise that it would take another 25 years or so for anything to be done!

As well, our Committee had written to the respective authorities about safety factor of the approach of the Rivercats and our fleets. Other Clubs along the river had also been having similar problems. We requested that thought be given to having these vessels give a loud blast when nearing our fleets. However nothing ever eventuated in response to our suggestion to them and our starters continued to warn us when a Rivercat approached our fleet at the start of a race.

I also noted that in my report that I wrote a sentence for the Class Captains which is still quite relevant and this was “Class captains are reminded that they are the pipeline between the Committee and the members and are encouraged to keep the information flowing to their own fleet members. We need your interest in this to get our membership’s support in our various functions”.

Another matter I raised was in regard to our Blue Ribbon series, the Club Championship and that under our then Rule #11 a skipper had to sail in at least 50% of the season’s races to be eligible for any trophy. It seems that some skippers in that season would miss out has they had not sailed in the required number. A good rule but it has since been dropped. Maybe we should reconsider this to encourage support from our skippers to sail more regularly.

I finished my article with the sentence – “Congratulations to our Club Secretary Sandra Donovan who ‘killed’ the fleet in the Australia Day Regatta at Hunters Hill Sailing Club – winning by at least 10 minutes. She even had to use husband Les as replacement crew on the day. Well done Sandra!”  Hopefully Sandra you can still remember that day from 1994.
All for this time and I will continue with this Up the River in my next article.

Good Sailing!!!!

Ron Burwood