Queen of the Harbour 2024 Preview

A happy Queen of the Harbour winner (Frank Quealey)


A tradition in Australian 18 footers sailing


The eyes of the world 18 footer competitors and supporters were centred on the most successful JJ Giltinan world Championship regattas held for many years as 27 of the best skiff teams produced a number of exciting, action-packed races on Sydney Harbour.


Next Sunday (March 17), the Australian 18 Footers League fleet will be back on Sydney Harbour and 18 of the teams which contested last week’s championship will be in action once again.


This time it will be a vastly different type of event, but one with a similarly high regard within the class, where every team will carry an additional female crew member.  All boats will have a four-person crew for the race.


It is the time-honoured ‘Queen of the Harbour’ race.


While the race still acknowledges the support of the supporters and families, it is vastly different to the original activities associated with the event.


The League originally conducted the race as Queen of the Waves in 1936 and in early 1937 incorporated a Queen of the Waves competition with the race raising funds for the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown.


The aim was to use the money raised from the competition “to build a school at the hospital to have crippled children transported from their homes to the hospital, receive treatment and education, and then taken back home each day.”


Individuals and businesses cooperated with the League, and the scheme got off to a successful start when ‘Queen’ candidates raised more than $6,000, and plans were made to build the school on the Booth Street frontage of the hospital.


World unrest at the time halted the scheme and the $6,000 was handed to the hospital as a trust fund.  Hospital authorities decided to build the school with other funds they had and named it the Fred Birks Activity School, and suggested that a wing of the school be named after the club.


The League weren’t happy about that arrangement as donations by members were made specifically for the purpose of building the school.  Finally, an agreement was reached for the club’s funds to be used to take over a ward at the hospital, have it renovated, and used for in-patients along similar lines as the club had originally intended.


The incredible success of the competition in the early days was published by the League in 1973:

“The total amount donated to the hospital from 1937 to the present (1972) has reached $58,434.  Add to this, the amount of $6,560 raised from the Ladies’ Committee by competitions on the Official Ferry and other ferries, and donated to the hospital, making the grand total of $64,994.”

The Queen of the Harbour race is the final race of the Australian 18 Footers League’s 2023-24 season.  The club’s spectator ferry will follow the race, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf at 2.15pm.


If you can’t get to Sydney Harbour, catch the action on the SailMedia livestream coverage:


Frank Quealey
Australian 18 Footers League Ltd.