Jim Vance, Life Member of Yachting WA, Patron and Life Member of Perth Dinghy Sailing Club, ledgendary sailor, administrator and friend passed away after a long and fulfilling life on Sunday 25th May 2014. He will be honoured and remembered on Friday 6th June 2014 at Karrakatta Cemetery, Railway Road, Karrakatta at 1.30pm.
Jim started sailing in 1938 and became a legendary figure sailing 16’ and 14’ Skiffs. His contribution to the sport, both participation and administration, were recognised with his receipt of the Yachting Association of WA’s Life Membership Award in 1993. Jim actively retired in 1999 however he continued to avidly follow and support the sport.
Jim commenced his sailing career in the 1938/39 season at the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club on Riverside Drive, Crawley when with his brother Dave, they built their first 14ft dinghy Valiant, the first of a series of boat names starting with ‘V’.
At the outbreak of the World War II the brothers joined the Royal Australian Air Force and put their sailing activities on hold. Jim trained as a pilot in Australia and then served in England with Bomber Command on Lancasters.
Prior to returning from England, Jim had the opportunity of meeting two famous dinghy sailors; Uffa Fox (Boat designer and sailor) and Chris Ratsey (sailmaker and designer). Jim was greatly impressed by the International 14ft Dinghy and after the war the Vance brothers, by applying aviation principles, concentrated on reducing the weight of Valiant and introducing a high aspect ratio rig. These innovations were successful and Valiant won the 1950 State Title beating the redoubtable Scamp.
As the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club was languishing at that time, Jim was responsible for introducing a junior class to the club and this has largely been responsible for the growth of the Club over the years. At this time Jim obtained his Masters degree from the University of WA.
The Vance brothers then decided to try their hand at sailing 16’ Skiffs and joined the Mounts Bay Sailing Club. Up to that time the 16’ Skiffs were gaff rigged so they introduced a high aspect ratio Bermudan rig to their 16’ Skiff Vogue. This boat went on to win many races and was runner up to Jack Cassidy in the 1954 state title. Following this Jim and Dave returned to the 14ft Dinghy Class where they introduced the first moulded ply 14ft dinghy in WA. This type of construction provided a very lightweight hull and Ventura proved to be unbeatable with Jim winning a second state title in 1955. Their next moulded ply dinghy was Vie which Jim took to Sydney and was runner-up for the National Title to Syd Corser in 1958.
Jim then tried his hand at experimenting with the design of dinghy hulls. His first design used mono-hedron principles which gave a fast light weather performance but was not suitable for heavy weather. He then tried a radical scow design which showed some promise but had a tendency to nose dive which was terminal.
As the 14ft Dinghy Class had introduced two trapezes and as Jim, because of advancing years, did not fancy himself as a trapeze artist, he introduced the New Zealand based Javelin Class (also a 14 foot dinghy) to the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club. This Class proved very successful on the Swan River and Jim won the 1970 State Titles and the HMAS Perth Memorial Regatta in Verve with his son Tim as crew. Jim was a firm believer that there was a boat suited to everyone - he introduced his daughter Heather to sailing in the Moth Class. There is no shortage of sailing skill in the Vance family.
After Jim retired from competitive sailing he enjoyed recreational sailing on a Hobie Catarmaran and then in a Laser.
Jim was awarded Life Membership of Perth Dinghy Sailing Club in 1978 and was made Patron of the Club in 1986 and honour he greatly revered and appreciated.
For over thirty years Jim represented the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club and many Associations as Delegate to the Yachting Association of WA and Yachting WA as it was more latterly know. Jim’s Yachting WA swan song was on 26th August 2004 at the Annual General Meeting; he had attended regular meetings for over thirty years – this is no mean feat, particularly as Members Meetings were convened late in the evening and there was little incentive to venture out particularly in mid-winter, often in appalling weather.
In the year 2000 the Governor General of Australia awarded Jim an Australian Medal to commemorate his Australian Sporting Achievement including sport administration.
Jim has served his Club and the Yachting Community of Western Australia well for nearly half a century. In his recent years Jim has greatly enjoyed following the sailing careers of his son Tim, his nephew Greg and their children.
Jim did not restrict his interests to sailing but also enjoyed golf and bowls.