Lake Macquarie History

Alby Burgin 1915-2008

Alby Burgin was born in Boolaroo in 1915 and built his first boat at the age of 9 years. For several years he sailed Lake Macquarie waters, exploring the five islands, Cockle Creek, Warners Bay and the upper reaches of North and South Creeks, camping overnight among the river gums. These areas were largely uninhabited bushland in those days.

photo: awaba house, booragul

At 10 years of age, he became crew member of an 18 foot yacht and the owner taught him how to sail, splice ropes, tie knots and hand sew japara sails. He won his first New South Wales championship, held at the Toronto Sailing Club, in 1933 with Barry Steel in a V.J. called "Rival". After WWII he began sailing with the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club and completed many coastal ocean races.

"Vanessa" was his first wholly owned yacht - a 34ft lake boat he had converted into an ocean racer in 1954, winning many lake and coastal races with his two daughters and an all girl crew.

In his 66 years of competitive sailing, Alby logged more than 400,000 sea miles.

Among his many sailing achievements, Alby competed in 31 Sydney to Hobart races between 1955 and 2000, winning the race in 1962 aboard "Rival", a yacht he had helped to build. The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia lists Alby in its Sydney-Hobart race statistics as the oldest skipper (the 2000 Sydney to Hobart at the age of 84) and oldest sailor ever. He also won the solo New Zealand to Australia yacht race and the Bicentennial Around Australia yacht race in 1988.

Alby was granted Freedom of the City of Lake Macquarie in 1987

In 1991 he was awarded life membership of the Shorthanded Sailing Association of Australia for his outstanding contribution to the sport. In 1994, at the age of 79 he sailed "Alstar" in the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. His last race was the 55th Sydney to Hobart, December 1999, the last race of the 20th Century. After this race he withdrew from ocean yacht racing, aged 85, having never retired from a race.

He was a volunteer in the Sailability program at Belmont 16 Footers, helping disabled children enjoy Lake Maquarie as much as he did, on a boat he had donated to the program. He died in November 2008, aged 93.


  • 1957 "Vanessa" was leading the Sydney to Montagu Island Yacht Race with only 50 miles to go.
  • 1958 "Vanessa" came fourth in Montagu Island Race out of a large fleet of fast modern racing yachts, a sterling effort for a small lake boat.
  • 1959 Alby started building "Rival", a 37 ft ocean racing yacht, designed by Alan Buchanan of England. He employed Les and Barry Steel to assist him in the building of this vessel.
  • 1960 Alby came fourth in the Sydney to Hobart Race after leading at Maria Island before being becalmed for 11 hours.
  • 1961 Alby won the Sydney to Hobart - the first ever to win this event for the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club. This same year Alby won the Blue Water Championship.
  • 1962 "Rival" came 11th in the Sydney to Hobart after leading into Storm Bay before being becalmed near the Derwent
  • 1963 Alby won with "Rival" the Sydney to Newcastle and Sydney to Swansea Ocean Races.
  • 1964 He won the Lake Macquarie Ocean Racing Championship for the season.
  • 1965 Alby won the One Ton Cup for ocean racing conducted by The Cruising Ocean Racing Club of Rushcutters Bay.
  • 1966-69 Winning many offshore coastal races and navigating "Caprice of Huon" in the Admiral's Cup Trials.
  • 1970 He won the Brisbane to Gladstone Race - Line honours and handicap in Division 2.
  • 1971 Whilst competing in the Brisbane to Gladstone, he sailed through Cyclone Emily with winds up to 150 miles per hour, capsized and was washed into the sea. After that experience he continued up the coast and cruised around Papua New Guinea. Alby in "Rival" won the Papua New Guinea Shield, racing off Port Moresby
  • 1972 - 1974 Alby sailed out of Sydney navigating "Meltemi" and "Salacia" respectively in Admiral's Cup Trials. He also skippered the tugboat "Phillipe" to Noumea after spending four weeks at sea recovering 6 lost nickel barges that went adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
  • 1974 Sold "Rival" in February. Purchased "Boomerang of Belmont" in March, a Joubert design 42' sloop. After modifying this vessel he entered the Sydney- Noumea Race and then cruised the New Hebrides, Fiji and Tonga.
  • 1975 "Boomerang of Belmont" won line honours and handicap in the Sydney-Lord Howe Island Race and first to Balls Pyramid with Alby at the helm.
  • 1976 "Boomerang of Belmont", sailed by Alby, won the Sydney to Suva Yacht Race beating its next rival by 4 1/2 hours and creating a race record. Alby won the Open Lake Championship beating the world champion 505 in a very hot fleet of various designs.
  • 1977 He won the Lake Macquarie Open Sailing Championship with "Model Yachts".
  • 1978 Sold "Boomerang of Belmont" and built "Rambler" a 34' cutter.
  • 1979 With "Rambler" he won the Sydney-Lord Howe Island Race line honours and handicap Division 2. First overall in the Gladstone-Bundaberg Race. Lake Macquarie Yearly Ocean Point Score. He Sailed "Picollo" from Belmont to New Zealand and raced in the World's One Ton Cup Series in the Hauraki Gulf, then back home again.
  • 1980 Alby sailed "Ragamuffin" to Honolulu Via Tahiti and back via Samoa and Fiji. Whilst in Hawaii he navigated "The Gold Coast Express" from Queensland to victory in the Hawaiian Clipper Series winning line honours and handicap.
  • 1981 He navigated "Helsal II of Our Town" to win the Sydney-Montague Island Race beating the mighty" Apollo" by 4 hours and breaking the race record by 6 1/2 hours.
  • 1982 He won the Gladstone to Bundaberg Race in "Rambler". Alby also navigated "The Newcastle Flyer" to win line honours for the second year in succession in the Sydney-Montrague Island Race.
  • 1983 Navigated "Nynja Go" in the Sydney-Hobart Race. In "Rambler" he won the Air Pacific Trophy from Noumea to Mooloolaba.
  • 1984 Alby navigated "The Newcastle Flyer" to 7th place in the Sydney-Hobart Race in the worst conditions ever. In the same race, Wal Russell from Charlestown was lost overboard from the Lake Yacht "Yahoo", the first casualty in history of the race. He sailed "Ali Baba" from Belmont to Auckland and back to compete in the Southern Ocean Cup Series, winning outright.
  • 1985 Sold "Rambler". During 1985 Hinz Britt and Alby built "Alstar" and launched her to coincide with Alby's 70th birthday with the intention of racing solo and two handed.
  • 1986 In February, in his new yacht "Alstar", a 50' cutter, he won the Two Handed Sydney-Coffs Harbour Yacht Race, breaking the record by 31/2 hours.
  • 1986 Alby with "Alstar" was the first monohull to finish in the Solo Trans Tasman Yacht Race from New Plymouth N.Z. to Mooloolaba beating the previous winner's time by 3 1/2 hours.
  • 1986 He won the Trans-Tasman challenge from Australia to New Zealand by 18 hours.
  • 1987 Alby entered "Alstar" against 97 entries in the Inaugural Melbourne to Osaka Two Handed Yacht Race. He was the first Australian and first foreign yacht to finish and was third overall. He also won the gold medal and a handsome trophy for the oldest skipper. On his return home from Japan he was awarded "Freedom of the City" by the city of Lake Macquarie Council.
  • 1988 He won the 7,000 Mile Bi-Centennial Two Handed Around Australia Yacht Race, elapsed time 45 days, beating his nearest rival by over 7 days. He was awarded Veteran Yachtsman of the Year by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Alby was awarded the certificate of Appreciation Polio Plus from Rotary International for his contribution to make possible the immunization of 15,000 children against polio and other diseases. He also won the Sydney to Jervis Bay Bi-Centennial Race and escorted the Re-Enactment of the First Fleet to Botany Bay and Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour)
  • 1989 Alby sailed through Cyclone Bola during the Sydney to Auckland Two Handed Yacht Race. This year he was awarded "Sports Person of the Year" by The City of Lake Macquarie Council.
  • 1990 He won the Trans-Tasman challenge from Australia to New Zealand by 30 hours.
  • 1990 He was the outright winner in the Solo Trans Tasman Yacht Race beating his previous time by 17 hours at the age of 75, winning the Sir Frances Chichester and Taranki Trophies. Also a world record for the oldest man to win a long solo ocean race.
  • 1990 He won the Shorthanded Australian Championships off the New South Wales coast conducted by the Shorthanded Sailing Association of Australia at the age of 75 years.In 1990 he was awarded the honour of life membership by the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club
  • 1991 He won the Shorthanded Sydney to Coffs Harbour Race for the sixth time beating the 60 footer B.O.C. Racer "Spirit of Sydney" by 3 1/2 hours and the first multihull to finish by 5 hours.This year he was awarded life membership of the Shorthanded Sailing Association of Australia for his outstanding contribution to the sport.
  • 1992 Alby sailed "Alstar" in the Melbourne to Osaka Two Handed Yacht Race, despite the fact that the yacht had hit a submerged container busting 24 inches of welding and later breaking a forestay. He finished 7th out of 55 starters in the 5,500 nautical mile race.
  • 1993 Alby entered in coastal races winning the Sydney to Port Stephens by 4 hours in the second boat.
  • 1994 He started in the Brisbane to Osaka International Pan Pacific 4,000 nautical mile yacht race.He finished first unsponsored yacht, third overall and with a beautiful trophy for the oldest skipper. Sailed "Alstar" in the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and it was his 30th race to the Apple Island.
  • 1995 Won the shorthanded race from Sydney to Port Stephens and Sydney to Lord Howe Island Two Handed - Line Honours Sydney to Port Stephens Two Handed - 1st overall
  • 1996 Sydney to Gold Coast Two Handed - 1st Overall Inducted into the Newcastle Sporting Hall of Fame and Brisbane to Gizo (Solomon Island) 1st overall
  • 1997 Sydney to Noumea (New Caledonia) Two Handed - 1st overall
  • 1998 Tall Ships Race Sydney to Hobart Line Honours Handicap Brisbane to Honiara (Solomon Islands) Line Honours Handicap Asia to Pacific Masters Games (Gold Coast) Silver Medal
  • 1999 Sydney - Wollongong - Port Stephens Two Handed Line Honours Handicap. Entered in the Two Handed Division Coffs Harbour to Suva (Fiji Islands) Won the Tubu Soro Trophy (A True Warrior)
  • Dec-99 Sailed in 55th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. First Lake Macquarie Yacht. 4th in Division, and first 50ft Yacht in P.H.S. Class. Won the award for "Veteran Yachtsman of the Year 1999" for the second time.


Burgin, Alby Smith, Rita 1987 Sailing with Alby Burgin: collection of memorabilia, Lake Macquarie, [N.S.W.]

Thomas, Fred 2003, Boats, blokes and whatever of Lake Macquarie, F. Thomas, [Lake Macquarie, N.S.W]

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