Main photo: Original Belmont Club House

A century of sailboat racing on Belmont Bay, Lake Macquarie, will be celebrated on October 8-9, with Belmont 16s staging a major two-day regatta for its dinghy classes and 16-Foot skiff fleet.

The club is kick-starting the weekend on Friday night with a spectacular commemoration dinner, MC-ed by Vince Sorrenti and featuring entertainment by iconic Australian singer Kate Ceberano and the Ned Vermey Band.

It turns back the clock to October 7, 1922, when 400 people gathered on the Lake shoreline to watch the start of 16-Foot skiff racing at the newly formed Belmont club, which would subsequently grow to become one of the biggest and best in Australia.

Coming just seven years after World War I, the Lake community had rallied to build a humble sailing club for young men who were still licking their wounds. Seven skiffs and their crews, resplendent in uniform, set sail to greet the starter. At stake was prizemoney of £12, equivalent to a month’s wages in those days.

Prominent Newcastle businessmen John and Mark Reid – nephews of Sir George Houston Reid, fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904-05) and NSW Premier (1894-99) – were major driving forces. The venture soon attracted 50 members, yet these intrepid forefathers couldn’t possibly have conceived that, a century later, membership would exceed 36,000.

Highlights for the club include hosting, and winning, numerous world, national and state sailing championships, along with the televised NBN sprint series and the Combined High Schools (CHS) regatta that was first contested in May 1967.

The club’s evergreen Pelican trainer class was introduced in the early 1960s and, along with the VJ and Flying 11, has since produced some of the finest sailors to come out of Lake Macquarie, including Olympians and multiple world champions.

Today, Belmont 16s has a major extension and renovation project under construction, plus strong fleets of 16s, Cherubs, Lasers, Flying 11s, Pelicans and O’Pen skiffs as it reflects on the past and looks forward to the next 100 years. The Centenary Regatta is open to sailors from all other clubs who are currently sailing in these classes.