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The Vee Jay or Vaucluse Junior was designed in 1931 as a sailing boat specifically for boys under 18 years old. Being the time of the Great Depression, the boat was intended to provide a safe, healthy outdoor sport at a time of poverty and hardship, scarce employment and social upheaval. The simple design enabled it to be built by a father and son at home for very little cost. It was quite radical because it had a hard-chine hull which was fully decked so it could be righted after a capsize and the mast was a single section without gaff
The Vee Jay was the brainchild of Sil Rohu, a founding member of the Vaucluse 12ft Amateur Sailing Club five years earlier in 1926.  He commisioned Charles Sparrow, a naval architect and fellow sailor, to design the boat. The first prototype was called "The Splinter" (see photo left). It had a rig borrowed from a 12ft Cadet and a very narrow hull that proved to be too unstable. The next version was called "Chum" (see photos left). It was much more successful and became Vaucluse Junior number 1. Demonstrations were held to show the novelty of a boat that could be righted after a capsize (photo below left). The class was initally intended to be a training boat for the skiff classes, limited to boys under 18 years old but was so popular that a new clubhouse was built for the newly formed Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Association, currently Vaucluse Yacht Club.
The Vee Jay was so successful that by the early 1950's it was the 4th largest class in the world. The class had spread to almost every club of every state and was sailed in Europe, America, Canada and Asia. it was even propsed for the 1956 Olympics.
By the late 1940's the planked hulls were replaced with plywood ones, a swing plank was added and the canvas cockpit was replaced by a plywood one. In the late 1950's the Vee Jay hull and rig were modernised (see below).  In the 1958/59 national titles Western Australain Vee Jays used twin planks and gave the easterners a demonstration of power sailing. From then on twin planks became standard on all Vee Jays, which meant that heavier sailors were less competitive - the ideal combined crew weight being 100 kg. 
In the 1960's Perth Vee Jay sailors took advantage of the generous measurement tolerances and built hulls with a straight run from the mast to the transom to gain maximum advantage of the power of the twin planks, so two different hull shapes emerged, one all-round and one for the big breezes on the Swan River. Plywood decked hulls with fibreglass shells began appearing in the early 1970's (we have the first such hull built by Don Fairbrother currently being restored to sail in our classic dinghy events that are not restricted to wooden boats). The first fully fibreglass hulls were built in 1972. 
With the advent of many new classes Vee Jays started to decline in numbers from the mid 1960's and by the late 1990's there were only a few fleets still sailing in NSW. Also contributing to their decline was the redesign of the 16ft Skiff, which meant that the Vee Jay was no longer the training class for the 16's. However in 2011 a group of passionate ex-Vee Jay sailors at Teralba on Lake Macquarie started a modernisation process to update the Vee Jay for the 21st century so hopefully we may see them racing again.
Famous Vee Jay sailors include John Bertrand, Ben Lexcen, Johnny O'Keefe (the wild one), his brother Barry, a former head of ICAC (the mild one) and the architect Glenn Murcutt.

Vee Jays started sailing in Victoria in 1937 but by the 1970's had died out. The low freeboard made them a real challenge to sail in the Port Phillip Bay swells (see photo right). However the Chelsea YC Vee Jay fleet did produce one national champion when "Triad" skippered by John Bertrand won the Australian Junior Championship in 1963/64 (see photo top right). 
We have some excellent examples of classic Vee Jays sailing at the Inverloch CWD Regatta and more boats are being restored for next season. If you have a classic Vee Jay please contact us and come and join us at one or all of our events. 
Click on the link for a website giving lots of further information on the Vee Jay including its revival and photos of the latest boats.
Click on the link for a list of past Australian Champions.
Click on the link for a thread on the Boat Design Forum about restoring Vee Jays including details and photos of a boat being built in California  (2 pages). 
Click on the following link for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 18 January 1953 entitled
"The Whole World Now Sails The VJ & VS" :
Click on the following link for an article from The Australian Naval Architect journal (pages 43-46) 
Click on the link for a 1958 film about two boys saving to buy a Vee Jay - from the Ausrtalian Film Archives. 
"The Splinter" first prototype for the     Vaucluse Junior 
 "Triad" John Bertrand 
1963/64 Australian Junior Champion
Vee Jays in full flight at Chelsea 1963
"Chum" Vaucluse Junior number 1 
Vee Jays at the Inverloch CWD Reagatta
"Chum" demonstrating righting after a capsize
Sydney Harbour 1934
   "Big Mac" 3 time Australian Champion
        1967 -1970

Sydney Harbour 1934
"Panther" 1965/66 Australian Champion
Pittwater Regatta1937
Vee Jay "Giselle"built in 1955 on display at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney:
            Vee Jay on display at the
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Vaucluse Vee Jay & Vee Ess fleet 1940's
Avalon 1948
"Blondie" 1949/50 1951/52 Australian Champion