Balmain Bugs - Sydney Skiff Racing Model Yachts

Balmian Bugs - the traditional Sydney Skiff Racing Model Yachts.

More pictures bit by bit will be added to help preserve the history!

The uniquely crafted fittings on this one piece hull/transom balmain bug, with screwed on deck mark her as a very old Bug indeed. Further to that her name on the transom attests to her status as a vessel of significant historical importance.


Balmain Bugs come in many different sizes, hull shapes and materials from paper  mache, tin , plywood and older traditional boats from carved out solid blocks of cedar.

The only rule for each size Bug is hull length as measured typically by the calipers as in the picture, rudders are not counted, rigs are wild and keels deep to hold it all up!

8 inch Balmain bug and 1 footer showing typical sail patches to identify boats.


'Gem' is a 2 footer and on the wall are a few similar length boats, look how varied they are!

Older boats like 'Vera' were carved from a single block of Cedar typically, a wider flange at the gunwhale for deck to be screwed down, here she is before a rebuild after almost 100 years!

Before and after, however still keeping 'Vera' s journey.  Nails held down fittings, warped and cracked deck with red lead paint, she was a out and out race boat and last recorded as national champion in the 1940s needed some love!

Vera all cleaned up and back together safely for the next 100 years!


The difference between open water Sydney harbour boats and centenial park lake boats is the volume of the hull as seen by these 2.  Shorter keel and finer flat water hull for shallow water sailing, so varied.

The 2ffoter club rules from Drumoyne yacht club, although reffered to as 'Balmain Bugs' (Balmain is a suburb on Sydney harbour where they were sailed from and built) they are actually 'Sydney model Skiffs' !  And a solid carved 1 footer hull shown.

A couple of balmain bug hulls and foils, keels slide on a rail typically, some were fixed though.

Keel slid foward going downwind as boat is lifted by the team following in the row boat.

Going up wind keel is slid aft and rowing boat team lift boat to tack her to windward up the course.

Downwind of course a spinnaker is also clipped on.

Sydney harbour skiffs were the originator of big boat rule that you must finish with all crew on board who started the race.

The full size manned Skiffs would sail to windward then the top mark before the run to the finish 3/4 of the crew would jump overboard!


And yes , there were Plywood and paper mache boats even!

And of course tin boats!

'Valiant' a paper mache bug, have only seen a handful, but they were made!

An old shot of a 2 footer racing along!


Another couple of pics, same length boats, looks at the hull differences!

'Caprice' a 1 footer and 'Jason'.