Obituary: Graeme Dineen

Graeme Dineen, who passed away on 23 December 2019 at the age of 78, played a major role in yachting in Tasmania and the development of the Tamar Yacht Club, serving as commodore from 1985 to 1987.

Graeme held numerous club and committee positions in his long association with the club starting in 1959 when he was elected the first president of what today is the TYC Small Boat Sailing Squadron.

Graeme was born in Launceston on 2 December 1941 and became an electrical engineer like his grandfather. He spent most of his working life with the Hydro Electric Commission holding the positions of Launceston Distribution Engineer before becoming Chief Distribution Engineer for Tasmania and Deputy Chief Executive of the HEC.

His grandfather John Dineen came to Launceston from Victoria in 1906 to take up the position of superintendent of the Duck Reach Power Station. Graeme’s father Geoff, also a prominent member of the Tamar Yacht Club, was a civil engineer with the Tasmanian Railways and held the positions of Chief Engineer and then General Manager and Associate Commissioner of Transport.

Graeme Dineen’s involvement with the Tamar Yacht Club started at an early age. In the 1950s he raced the Tamar Class Ophir (T23) with his brother Robert. Graeme won the state junior Tamar Class championships in 1960.

His association with the club continued after he was transferred in his employment with the Hydro-Electric Commission to Hobart in the 1960s and between 1970 and 1973 he worked for the HEC at Burnie. During this period he raced his Diamond Class yacht Tabiti with the Mersey Yacht Club at Devonport.

In 1973 Graeme was promoted to a more senior position and relocated back to Launceston. At that time the Tamar, Port Dalrymple and Mersey clubs were all conducting their own offshore races. Graeme thought that it would be a good idea to combine all the offshore races conducted by the three clubs and run an annual offshore program.

After much discussion the clubs agreed and a committee of two people from each club was established to administer the annual program. It was called the Northern Offshore Racing Committee and Graeme was the inaugural chairman.

Graeme recalled that it was an extremely successful arrangement and ocean racing in Northern Tasmania increased quite significantly with increased participation in the annual Queenscliff to Devonport and Sydney to Hobart yacht races. Graeme sailed in two Sydney to Hobarts (on Tuppence and Sagacious) and numerous Queenscliff to Devonport races on various TYC boats.

Unfortunately, after 25 years of operation the increased cost of ocean racing, particularly the cost of Australian Yachting Federation stipulated safety equipment, participation in ocean racing declined and the three clubs disbanded the system.

Graeme also initiated the development of important TYC facilities in Launceston. He recalled that at a committee meeting (or maybe an AGM) he suggested the club approach the Launceston City Council and obtain the land in front of the clubhouse at 7 Park Street and build a traverse slipping system on it.

His proposal didn’t receive much support early on mainly because prominent club member Jack Stuart had recently bought Jack’s boatyard and expanded it by adding both a traverse slipping system and a marine chandlery called Tamar Marine.

The proposal did, however, get support from Vern Pennefather and the committee then requested that he and Graeme approach the council to see if it would consider leasing the land to the club.

At the time, the city’s electricity network was being put underground and Graeme was project managing the work for the HEC. The council was pretty keen to see all the poles and overhead wires removed and Graeme recalls he was on good terms with the council manager and city engineer.

The transfer of the land, with a public walkway in front of the clubhouse, was agreed to and plans were drawn up for a traverse slipping system, two boat careening walls and a car park. There was also provision for a set of dinghy storage racks, together with rigging and launching area for junior sailors at the western end of the land.

Once the plan received the approval of the TYC general committee, the Launceston City Council and the Flood Prevention Authority, work started with the majority done by club working bees and assistance from businesses owned by club members.

Condemned poles were acquired from the HEC at no cost for the two careening walls and earth fill from the cable trenches in the city was used to level the area. Don Jack whose family owned A. E. Jack drove the vertical poles in place with their crane and pile driving attachment and also placed the horizontal poles in place to form the careening walls.

Courtesy of Alf Hutton, Glasgow Engineering manufactured all the boat slipping cradles and the traverse cradle. Geoff Dineen, the chief civil engineer of the Tasmanian Railways, purchased some old railway iron and donated it to the club.

A secondhand winch was purchased at a reasonable cost. John Illingworth, a licensed electrician, and Graeme connected the winch to a power supply. The wooden dinghy storage racks were built by parents of the dinghy sailors.

Graeme noted that all in all, it was a great club effort by members, which provided some very useful facilities at a very realistic cost that are still in use.

In the 1970s Graeme designed Tasmania’s first production yacht, the Superstition. In 1972 club member Alan Hardman wanted to build a small yacht suitable for racing and cruising on the Tamar River and in Bass Strait.

He approached Graeme to see if he could come up with a suitable design. Graeme says he spent the next couple of months working on the design and made numerous variations and calculations until he was satisfied.

Alan, a meticulous craftsman, built his boat between 1973 and 1976 using glued double diagonal cold moulded King Billy pine construction. It had laid decks and a fibreglass cabin and cockpit. For cruising it was fitted with bunks, galley and a small auxiliary engine.

On launching day Graeme recalled being a bit apprehensive but the yacht floated and Alan’s wife Carol poured the champagne and christened the boat Superstition. After some time racing it on the Tamar and in Bass Strait, Alan decided to take it in the 1976 Queenscliff to Devonport Yacht Race.

Unfortunately Superstition suffered rudder damage on the delivery voyage but still managed to compete in the Queenscliff to Devonport race without any further dramas despite it being the second roughest race on record to that date.

Once back in the Tamar River, Alan put Superstition in boat builder Garry Smedley’s shed to fix the damage to the hull and also to increase the beam at the mid-section, to Graeme’s specifications, in order to improve the rating (handicap).

Just prior to making these repairs and modifications Alan and Carol had opened a marine chandlery business in Launceston and Alan was considering a suggestion to make a mould of Superstition and produce fibreglass boats.

Graeme and Alan formed a partnership with Ian Thorne, who was very experienced in fibreglass work, to manufacture fibreglass boats complete with cabins. Thus HDT Yachts was established and Alan and Carol sold the boats through their chandlery business Hardman’s Marine. They named the boats the Superstition Class.

The first fibreglass boat was made and sold to Ted Herron and christened Ragtime after his love of jazz music. After a short period Ian Thorne sold his share of the partnership to Graeme and Alan who continued to employ him to do a lot of the fibreglass work.

They also employed boat builder David White to install interior furnishings in some of the boats. Others were fitted out by the owners. After HDT Yachts manufactured the first couple of boats Alan and Graeme modified the moulds to give the boat a deeper forefoot and finer entry in the bow below the waterline. This became the Superstition Mark II.

Alan sold the original wooden Superstition and built a fibreglass version christened Rebelle. In 1982 it was sold to Barry Scott in Hobart. Graeme and his wife Jan built one with a flush deck and a taller rig that they christened Dynamo.

In all eight fiberglass Superstitions were built, most going to Hobart, and were quite successful racing and cruising in both inshore and offshore events, particularly in the Junior Offshore Group that was very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Graeme also designed a 28ft flybridge cruiser (Navigator) for Chris Gough soon after the Superstition period.

In his annual report of 1984, Commodore Vern Pennefather noted that the club fleet was the largest in its history and Vice-Commodore Graeme Dineen supported the statement in his report of the season’s competition.

Graeme and Jan’s three children all sailed as juniors in sabots and mirror dinghies at TYC. In later years living in Hobart, Graeme was associated with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. He and Jan bought the cruising yacht Sea Ester, a Salar 40 (previously a TYC yacht owned by Vic Joyce).

Under their ownership Sea Ester cruised the Gippsland Lakes, Whitsundays and completed many VDL circumnavigations. Graeme became involved in the organisation of the VDL circumnavigations and also sailed his 18ft Jubilee day-sailer Pindawirra kept at Low Head.

Graeme’s close association with the Tamar Yacht Club continued up to his death with the family connection of his sister and brother-in-law Barbara and Rob Cassidy and his many TYC friends. He was keenly interested in the club’s history and provided a good deal of information for the recently published book on the TYC.

He is survived by his wife Jan and children Melissa, Nick and Julia.

(First published in the Tamar Yacht Club newsletter 16 January 2020)

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