the beginning of cherubs

In 1951 New Zealand naval architect John Spencer designed a 12 foot dinghy for his friend Ray Early to sail on Auckland Harbour in New Zealand. The boat was built to race in the Pennant Class and was named Cherub. Two stories exist on the origins of the name Cherub. One is that when asked what the new boat was, Ray Early’s wife said, “I don't know, but she's a perfect little cherub to Sail”. The second, more credible story is that Ray Early often referred to his daughter as “Cherub”.

Cherub was an immediate success in Pennant Class racing, leading other local sailors to call on Spencer for designs for similar boats and within a short space of time a number of Cherubs were built. Cherub numbers grew quickly in New Zealand in the 1950s, with around 450 boats being registered in the first eight years. This was due in part to what was effectively a partnership between the New Zealand yachting magazine Sea Spray and John Spencer. Sea Spray allowed Spencer almost as much space as he wanted to provide publicity and 'how to'; construction articles. For a time Sea Spray was the official Cherub HQ, keeping the sail number register, and being the central point for all correspondence.

The Class was introduced to the United Kingdom in the 1956 when boats were built by McCutcheon's of Cowes. By 1963 there were 112 Cherubs registered in the UK.

In Australia, the first fleet of Cherub emerged at Mounts Bay Sailing Club in Perth. At the time, Mounts Bay was sailing 16ft Skiffs and Sharpies and was looking for a class to suit younger teenage sailors who were too big for Pelicans, but not big enough to go into the four man 16ft Skiffs and three man Sharpies. There were some potential designs sailing on the Swan River, including 12ft Cadets, Gwen 12s and V-Jays, all of which did not quite meet Mounts Bay’s needs. One club member, Basil Wright, decided he would look for a more up-to-date and modern style boat to introduce at the club. Basil met John Spencer through his business contacts and discovered the Cherub. Basil Wright got together six Mounts Bay sailors, all of who had sons aged within a year of each other. The group decided they would commission six boats to be launched and raced as a class in the 1960-61 season. The six boats were built and the first four launched within a few days of each other.

At a similar time to the emergence of the Cherub class at Mounts Bay, Frank Bethwaite emigrated from New Zealand to Australia and settled in Sydney. Bethwaite, a keen sailor, brought with him his New Zealand built Cherub, Marie, which be began sailing at Northbridge Sailing Club. Cherub numbers grew across Australia in the early 1960s. Percy Fraser, the Commodore of the Newhaven Yacht Squadron was an enthusiastic promoter of the class and with Basil Wright was instrumental in organising the first Cherub Australian National Championships which were held at Newhaven in the 1964-65 season. The Cherub National Council of Australia was formed to manage the class and its racing in Australia.

The first Cherub National Championships were won by Basil Wright’s son Gordon, sailing with Garry Bisdee. The Australian National Championship series has been sailed each year alternating between states to host each event. The 2012-13 season celebrated the 50th Anniversary series held at Belmont 16ft Sailing Club and had competitive racing across the whole fleet of 55 boats. These days, Cherubs are sailed at more than 15 clubs around the country and the fleet watches with interest the growth of the class in neighbouring New Zealand.

Honour Board and Past Results 

Australian National Cherub Championships - Honour Roll 

Australian National Cherub Championships - Full Results 

NSW Cherub State Championships - Honour Roll 

NSW Cherub State Championships - Full Results 

WA Cherub State Championships - Honour Roll 

WA Cherub State Championships - Full Results 

Event media 

54th National Cherub Championships (sponsored by Thurlow Fisher Lawyers) - Hartas Productions 

58th Vaikobi National Cherub Championships - SeaGal