Great love story of the seas revealed

Monday 22 March 2021

Sydney to Hobart race founder and marine artist Jack Earl had two great loves – Kathleen Gillett – his wife and his yacht!

Their unique love story, involving the historic 18-month circumnavigation of the world by the Kathleen Gillett in 1947-1948, is told through 12 elaborately illustrated logbooks and a selection has just gone on public display for the first time at the State Library of NSW.

According to State Library Curator Margot Riley: “the Earl’s extraordinary love story and the feat of the Kathleen Gillett was legendary at the time but has unfortunately slipped from living memory.”

With dreams of sailing around the world together, Jack and Kathleen spent six years designing and building their double-ended ketch, the   Kathleen Gillett, a classic blue-water cruising yacht. However, their big adventure was thwarted by the outbreak of WWII. 

At the end of the war, Jack and a group of friends held a celebratory race from Sydney to Hobart. The Kathleen Gillett finished fourth (third on handicap) and this race became the inaugural Sydney to Hobart yacht race. 

In 1947, the long-planned voyage finally took place, however, Kathleen Earl had to make the difficult decision to stay home with the couple's two children, Mick and Maris. It was only the second circumnavigation of the world by an Australian yacht.

“The logbooks are simply extraordinary,” said Ms Riley. “They’re filled with fun character sketches, photographs and bits of ephemera picked up along the way (stamps, postcards, currency, etc) as well as secret love notes for Kathleen’s eyes only.”

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