The South of Perth Yacht Club would like to congratulate Len Randell OAM on the recognition of his service to sailing and naval architecture.  

Len Randell is very much one of the fathers of sailing on the Swan River and is a living credit to the sailing community of Perth and ocean clubs. His name is known the length and breadth of Australia as are his designs and boats that ranged from the simple Pelican dinghy to the STS Leeuwin and includes fishing boats, cray boats, ferries and the 14 foot skiffs that were sailed to National championships during the 1950’s.    

Len wasn’t born into a sailing family, but became enamoured with the river, indeed any water everywhere. He grew up in the Depression years and all of his spare time was spent around the Swan and Canning rivers, fishing, swimming, building canoes with his mates to go paddling on the river. He began sailing at Maylands before the yacht club was established and began to hire boats from the foot of William St, near where the new Elizabeth Quay would be established. Sailing, crabbing, a free roaming life, there was little money and he had to learn to make his own fun.  

He left Perth Modern School at fifteen to take a trade as an electrical fitter and by twenty two was a regional supervisor for the Public Works Department. But it wasn’t to his liking and he followed his passion for boat design on an amateur basis. To him, it was just commonsense and after some study, he wrote a thesis and submitted plans to the Royal Institute of Naval Architects in the UK in 1952 and at the age of twenty seven was made an associate. The only naval architect in Perth at that time and self taught at that.  

From then on his reputation spread, as his understanding of different materials and sailing experience helped him design faster boats. He had confidence in his intuition and didn’t rigidly follow Lloyds Rules on Loads to the letter and he ended up designing vessels of all sizes and materials from 14 ft skiffs to cruisers and fishing boats. Len took up a number of hobbies in later life and is a keen glider pilot, still flying today and regards it as a natural extension of his sailing career.  

He was a sailor as well as a designer and in unusual circumstances, he sailed a friend’s yacht Rugged, that he had designed and helped build, in the inaugural Naturaliste Race in 1955. Of course he won it on handicap, as the sixth boat over the line, but it was an amazing feat for the smallest boat in the fleet of 15 boats. We need to remember that he sailed on a large number of the offshore races in his youth and still sails today on the Swan River from SoPYC.  

Len Randell joined the South of Perth Yacht club in 1951 and was elected as a Vice Patron of the club in 2019.   

Once again the club and indeed the whole of the sailing community of Western Australia would like to congratulate Mr Len Randell  OAM for his contribution to sailing and boat design in Australia.  

Words: Rick Steuart Archivist SoPYC  

Images: Rick Steuart unless otherwise noted.