Magnetic Island North Queensland
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May 8th 2009
Race re-enactment revives Magnetic's history

The yacht Pilot sailed by Bert Dunstone Next week a re-enactment voyage from Dent Island in the Whitsundays to Dunk Island off Mission Beach will be held to celebrate the centenary of a little-known race, “The Dent to Dunk”, completed on February 20th 1909. The race was sponsored by Robert Hayles Senior who began the Hayles Ferries which serviced Magnetic Island for most of the 20th Century.

The original race was won by a Bert Dunstone, who, with his brother, built several wooden boats at his home in South Townsville. Bert was a keen sailor and a member of the local sailing club.

All that is known about the Dent to Dunk race of 1909 is that Bert Dunstone won what is possibly the first long distance yacht race in Queensland in the Pilot, a gaff-rigged cutter that he built and owned.

Sailing day and night for 220 nautical miles in reef studded waters, without today’s navigational aids, was quite a feat. It certainly was not something for the faint hearted, particularly in the middle of the tropical cyclone season.

Cyclones Sigma of 1896 and Leonta of 1903, both of which devastated Townsville and together took many lives, would still have been fresh in people’s minds.

The re-enactment will be sailed in much safer conditions – outside cyclone season for starters – and, on board will be Magnetic Island's Jim Davis who will be on board as a deckie. Jim told Magnetic Times, “This is a big adventure for me as my sail experience is limited.”

The vessel chosen for the re-enactment is the Mim which has been loaned for the occasion by Cyclone Studios, Architects, of Airlie Beach. The forty-five foot, centre cockpit ketch, designed by Philip Rhodes, has frames of spotted gum and Australian beech planking. People who follow the America’s Cup will recall that it was a Philip Rhodes designed yacht, Weatherly that defeated Gretel in the 1962 event.

The centenary race is the brainchild of Kevan and Gloria Johnston. During a casual visit to the Townsville Museum and Historical Society in 2002 they spotted a large silver plated pewter pot engraved:

R. Hayles Esq
to the
Townsville Sailing Club
Won by Bert Dunstone
Yacht Pilot

As a Queensland Yachting Association Board Member and Chairman of the Whitsunday Region Development Committee of the Association, the trophy sparked Kevan’s curiosity.

Once he learned that the trophy was for a forgotten long distance yacht race that had started in the Whitsundays, where he lived and sailed, he thought it should be remembered somehow within the north’s yachting community. He and Gloria came up with the idea of staging an annual Dent to Dunk Yacht Race which would in some way honour Robert Hayles, the sponsor of the original race.

The couple worked with the Abel Point Yacht Club and the Townsville Museum and Historical Society and their dream came true when the Club, in conjunction with other yacht clubs in north Queensland, ran the “Hayles Dent to Dunk Cruising Race and Rally” in April-May 2005. In 2009 they plan to stage a re-enactment of the 1909 event prior to the race and rally.

Robert Hayles Senior, who donated the trophy, was a pioneer of north Queensland’s tourist industry. He started his tourism ventures when he built a jetty at Picnic Bay in 1898. later he was to build a hotel and begin regular ferry services to the Island.

Hayles’ business expanded and in 1909 he obtained permission from the Townsville Harbour Board to erect a depot and pontoon landing on Ross Creek. The creek, harbour and Magnetic Island were all used by recreational sailors, many of whom were members of the Townsville Sailing Club. It is not surprising that Hayles, in further promoting his business, sponsored the Dent to Dunk race.

Hayles retired in 1922 and successive generations of his family managed and expanded their business interests to other centres in north Queensland until the late 1980s when they started to progressively sell their operations. Robert Hayles Senior died in 1926. He was buried in Arcadia on Magnetic Island but later exhumed and reburied in Belgian Gardens Cemetery. His headstone is still on Magnetic Island at Nelly Bay.

Unfortunately, the history of the original 1909 race is rather sketchy. It appears that no Townsville newspapers have survived for the period. But relatives of the race winner, Bert Dunstone, have and they are helping the Townsville Museum and Historical Society with its research on the race.

On its return voyage, the Mim will call in at Magnetic Island (expected to be May 14) and Townsville where the crew will meet members of the Hayles and Dunstone families. The party will join others to visit Hayles House and Robert Hayles’ tombstone on the Island. It will then come to Townsville to visit Robert Hayles’ and Bert Dunstone’s graves at Belgian Gardens Cemetery, and then the Townsville Museum and Historical Society, home of the Hayles trophy.

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Race re-enactment revives Magnetic's history
May 15th 2009
A Bert Dunstone was a resident of Horseshoe Bay until maybe the mid-1990s. Bert was a lovely old bloke who lived in one of the houses at the eastern end of the beach. I believe he had lived in the city and worked for Townsville City Council. When he retired he moved to the Island.
I'm pretty sure Bert moved south - maybe Bribie Island? and later went looking for some of his old mates out on the Pantheon.
I really can't remember any details about family or anything but I'd guess if he was still alive he'd be about 85-90. Which would make him a likely candidate to be the son of the Bert Dunstone mentioned in the story above.
There would be quite a few people still living on the Island who have fond memories of 'our' Bert Dunstone - even if he was only the son of 'your' Bert Dunstone.
Graham Johnston
June 21st 2009
Bert Dunstone (junior), my uncle,moved from Magnetic Island to live on Bribie Island before he passed away on 14th May 1998. I returned with his ashes to Horseshoe Bay ,a place that he and his family knew and loved so well.Bert once told me that he and his father Bert snr. on occasions would white wash the rock known as "White Lady" when the seaguls were not doing their job ,or should that be jobs? properly? I was only about four years old when my grandfather passed away,but I can still remember him telling me not to play under the coconut tree in their South Townsville back yard , where they built boats, incase a coconut might fall and hurt me. My grandmother and Bert jnr. lived in "Seaholm flats" on the strand after the war years. Other boats built by my grandfather were the "Mavis" named after his oldest daughter,(my mother) and the "Melba "and "Melba D" after his youngest daughter. Then there were others including the "Mona" the "Joyce" and of course the "Pilot". It is great to see that people of my grandfathers generation can be remembered for the adventurous spirit they had .

Graham Johnston
(Proud Grandson of Bert Dunstone)
February 5th 2013
I have just found that I maybe related to Robert Hayles
Do you gave any information about family prior to
and after his arrival in Australia

My late mum was a Hayles


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