Elouera Surf Life Saving Club has discovered its first surfboat was later involved in a heroic rescue on the other side of the world. The link provided a historic backdrop to the launch of the club’s newest surfboat Charlotte Breen Xl on Sunday. Elouera Police Citizens Boys Surf Life Saving Club, as it was originally known, was founded in 1966 and its first surfboat was donated by the Breen family, which has been involved in sandmining, landfill and residential development on the Kurnell Peninsula for 70 years.
Since then, the family has donated a further 10 surfboats, all named after Thomas Breen snr’s wife Charlotte, who died in 1968. The boats take a battering in competition and are replaced every few years, with smaller clubs gaining the hand-me-downs. The original Charlotte Breen was given to Era Surf Life Saving Club and is believed to have been shipped to Britain for world surf life saving championships. During last year’s bushfires, Elouera club president David Kowald noticed a framed print of an oil painting on the wall at Narooma surf club while a group from his club was assisting with patrols on the South Coast.
Closer inspection revealed the name Charlotte Breen on the side and an inscription telling of the rescue of a catamaran by a crew from Bude Surf Life Saving Club in Cornwall during the ill-fated Fastnet Yacht race in 1979. The town’s lifeboat went to help but broke its back in the heavy surf, driven by gale force winds. Five members of the Bude Surf Life Saving Club then rowed the Charlotte Breen into the break, only to be swamped 50 metres out and forced to return to shore to bail out.
On their second attempt, they made it through the breakers and were able to prevent the catamaran floundering on rocks before it was taken in tow by a lifeboat from a neighbouring town.
This Duke of Edinburgh later presented the Bude SLSC crew with the Surf Life Saving Association of Great Britain’s highest bravery award.
A print of Cornish artist Harry McConville’s painting was given to Narooma surf club when a Bude team visited Australia in 1999. Mr Kowald said, while surfboats were only used for competition purposes these days, they remained the symbol of surf life saving and were a strong attraction to young people to join surf clubs. He thanked the Breen family for their support over more than 50 years. Mr Kowald said Charlotte Breen X excelled in completion, carrying both Elouera’s open women’s crew to victory while representing Australia in the 2018 Trans-Tasman series, and the men’s reserves crew to Gold at the 2018 Aussies.
Charlotte Breen, with her husband Thomas, launches the first of 11 surfboats named after her at Elouera beach in 1967. Picture: Elouera SLSC
Bude artist Harry McConville’s painting of the Charlotte Breen going to the rescue at Bude in Cornwall