WHITWORTHS COMPANY HISTORY
The company beginnings can be traced to a meeting that took place in Brisbane in 1960 when Craig Whitworth and Bob Miller decided to team up in yacht racing. Craig was the Queensland Gwen 12 class champion and Bob Miller, a sail-maker, was beginning to develop radical 18-footer skiff designs. In 1961 Craig joined Bob as a forward hand on Venom, the second of Bob’s super lightweight three-man craft. Drawing loud guffaws from traditional 18-footer enthusiasts they proceeded to sweep all before them winning the world championship in 1961 with six straight wins. This was the beginning of the modern 18-footer that we now know on Sydney Harbour.
In 1962 crew positions were reversed and Bob sailed forward for Craig in the Flying Dutchman class where they won both the Australian and Inter-dominion championships on Sydney Harbour. At this point, Craig decided to leave his position as a Sales Representative and join Bob in sailmaking. With little more than their sailing reputations, they relocated to Sydney to begin business as Miller & Whitworth Pty Limited.
An old disused dance floor was found upstairs at 52A Spit Road, Spit Junction and although the rent of five pounds; five shillings per month ($10.50) was more than the budget, it was decided to throw caution to the wind and enter into a four year lease.
The sail-making prospered and in 1964 Miller and Whitworth joined with Hawker de Havilland, the aviation company, to design, produce and market a range of aluminium yacht spars which were starting to replace the traditional wooden spars. Also at this time, a pegboard wall was erected at the top of the stairs to the entrance of the Spit Junction sail loft, to provide a few basic L W Riley shackles and blocks, etc., for the sail customers.
By 1968 it was clear that 52A Spit Road could no longer cope with the business volume and land was purchased at 109 Old Pittwater Road, Brookvale, adjacent to the mushrooming Warringah Mall shopping complex. On 8 August 1969 the then President of the Australian Yachting Federation, Mr E J Merrington, officially opened the new purpose-built premises comprising sail loft, spar and boat building factory, yacht design office and administration.
Under the direction of Bob Miller the yacht design office flourished and John Bertrand, the successful America’s Cup skipper was part of the talented design team that worked for the company at that time. Successes included Sydney to Hobart race winner Ceil III, two of the three yachts in the Australian 1973 Admiral’s Cup team; Gingko and Apollo II; Half Ton Cup Pan Pacific champion, Plum Crazy and America’s Cup challenger, Southern Cross.
Despite the business growth, yacht racing continued and Craig won four more Australian Flying Dutchman class championships, an Australian Tempest class championship and numerous state championships. 1967 saw the prestigious Australian Yachtsmen of the Year trophy awarded jointly to Craig and Bob. In 1968 Craig sailed the company designed Contender class dinghy to win the IYRU single-handed trials in Medemblik, Holland. This resulted in the contender being named the new International Yacht Racing Union Single Handed class. Ceil III, a 40 footer designed by the company with Craig as sailing master, won the 1973 Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race and topped the point score in the Southern Cross Cup international ocean racing series.
In 1974 Bob moved to London to be closer to the international yacht design scene. Craig continued with the operation at 109 Old Pittwater Road until 1979 at which time the manufacturing activities were divested, the real estate sold and the decision made to concentrate solely on the retailing of marine accessories. The company name was changed to Whitworth’s Nautical World and the first supermarket style store opened in Green Street, Brookvale, adjacent to Warringah Mall.
The first accessory catalogue was 76 pages and promoted as part of the December 1976 Modern Boating magazine. Initially, the catalogues were an annual edition but with acceptance became a biannual publication and then later three times a year to match the seasons: spring, summer and winter. The catalogue has also increased to 172 pages and is now highly regarded as a complete fitting out guide for sail and power.
The Brisbane supermarket was opened in April 1984 and in July 1986 the Green street operation relocated to the purpose-built supermarket, warehouse and administration complex on the corner of Cross and Dale Street. October 1989 saw the acquisition of our main Sydney competitor, Boat Supplies Pty Ltd with stores at Crows Nest and Drummoyne. The business of Caringbah Boating was purchased in October 1994, the Southport stored opened in August 1995, our purchase of Rockbottom Marine, Melbourne was completed in June 1996 and our Mona Vale store opened in June 1997. Our expansion has continued with new stores opened in Cairns in February 1999, Mooloolaba in April 2000, and Perth in October 2000. In June 2003 the Quin's Marine Chandlery business in Port Adelaide was purchased and converted to another Whitworth’s Marine and Leisure supermarket. In February 2005 Whitworth's opened a new store in Albion near Breakfast Creek and in July 2005 converted Alec’s Marine in Leederville WA to another Whitworth’s Marine and Leisure supermarket. Our latest addition is the new Derwent Park Store in Hobart (formerly Taylor Marine). In August 2010 a new store was opened in Lambton, Newcastle to serve the boating public surrounding Newcastle.
Now with sixteen stores nationally, a thriving mail order business, and a burgeoning Internet presence, Whitworth's has grown into the largest and most successful marine accessory chain in Australia, employing over 150 staff. The goals are the same now as they were with the first supermarket in 1979; to provide unparalleled customer service and offer the largest range of product at the lowest prices.