In the early 1960s, Jack Stewart set out to build himself a yacht. He chose the Normandy 28 design by the legendary English Royal Designer, award winner of 1951, Jack Laurent Giles. Jack Stewart had never built a boat himself, but over the years he had helped several other people to build theirs. He was therefore quite an experienced builder. Jack personally felled the Ironbark tree in the forest in the Otway Ranges. He then let the log soak for six months in seawater, under the pier at Geelong, before starting to shape it. He built the frames of Spotted Gum and planked the carvel hull in New Zealand Kauri. He laid the pine deck over a base of marine plywood. The hollow mast was built of fine-grained Oregon by a leading mast-builder of the day. Jack fabricated most of the fittings himself. It took about seven years of painstaking work before the boat was launched at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in, 1969.
Jack Stewart named his new boat after his wife, Irene. All subsequent owners have retained the name.
Irene has been dearly loved by all her owners, Jack Stewart wished he never sold her, later owner Geoff Braybrook wanted to buy her back!
Irene has visited Tasmania on many occasions including a couple of circumnavigations. Her first visit to the Wooden Boat Festival was in 200 and she attended the 2005 and 2017 festivals. Irene has cruised the East Coast extensively including far North Queensland.
Here is an excerpt from her 1997 Tasmanian circumnavigation by her then Owner Miles Maxwell
Pete and I sailed to Hobart by the West Coast route. Though not the longest trip I ever made, it was by far the most adventurous. We sheltered in the Bathurst Channel during a fearful westerly storm that lasted the best part of a week. When we finally dared to stick our nose out, we had to motor over the huge swells that rolled into Port Davey. There was no wind in the troughs!
Not long after rounding South-West Cape, we were caught in another westerly gale. The autopilot was completely overwhelmed by the seas coming up from astern. The night was pitch black, and the noise of the surf breaking on the rocks seemed terrifyingly close. We could neither see where we were going nor could we steer to avoid the following seas. The cockpit was full of water from breaking wave-tops. Trying to steer by compass, we were yawing through 120º. By some mysterious chance, when I found a moment to check the GPS, we were exactly at the point where I had planned to turn northwards to sail up the East Coast. May God bless all those who design and build GPS units.