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Birth of a classic: the "Quiet Little Drink"

Birth of a classic: the "Quiet Little Drink"

How CYCA Life Member Tony Cable and friends' gathering became a roaring, thriving party

By 1969, the Sydney Hobart was a truly global affair, attracting teams from across the world to compete in the ultimate Blue Water challenge. With fame came fortune, and the ever-increasing fleets were leading to similarly-increasing formality and grandiose prize-giving events. Concern was growing among Sydney crewman friends CYCA Life Member Tony Cable (from the yacht Adria) and John Dawson (Weatherly) that the after-race social scene at Constitution Dock was in-turn becoming more fragmented, and the official events for owners and navigators only.

Not ones to stand idly by, they organised a little get-together at an out-of-the-way pub. The Shipwright’s Arms on Battery Point was chosen as the location, and the event was dubbed with more than a little irony the “Quiet Little Drink”.

It was, of course, anything but.

Striding into a tiny side-bar of the “Shippies” and startling the sole elderly regular there, the dynamic duo promptly made their modest order: “Two hundred beers please and keep them coming!”

In a very short time, the bar became so packed with crewmen shoulder-to-shoulder that beers were being passed through the crowd one-by-one, and out of the windows to the waiting horde gathering in the street. A short time later, the crew of Jisuma arrived, and quickly realising that a contest was on, one of their number, David Hutchen, strolled over to the darts blackboard and ceremoniously chalked: “Cable & Dawson: 200 beers. Jisuma: 200 beers”.

Jokes, singsongs and lie-telling occupied the day, with the final tally, exactingly kept by David Hutchen, reaching 1,467 beers. Incidentally, Hutchen has carried the nickname “Chalkie” ever since that day.

The total was surpassed the subsequent year when it reached 2,000 beers, followed by 5,000 the year after that. It was onwards and upwards as the years went by, with the record becoming 20,197 beers drunk (around 10,000 litres!) in 1980.

The Quiet Little Drink, while it became an institution for the everyday crew-members in the Race, was still frowned upon by yacht club officials. Realising this and recognising the opportunity to use the stalwart event for a great purpose, the “Q.L.D.” as it had become affectionately known, began raising funds for various charities, and also to send promising young local Tasmanian sailors to compete in overseas campaigns.

The Hobart bash was to eventually lapse, however, after 30 years going strong in this format. But while it was down, the Q.L.D. was not out, revived by the CYCA in the form of a cocktail party at the Club, which continues, to this day, to uphold the event's principle values of mateship and charity each year.

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This and many other amazing stories of the history of the Cruising Yacht club of Australia can be read in "Ratbags to Respectability," a celebration of the history of our great Club. You can purchase this and other great memorabilia at our online store available here.