“The Squadron’s Most Prestigious Trophy”
THE CACTUS STORY
Years ago a story was told of a Donkey which lived in the desert. The standard of living was poor, and the main course on the menu when things were tough was cactus. The Donkey accepted the good with the bad, and in bad seasons it was always cactus. One day during his wanderings he came to a high fence. On the other side of the fence was lush grass and all sorts of vegetation and animals in prime condition. The Donkey said to a horse, “things look good in there, how does one get in”. The horse said “go down to the end of this fence, and you will come to a gate, there will be someone at the get, ask to get in”. The Donkey went to the end of the fence, found the gate and asked to get in. The horse at the gate said, “what do you want to come in for, all of us are geldings?”. The Donkey said “if that is the case, it is back to the cactus for me”.
It was during the early stages of the great depression of 1929-1932, that this story was simulated to the conditions at the then Royal St. Kilda Yacht Club, when during the yachting season there were very few trophies due to the lack of money. A lot of members were out of work, and each Monday many would front up for the jobs that were offering or those who missed out went back to the dole or as many put it “Back to the Cactus”.
The “Cactus Cup” race, to be free of entrance fees, was an idea conceived by H.A. (Toby) Armstrong, soon to be backed by Bert Bryant, Ivor Bowles and Jim Thorpe. It was First sailed March 25, 1922, when 9 yachts on sealed handicaps, raced over a 5 mile rectangular course for a small Trophy donated by Jim E. Thorpe and the winning crew of the yacht Helen, skippered by D.Dowse, entertained at a café after the race by the instigators of the race.
The next contest was April 12, 1930, for another small trophy also donated by Jim Thorpe, and the crew of the winning yacht Petrel, skippered by Stan Gamble, later on having to arrange for a mussel supper to the extent of Trophy money at an informal musical evening held in the spar room. From then on races for the Cactus Cup became an annual event.
In time the format was changed to result in the crew of the first winning yacht having to collect mussels from the pier on the first Saturday of July, cook and prepare them for a no charge informal supper and entertainment evening held in the spar room, towards which the Club provided a keg of Beer. Member Bob Ellis had a special song for the occasion, “Up at Tumba Bloody Rumba shooting Kanga Bloody Roos”.
Jim Thorpe then agreed to purchase a Perpetual Cup to be named the Cactus Cup. As guest of honor at the Cactus Supper Evening, May 1940, a dinner suit function in the Spar room, he presented the Cup along with Replica to Barney Snider who won with Eun-Na-Mara. Soon entries became few, for reason nobody wanted to win because of the penalty of having to collect, cook and prepare the mussels. In the interest of the contest and its revival, it was decided that the crew of the last yacht to finish had to collect, cook and prepare the mussels.
On the death of Jim E Thorpe in 1944, the trophy, along with its annual replicas, were then provided for by Ivor Bowles until his death in 1970. In time for reason of pollution, the collecting of mussels from the pier was discontinued, so Otto Meik the new provider decided that the format be changed and be replaced by a supper on the day of the race, consisting of bottle mussels, beer and frankfurts. Following the death of Otto Meik in 1979, with no provider for the trophy of replicas, the Squadron in the early 80’s broke tradition by introducing race entry fees.
In 2006 the Cactus Cup Tradition was reinstituted by a donation from J.H. (Bert) Ferris – RMYS historian. The Cactus Cup is now free to enter once again for all. The race is run early and a late afternoon feast of mussels and frankfurts is eaten afterwards.
Deep sectioned Silver Cup, 300mm high to lip, tapering to thick plain stem flaring out to stepped footing, has two shaped handles. Silver Lid with Donkey positioned on shaped dome. Overall height 110mm. Cup stands on 145mm high round black base with stepped footing, surrounded with Silver winner inscription band.
Inscriptions & markings
ROYAL ST. KILDA YACHT CLUB
INSTIGATED BY H.A. ARMSTRONG ESQ.
ORIGINAL CUP PRESENTED BY
J.E. THORPE ESQ.