Welcome to the Wagga Wagga Sailing Club

The History Of The Dennis T.S. 500



Notes taken from a talk given by Glen Dennis at the TS 500 AGM all on 27th of June 1996


The first Dennis TS500 was produced by

Dennis Yachts, 17b Slough Road Altona, Victoria in 1973.


At the time I had a concept of building a round bilge fiberglass TS of 16ft. length, as the TS16 was being built in ply and was a strong class. Prior to designing the TS 500 I saw a photo of an 18 foot boat in the annual American magazine “Sail”. This photo immediately caught my attention as it fitted in with some ideas I already had for a TS. The basic shape of the TS 500 came from this photo about 23 or 24 years ago but I stress that the TS 500 design is entirely original. At the time I had a boat building business but wanted to build my own design hence the Dennis TS 500.

My career with boats started when I completed an apprenticeship as a joiner in the early sixties in Launceston, but couldn't obtain any employment as a joiner due to a credit squeeze. At the time a friend of mine and I decided to build a fifteen foot runabout and sell it to give us some work and money. However we soon found out that we couldn't sell it to due to the credit squeeze, and a boat dealer finally took it on consignment to sell it for us. This dealer advised us that fiberglass boats were in more in demand and not to waste our time building any more wooden boats . As a new agent for Savage Boats this dealer also told us that Savage Boats in the Williamstown had difficulties in getting workers for the manufacture of fiberglass boats. After this agent rang Savage we came to Williamstown for jobs. I took the employment and my friend went back to Tasmania. After a month I was in charge of fiberglass molding even though I had never seen fiberglass before in my life (as I said they were pretty desperate for workers.)

After a while I went back to Tasmania and entered into a small partnership in fiberglass with another person. This later failed. After that I met a girl from Victoria doing a midwife training in Tasmania and later got married. While I was working in a dye house mixing dye for a woolen mill and earning $38.00 a week. I got a phone call from Savages offering me a eighty dollars a week to return to Melbourne. I soon returned.

So I saw another year or two with Savages while there was a boating boom going on. We worked crazy hours then manufacturing about 1200 motorboats per year with the average size being about 5m (ranging in size from 12 to 24ft.) Savages was run by two brothers at the time and there were three companies: cruisers, aluminum and fiberglass. I left in 1970 a few months before the fire at Savage’s in an effort to be self employed in the boat industry.

My first attempt was to build an 11ft fiberglass fishing dingy two compete against a similar aluminum hull (a silly idea), And then Paper Tigers hulls as some owners weren't happy with the current builder. However to build chined ply hulls to minimum racing weight was difficult to achieve, and I didn't take this to heart. I was then approached by the 505 association to build new replacement moulds for an old fiberglass hull (prior to that they had fiberglass hulls and timber decks and tanks). This went quiet well. During all this the 470 dingy became an Olympic class and I was encouraged to apply for a license to build 470’s. At that time builders had licenses in Spain France UK (Holt) and possibly in USA. David Binks from South Australia and I got licenses to build 470’s in Australia, although I believe that Binks didn’t build two many of them.
I also built well over 200 Corsairs for Blue Water Marine which had the Australian license for this boat. The Corsair was a sail training boat for the navy. I also built some fiberglass Pacers for Anchor Marine.

With all of this occurring I still wanted a proprietary product available for sale through dealers. Two compete in the power boat area was unwise so I fell two producing trailer sailors. This product had to be simple, relatively cheap to buy, be easily towed by a small car (there was a trend towards small cars) and have as many features packed into the boat such as usable foredeck. To sell the TS 500 through dealers the boat had to be produced very cheaply as it was liable to full sales tax. Some of the boat builders tried to overcome this problem by subcontracting but this was not possible with our production. The dealers also wanted their margin. Although I wanted to boat to sell for one price throughout Australia this was impossible due to freight (savages had used a subsidized freight system).

At the time the price of a new basic Holden, was about $3,000.00 to $3,200.00 while the cost of the first TS 500 trailer and motor was $2,798.00. So it was a cheap boat at the time and the business was successful employing eleven people in production and one in administration. Dick Underwood, sales ex Hunt Marine Sydney, was managing Inglis Smith, Ship Chandler’s, where I purchased a lot of the fittings and I employed him to be our sales and office manager.

There are no line drawings of the TS 500 in existence now and there was nothing but rough sketches of it at the time. I have read as much as I can on a boat design and believe that if it looks right then generally it is Ok (different for 30 – 40 footers) the boat was drawn out, various parts lofted onto the floor (built out of any available materials ) and viewed for appearance using battens bent around the shape. If I have done anything wrong with the TS 500 I may have made the bilges a bit soft (round). The mast and boom sections are based on straight 470 sections (the mast is tapered) and Comalco possess the Dennis designed dies for the straight 470 extrusions.

With TS 500 selling well I wanted to produce twenty footer along the lines of the TS 500. The TS 600 was a more sophisticated boat but was not as successful and only about 30 were produced. It was a difficult market for the T S 500 and I wanted to change it as it was not a pretty boat. The freeboard could have been reduced and the flat deck needed some alteration. At this stage I believed that I could achieve a good balance with an 18 footer known as TS 550. The trend to smaller cars had definitely occurred by then so it was still a good size. It was a nice boat and after an investment of $50,000.00 I only made two or three TS 550's when the market stopped completely. One was sold to Sydney and the other one I made for myself was sold to Adelaide.

The market simply stopped when it became impossible to sell against my own second hand market of the boats that I had produced. I didn’t go broke but voluntarily decided to close the business. The TS 550 moulds (also known as the Sandpiper) are in a paddock in the Williamstown and the TS 600 hull moulds were buried at the Werribee tip, based on my experience at Savages when old moulds were taken to the tip they were the reclaimed and used as boats. It was two dear to physically cut up the molds and I wanted to avoid any future liability of the molds themselves being used as boats.

Other points raised in further discussion:
1 During the oil crisis, resin was difficult to obtain but Dennis yachts could obtain supplies from their regular supplier but at a higher price. Many boat builders had difficulty with their suppliers during this time. The price of fiberglass resin came down to only four years ago.

2 The TS 500 are built out of polyester resin (Mosanto) and the foam I used was urethane. Experimentation was done with balsa core but urethane was the only practical choice at the time. However Urethane has no shape memory and once deformed will not spring back to original shape. Repairing of foam sandwich which has collapsed in decks (soft spots) is difficult but is best done from under deck (boat inverted would help here) the skin could then be cut and the affected foam foam removed. Quality micro-balloon PVC foam could then be bonded into the space concerned and sealed with a fibre glass. The alternative of pressure injection of high density epoxy resin into any spongy areas may and a lot of weight two the collapsed foam area. There is some timber glassed along the centre of the deck.

3 The filler used liberally in the resin for bonding purposes was asbestos powder, a tough natural material. This procedure was used in boat building up to ten years ago and was used to bond the deck, cockpit and interior to the hull. Although this is no cause for alarm as it is well and truly bonded into the set resin, normal precautions using a dusk mask should be employed when sanding or drilling the boat in this joins.

4 The piece of the centre board (keel) that has been cut out was divided into two and fibre glassed around each side of the centre board case in internal ballast. The keel was originally designed as1/2 in. thickness but was soon replaced with 1in. thick steel which assisted stability greatly.

5 Frank Hammond had the sail plan and the spinnaker is based on the 470. The Dennis TS 500 logo on the mainsail is not a “D” but represents a Olympic sailing course.

6 Although “Indigo” (no 163) may have been the last TS500 produced,186 is the best estimate of the total number of TS 500 ’s produced. This discrepancy is due to a number of boats without sail numbers made for hire companies, such as one of the Whitsunday’s resorts.

7 The buoyancy tank in the boat should have a breather pipe (a fine copper pipe shaped like a shepherd’s crook up near the bow in the cabin to compensate for pressure changes due to temperature variations when the boat is launched or retrieve. Otherwise If not fitted this can force water to be drawn into the air tank even via a tiny pin hole when launched into cold water to due to concentration of the air in the tank. This also allows for air expansion in the tank when retrieving on a hot day.

8 No attempt was made to build cupboards backrests in the cabin as this would have increased the price while reducing the roominess of the cabin out to the gunwales.

9 Ray Laird (owner of a T S 600 until recently) of Blue Water marine wrote an article on the TS 500 in "The Sun" in 1974 using boat number fourteen for the sailing tests the

Red Rocket Sail No 95

Sail Number 22 Elky "J"



The TS 500 built by Dennis Yachts, Victoria was first produced in 1977. The Dennis TS 500 is an all fiberglass trailer sailor with self righting capabilities. A full length cabin floor gives four adult sized bunks and room to build in lockers, icebox and toilet. Foam sandwich decks construction and complete buoyancy compartment under the cabin floor make the boat virtually unsinkable.

Length: 5m
Beam: 2.16m
Draft: .25m
Drop plate: 1m
Internal ballast: 45.4kg
Complete weight: 362.9kg - Ballast ratio: 30%
Sail Area: Mainsail 8.2sq m, Jib 4.9sq m, Spinnaker 2.1sq m, Genoa 6.51sq m
When reefed main measurers 5.9sq m and jib measurers 3.3sq m



Sail No 92

Check out the TS500 user group.


Read the article "Cruising At Low Cost" published by "The Sun" Friday, Oct 11 1974


"I guess in theory using a boat as a caravan isn't a bad idea especially when it comes to towing, sure it might have a bit more weight but once you get up to speed it's got a heck of a lot less drag than a giant square box, you could end up saving a lot of fuel, and the price of a caravan for that matter.

You also never know what will happen in the Australian outback, I hear there's puddles the size of lakes out there. "


Read the article "Dennis Yachts -TS 500 5 metre Trailer Sailor" as printed in "Seacraft Action Test no 41" January 1975



Read the "TS 500 Class Rules Blue Print Specifications."


Read the TS 500 Association Of Victoria Brouchere


TS 550

View the TS 550 "Sandpiper sales Brouchere"


Sandpiper 550 Sail Number 11 owned by Michele and John Micallef


TS550 "Sandpiper"


TS 600


Alan Darlison's TS 600 "Blue Finn"


Read the review: "James Hill tests another new drop keeled yacht, the Dennis TS 600, and is impressed with it's seaworthiness."




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