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Couta Boat

Name of Boat


Owner's Name

Geoffrey Ogden 

Boat Location

Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club Perth WA 

Registration No.


Sail No.



Feet & Inches  Outside of stem to outside of transom

Overall Length

26' 7.75" 

Maximum Draft

3' 3" 

Maximum Beam

10' 5" 

Centreplate Case Length

8' 10.5" 



Carvel Clinker
Open 1/2 Cabin Cabin


Gaff Lug



2 Tonne  


Lead Ignots 



3 GM 28 Yanmar 


25 HP 





Tim Phillips 


Will Baillieu 


Geoff Ogden was the first person in Perth to show interest in the Couta Boats, through his friendship with Grant Smith, Will Baillieu and Clive Beckingsale. He first raised the idea of having a boat built in 1986, and sought the design of "Sally", which he had seen in Portsea. Will Baillieu advised him to have a new design completed, which would be more of the traditional size of around 26-27 feet (Sally being 28 1/2 feet) Will Baillieu was commissioned by Geoff Ogden to design Merlin at the end of 1986. She is based on Ajax, but is 4ins deeper in the forefoot, and is finer in the stern quarters, with a sweeter transom. She is very much like "Surprise" in the deadrise, with straight lines from waterline to keel for more than half her length. This is to minimise wetted surface area, and seems to allow a boat to climb to weather more easily. She was built by Tim Phillips, in Sorrento, out of Celery Top pine planking on Celery top ribs, with a Queensland Beech deck. After she was built, Will Baillieu rigged her and she sailed out of Portsea for 6 weeks or so, to trial the boat and rig. After a Couta Boat picnic at the South Channel Fort, 6 young girls were persuaded to strip off and pose on the deck of Merlin for a surprise photo to be sent to Geoff Ogden in Perth. Upon receipt of the photo he asked that the boat be immediately packed up and delivered to him in Perth! She has remained there ever since. She is a beautifully balanced boat, and in her trials at Portsea was more than a match for Ajax and Muriel in straight line speed. The deeper forefoot makes her a slightly drier boat than Ajax, and does not seem to diminish her turning ability too much. She is an outstanding performer to windward. Geoff Ogden has the dubious distinction of having sailed Merlin under, in 2 capsizes on the Swan River, by over canvassing in the conditions. The first sinking was fortunately in reasonably shallow water, but the second time she went down nearly 90ft. Fortunately she was salvaged on both occasions, without more than superficial damage. This remains a lesson to all owners of Couta boats, about the vulnerability of open boats, and of the wisdom of sensibly reefing to the conditions.

Race Record

Merlin has to this date never raced against the Sorrento fleet, but races regularly on the Swan River right through their season, as well as the twilight races every week, out of RFWBYC. She has regularly won races in Perth, and has taken out the Club ch


Geoff Ogden was the first of the Western Australians to dip into their pockets and obtain Couta Boats. He has been a strong supporter of the Club, and has encouraged and persuaded others in WA to obtain boats, and there is now a strong and ever growing fleet in Perth. Merlin has been chosen over all other Western Australian boats to carry the Olympic flame across the Fremantle Fishing boat harbour, on its way to the Sydney Olympics.



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