In 1959, a 23-year-old Ben Lexcen (then known as Bob Miller) designed and built Taipan, a revolutionary lightweight 18-foot skiff that changed the shape of racing skiffs in Australia forever.
Taipan launched a successful design career for Lexcen, culminating in the design of the America’s Cup-winning yacht Australia II in 1983.
A completely new concept for the class, Taipan was designed with a lightweight, vee-shaped hull built from plywood, with overlapping headsails and minimal decking, for only 3 crew. This was almost the complete opposite to the existing fleet of heavy craft with 5 or 6 man crews. It changed lumbering behemoths into the harbour speedsters of today.
The Taipan story captures key elements of the life of its creative designer. Miller was always ready to experiment with new and original ideas, and not only was the whole concept revolutionary in the class, he also continued his experiments with endplates on the rudder and centreboard.
Taipan leads directly to the winged keel concept of the victorious 12 metre design Australia II, winner of the America's Cup in 1983. This win is considered one of Australia’s most important sporting achievements.
Taipan was donated to the museum in 1986.
In 2007, the Australian sailing community, led by Lexcen's friend, Carl Ryves, contributed pooled funds for the museum to research and restore this design masterpiece.
In mid-October 2007 Taipan sailed again, and looked just as it did when it created a furore in 1960. Taipan is now on permanent display in the museum at Wharf 7.