Old donks, young hearts

The Rud­der Cup re­run – a gather­ing of leg­ends.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY HAROLD KIDD

In 1908 the ed­i­tor of the Amer­i­can yacht­ing mag­a­zine Rud­der do­nated sev­eral tro­phies to yacht clubs around the world for off­shore rac­ing. Two came to New Zealand, one to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and one to Otago Yacht Club. The RNZYS de­cided to run a night race for mo­tor­boats on De­cem­ber 12, 1908, from the Auck­land wharves, around Sail Rock and back, a dis­tance of 108 nau­ti­cal miles. It had the ben­e­fit of a full moon and a kind west­erly.

The race was a huge suc­cess, with 14 en­trants, of which 12 fin­ished. It marked the com­ing of age of the mo­tor launch as a se­ri­ous, safe and ef­fi­cient ves­sel. Line hon­ours went to James Reid’s Se­abird, but the hand­i­cap win­ner of the su­perb sil­ver

Rud­der Cup was the Mathe­son broth­ers’ Maroro, it­self a Rud­der mag­a­zine de­sign built by the Mathesons. An­other en­trant was the husky Bai­ley & Lowe dou­bleen­der El­iza which had en­gine trou­bles in the race.

Re­named Kumi, El­iza was sub­se­quently owned for many years by the Whangarei Har­bour Board. Kumi is now owned by vet­eri­nar­ian Hay­don Af­ford who floated the idea to me of a cen­te­nary Rud­der Cup re­run. I wrote two Boat­ing NZ ar­ti­cles on the race. The vin­tage launch com­mu­nity be­came fired up with the idea; the Clas­sic Yacht As­so­ci­a­tion of NZ picked it up and or­gan­ised it mag­nif­i­cently.

Boat­ing NZ spon­sored the race and there was great help from the RNZYS, the Coast­guard and the Har­bour

Mas­ter. Steve Thomas, Se­abird’s present owner, brought her up from Nel­son for the race, with gen­er­ous as­sis­tance from ship­ping, haulage and crane op­er­a­tors.

The race was just magic. 26 launches, two of them built in 1905, took part in a mass start off Westhaven at 1900 on Fri­day De­cem­ber 12, 2008. The Waitem­ata rocked with the wash of el­derly hulls stream­ing to­wards North Head and then sweep­ing round into the Ran­gi­toto Chan­nel as day­light faded.

The rel­a­tively mod­ern plan­ing hulls soon cleared out. These hot ships were closely tailed by James Mob­ber­ley’s 36-footer Fal­con, built by Lane Mo­tor Boat Co for G.R. Cham­ber­lin of Ponui in 1930. She was touch­ing 17 knots as she thrummed through the night.

No one who took part will ever for­get the thrill of ap­proach­ing Sail Rock, stand­ing sheer 455ft out of the sea, in the dark, just a gen­tle slop around its base, the rock echo­ing the roar of the en­gines. Kevin O’sul­li­van, nav­i­gat­ing Se­abird, thrilled the fleet with his clipped, pre­cise RT sked, “Coast­guard, Coast­guard, Se­abird has rounded Sail Rock for the sec­ond time in a hun­dred years.” Skip­per Steve Thomas says he felt builder James Reid’s pres­ence with him.

El­iza/kumi had en­gine prob­lems again and there were other mi­nor dis­com­forts, but 26 old launches started and 25 fin­ished. Tony Steven­son pulled Wild Duck out at Kawau for a re­fresh­ment break af­ter some over­heat­ing and de­cided to stay once the top was off the rum bot­tle.

The prize­giv­ing was an­other thrill. The ex­tremely pop­u­lar win­ner of the new Rud­der Cup Tro­phy was the lovely 1918 Bai­ley & Lowe-built 45-footer Joan owned by Ray and Jill Rus­sell. Se­abird won the Vet­eran class, bet­ter­ing her 1908 time by 90 min­utes. Fal­con romped in third over­all, out-per­form­ing launches a frac­tion of her age in a mag­nif­i­cent per­for­mance.

That night the CYA rekin­dled the flame of launch rac­ing, for so long a fea­ture of Auck­land sport­ing life, but which had died dur­ing the 1930s.

Ten years later, the CYA is run­ning the race again, this De­cem­ber 14th. En­tries are good, so look out for an­other mad spec­ta­cle at dusk on the Waitem­ata that night. BNZ

MAIN PHOTO Se­abird BOT­TOM Kumi/el­iza

ABOVE Sail Rock in 1908. LEFT Fal­con ready to start in 2008. BELOW Maroro in 1908.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.