Prize Part III
Prize was built from the top materials – a triple diagonal heart kauri hull in the best Auckland tradition, the finest workmanship from Bailey’s shipwrights, boatbuilders and riggers, the top grade of Oregon spars and a superb suit of Ratsey & Lapthorn sails made for her in Cowes, Isle of Wight bearing her registered number, A15.
She was the consummation of Bailey’s skills as a designer, constructor and business man, and the consummation of Endean’s need to replace the lost Onelua with an equivalent treasure.
Prize’s debut race was to be at the Combined Opening Day on 17 November 1923, sailing for the Squadron, Devonport Yacht Club, Akarana Yacht Club and Ponsonby Cruising Club on almost identical handicaps to Rawene, and with only Iorangi giving her time.
There was a fresh breeze. Nearly 300 yachts took part but Prize did not start. Sensibly, Endean was unwilling to risk spoiling his new Ratseys. He unbent his mainsail and later left under trysail. Again, conditions were fresh for the Devonport Yacht Club race
Her first race was the Squadron’s Hardie Trophy to Awaroa Bay on 15 December 1923, on nine minutes handicap...
on 1 December. Prize went to the start line but Endean chose not to start. Instead, he took her for a quiet cruise to Whangaparaoa the following weekend.
Her first race was the Squadron’s Hardie Trophy to Awaroa Bay on 15 December 1923, on nine minutes handicap; Ariki was on scratch, Iorangi on five minutes, Rawene on 11. Prize came in fifth on line, beaten by
Ariki, Iorangi, Rawene and Victory. Ladye Wilma, sailed by war hero Cyril Bassett V.C., won on handicap.
“Speedwell”, in the Auckland Star, commented: “Prize, which was sailing her maiden race, was disappointing, but should do better when her sails have a chance to stretch into shape. Beating home on Sunday with two reefs down and a staysail, she appeared to be tender. However, a new boat is not at her best in her first season.”
There was talk around the waterfront that Prize was seriously overcanvassed, the same sort of talk that Onelua had excited 10 years before.
Endean persevered with her rig and, gradually, Prize emerged as a serious contender in a full racing programme with the Squadron,
Akarana and Ponsonby. She improved in harbour races and passage races, won the Ocean Race from Auckland to Russell held in association with Russell Regatta in December 1923.
Mind you, she just squeaked in ahead of Willetts’ rapid 26ft mullet boat Waitere II. In the 1924 Tauranga Race she got a fifth on handicap. But in November 1925 Endean had 2ft 6ins cut off the mast and the sail reduced proportionally.
It was probably at this time that she got a new lead keel, 8 inches deeper. Her challengers were still Rawene, of course, sailed magnificently by Alf Gifford, and Victory, sailed equally magnificently by Harold George.
In December 1926 Colin Wild designed and built Nga Toa (A17) for the Winstone brothers, the second new large keel yacht since 1913 for the Waitemata, reinforcing the trend that Prize and Endean had established.
She had 1040 square feet of bermudan mainsail on a 59ft “marconi” mast, thoroughly up to date. Nga Toa made offshore events her home; she did the Tauranga Race every year and did well in the Balokovic Cup.
But over the next 15 years, as the country fought its way out of the Depression, there was a flood of new builds in Auckland, mainly from the pen of Arch Logan and built by Bill Couldrey, or designed-and-built by Colin Wild.
It became a repeat of the Golden Age of the 1890s, but without the Baileys, for Prize was the last Bailey-designed-andbuilt first class racing yacht.
Endean was Commodore of the Squadron from 1928 to 1930. A friend of Gordon Coates, he got caught up in national politics at the outset of the Depression. Between 1930 and 1938 he was Member of Parliament for the Parnell electorate (later renamed Remuera), firstly for the Reform Party and from 1936 to 1943 for the National Party.
He represented the National Party at a Parliamentary Conference in London in 1943. In 1950 he was a member of “suicide squad” on the Legislative Council, our former Upper House, which abolished itself that year.
In years leading up to WWII Prize was campaigned regularly. One major victory was the 1932 Squadron Horton Bequest race and she competed in several clubs’ races with Cobb Mays as sailing master and with Con Thode in her crew for a time.
She cruised extensively most summer holidays. She still wore her gaff rig, despite the fact that several of the earlier major yachts had gone over to bermudan. Rawene was (and still is) a holdout. As the war became more serious and his public duties
in the wartime coalition government became more of a burden, Endean talked about laying her up “for the duration” as so many yachts and launches had been.
But he had a swansong race with her. In February 1941 Prize, on scratch, was first on line in the Squadron’s Te Kouma race. In October 1941 it was announced that he had sold Prize to Alfred Thompson of Herne Bay.
Thompson (known as “Dick”) and his younger brother Thomas Leopold Thompson (known as “Cook”) had been movers and shakers in the Auckland yachting scene since they were young men.
Through their mother, the Thompsons were descended from George Calvert, the first Baron Baltimore and, among many other famous people, the musical instrument maker Pierre Jaillard of Bourg-en-bresse in the South of France. He was known in England as Peter Bressan, the 17th century inventor of the recorder in the form we know it today.
Both brothers were experienced yachtsmen and skilled skippers. Among the yachts they owned together or separately around the turn of the 20th century were the small keel yacht Belle, originally built as an open sailing boat by Clarence Hewson in 1882.
There was also another former crack open sailing boat, Magic, built by Robert Logan Sr in 1881, later decked in, and the crack 24ft mullet boat Echo built for them by Jas. Clare in 1900, then the Chas Bailey-designed-and-built 24ft Linear Rater Speedwell that they bought in 1903 for £100, serious money at the time. During the two years of owning Speedwell from 1903 they were rarely beaten.
But Cook got married in 1906, Dick in 1914 and both eased back on competitive sailing. Both had been heavily involved in the formation of three new yacht clubs along the Ponsonby foreshore. Dick called the first meeting at the Gluepot in October 1900 which led to the formation of the Ponsonby Cruising Club.
He was Treasurer from 1900 to 1902, Secretary from 1903 to 1904, Commodore 1903, 1927 to 1929 and President for most of the period 1921 to 1935. His input was huge.
Cook was a founder member of the Home Bay Sailing Club in 1902 and its first Commodore. When it went into recess in 1906, Cook and most of the members went to Richmond Cruising Club, as it was then known, and was Commodore from 1912 to 1918 and again from 1925 to 1934.
He was also involved heavily with Victoria Cruising Club and became its Commodore in 1920 for several years. Victoria then had the largest membership of any New Zealand yacht club with 800 members. These two brothers were enormously influential on Auckland’s yachting climate and provided sound leadership for Auckland’s western yacht clubs over nearly 50 years.
Dick Thompson had three boys, Bressin Baltimore (born 1916), Dick Whinray (born 1918) and Harlan Calvert (born 1924). Dick and Cook made it their business that these boys inherited their yachting skills by providing them with good boats. BNZ
NEXT ISSUE In the next article, I will review those boats which included the crack 22ft mullet boat Tamariki and, of course, Prize. Contact Harold at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LEFT Prize (A15) and Nga Toa.
BELOW The crack 24ft linear rater Speedwell.
RIGHT A newspaper photograph of Prize in Bill Endean’s last race, February 1941.
ABOVE Alfred (Dick) Thompson as a young man.
BELOW Rawene (A5) and Prize (A15).
FAR LEFT The Thompson brothers’ first serious yacht, the 24ft mullet boat Echo built by James Clare in December 1900.
LEFT T.L. (Cook) Thompson as a young man.