Vin­tageview Ta­mariki & Prize

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY HAROLD KIDD

The Thomp­son broth­ers, Alf (some­times known as Dick) and T.L. (known as Cook) punched above their weight in Auck­land’s 20th cen­tury yacht­ing cir­cles.

Af­ter they sold the crack keel yacht Speed­well, both broth­ers dab­bled in mi­nor yachts. Cook raced the 18-foot­ers Suc­cess, built by Alf Bell in 1902 and the square-bilge Millicent, built by Ge­orge Hon­our in 1922. Alf, who lived at 19 Sen­tinel Road, Herne Bay, made sure his three sons were ex­posed to good boats and yacht­ing’s delights, both rac­ing and cruis­ing.

In Oc­to­ber 1927 he bought the clinker 14-footer Manu (T26) for the two older boys, Bressin (born 1916) and Dick (born 1918). Manu was seven years old and a lo­cal boat, owned for most of its short life by near-neigh­bour Ralph Paw­son of Hamil­ton Road.

The boys were hardly old enough to sail the com­pet­i­tive Manu but were use­ful as crew, so Alf en­listed help from Stan Dry­land, one of Auck­land’s top 14-footer spe­cial­ists, to skip­per the yacht and teach them the rudi­ments. Stan was an­other of the Herne Bay yacht­ing fra­ter­nity. He was Sec­re­tary of the Pon­sonby Cruis­ing Club where Alf was Com­modore once again.

By 1930 Bressin and Dick had enough skills to han­dle a boat them­selves, so their fa­ther sold Manu to the Manukau and bought them the 16-footer Colleen (S49). It was not a good de­ci­sion. Colleen, re­named Wild Thyme, was a bal­lasted yacht in the minia­ture mul­let boat style, heavy and rel­a­tively slow, and needed to be moored off. Af­ter the lively Manu, Wild Thyme was safe, but pedes­trian. She lasted in the Thomp­son fam­ily’s hands only briefly be­fore they sold her to Point Che­va­lier. But their next step up was truly a quan­tum leap.

In 1934, New Zealand and, in­deed, the whole world was still in the grip of the Great De­pres­sion that fol­lowed the US Stock Mar­ket crash of 1929. Charles Collings was the prin­ci­pal of Collings & Bell, one of the finest boat­build­ing firms in Auck­land at the time. The yard was in St. Mary’s Bay, then still an idyl­lic beach.

In the early 1900s Collings had been re­spon­si­ble for the de­sign and con­struc­tion of some of Auck­land’s best rac­ing mul­let boats, but his firm had moved with the times and now was the fore­most builder of hard-chine plan­ing launches for rac­ing, whale-chas­ing and big game fish­ing.

De­spite the “Slump” there was an up­surge of in­ter­est in the L Class of rac­ing 22ft mul­let boats spon­sored by the Pon­sonby Cruis­ing Club. Its clu­b­rooms were next to Collings & Bell in St. Mary’s Bay. Collings de­cided to go back to his roots and pro­duce the ul­ti­mate 22-footer as a show­case for his tal­ents.

His new mul­let boat, Ta­mariki, (L11) was launched on 31 Oc­to­ber 1934, just one of five new 22-foot­ers launched for the

...his three sons were ex­posed to good boats and yacht­ing’s delights, both rac­ing and cruis­ing.

sea­son. Charles Collings had been a crack yachts­man 30 years be­fore but was now in his six­ties and vis­ually chal­lenged.

His first skip­per for the new boat was 29-year old Laurie Pohlen, fol­lowed by Jack Mcwhirter and W.A. “Farmer” Wil­letts for the ma­jor­ity of her first sea­son in which she gained 12 firsts, in­clud­ing the glam­our race, the Lip­ton Cup, as well as the Sa­vory Cup, four sec­onds, and seven thirds and the Cham­pi­onship Flag at the An­niver­sary Re­gatta, all from scratch. In this staunch mul­let boat cor­ner of the Waitem­ata, Ta­mariki was the hot ship.

With his brother Cook’s fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, Alf Thomp­son bought Ta­mariki for his sons Bressin and Dick Jr in July 1935, ready for the new sea­son with a re­vised cabin top and set up for cruis­ing as well as rac­ing. Their new boat was at the peak of the de­vel­op­ment of the 22ft mul­let boat within the Pon­sonby Re­stric­tions of the time and head and shoul­ders above the other four new boats of her sea­son as well as the ex­ist­ing fleet.

The 1936 Lip­ton Cup race was held in a half gale southerly. Farmer Wil­letts, skip­per­ing Ta­mariki, started late, putting a fourth reef in the main­sail, but still man­aged a cred­itable third. Wil­letts took Ta­mariki to a well-judged win over Fred Lidgard in Ko­muri in the 1937 race, re­peat­ing the win in 1938, against Lidgard in Ma­cushla and yet again in 1939 against Marika.

In 1940, how­ever, Charles Collings’ new boat for Stu­art Nai­smith, Taotane, a de­vel­op­ment of Ta­mariki, took the gun. This ended Ta­mariki’s dom­i­nance of the class for a time but she won the Cup an­other eight times between 1948 and 1960.

Dur­ing 1940 the Thomp­son broth­ers laid Ta­mariki up as the ef­fects of the war be­gan to bite. Bressin was in a key oc­cu­pa­tion run­ning the fam­ily busi­ness build­ing wheel­chairs. Dick had gained his ticket as a marine en­gi­neer and went to sea on the “home boats”. He died when the Shaw, Sav­ill & Al­bion freighter Zealandic was tor­pe­doed off Rock­all on 17 Jan­uary 1941 by U106 with the loss of all lives.

His par­ents were dev­as­tated, par­tic­u­larly since no de­tails of the ac­tion came through un­til af­ter the war from Ger­man records. Alf knew Bill En­dean well. En­dean had laid up his Bai­ley keel yacht Prize “for the du­ra­tion”. In Oc­to­ber 1941, just two months be­fore Pearl Har­bour, Alf bought Prize for Bressin.

Soon af­ter­wards Alf com­mis­sioned Ge­orge Tyler to help his youngest son, Har­lan, build a Sil­ver Fern 12-footer to race with the Herne Bay Ju­nior Yacht Club, an off-shoot of the Rich­mond Yacht Club. Nat­u­rally she was named Ta­mariki Ju­nior and given the sail num­ber 11.

Mul­let boat guru Ron Copeland of Bayswa­ter did a metic­u­lous job of restor­ing Har­lan’s Sil­ver Fern a cou­ple of years ago. Ron’s fa­ther-in-law, “Whisk” Marti­nengo, with his cousin “Flap”, owned Ta­mariki from 1948 to 1950 and won the Lip­ton Cup with her, in fact get­ting 21 guns in 21 starts in their first sea­son.

Un­til the war was won, the Thomp­sons could do lit­tle to Prize ex­cept keep her cov­ered and dry, but Bressin and Alf did recom­mis­sion her for the 1945-6 sea­son, still in her pre-war con­fig­u­ra­tion with her gaff rig. Her first race was in the 1945 An­niver­sary Re­gatta in which she car­ried away her bob­stay but Bressin cam­paigned her hard with in­creas­ing suc­cess.

She won the Royal Akarana Yacht Club’s Balokovic Cup in 1946 and again in 1947, low­er­ing Moana’s record for the off­shore event. That year Bressin mar­ried Beth Lamb. They brought up their two chil­dren, Chad and Mary-ann cruis­ing the Gulf and the Bay of Is­lands in Prize. For rac­ing, Chad joined the crew as the back-stay hand at the age of nine.

As had hap­pened to many of her con­tem­po­rary gaff-rig hold-

outs, the Thomp­sons de­cided to con­vert Prize to ber­mu­dan rig in 1949. The rea­sons were many; a ber­mu­dan main­sail was prob­a­bly bet­ter on the wind than a gaff and helped Prize match her more mod­ern op­po­nents; the gear was lighter and eas­ier to han­dle; less crew were needed, a bonus for cruis­ing when the only al­ter­na­tive was the try­sail.

Her rac­ing re­sults con­tin­ued to be ex­cel­lent, but in 1976 the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron changed its rules re­gard­ing spin­nakers and Bressin stopped rac­ing. He had just bought a whop­per, 58ft on the luff and 43ft across the shoul­ders. He was not go­ing to fork out for an­other lit­tle fel­low. He, Beth and the fam­ily just went cruis­ing.

Then, in 1993, the 70th An­niver­sary of the launch­ing of the good ship, Bressin had a stroke which brought his sail­ing to an end. Chad took over the run­ning of Prize. Af­ter a mild en­counter with a rock at Easter 1995, Chad hauled her out and de­cided it was time for a ma­jor re­fit, but it turned into a full six-month restora­tion.

Af­ter­wards, Chad put her into sur­vey to tu­tor the sales and mar­ket­ing staff of Maersk and en­ter­tain their clients dur­ing the Louis Vuit­ton se­lec­tion series and the 2000 Amer­ica’s Cup. Since then Prize has clocked up huge amounts of sea miles, cruis­ing, rac­ing with the Clas­sic Yacht As­so­ci­a­tion, win­ning the Har­bour Series and Pas­sage Series sev­eral times.

Prize is prob­a­bly the most thor­oughly used yacht in Auck­land’s Clas­sic scene and, at 95, ready for an­other 95.

Prize laid up “for the du­ra­tion” of the war, as the Thomp­sons bought her. CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP

The 14-footer Manu. Bressin Thomp­son in the 1950s.

Alf Thomp­son aboardPrize sort­ing gear dur­ing the con­ver­sion to Ber­mu­dan rig in 1949.

FAR LEFT The crew of Prize on the CYA race to Mahu­rangi 2013, from left Chad’s son-in-law Robin Kenyon, Ital­ian pho­tog­ra­pher Francesco Ras­trelli, Chad Thomp­son, long time mate Jeremy Mace.

LEFT Ron Copeland sail­ing Ta­mariki Ju­nior.

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