by Alan Sefton
Rainbow II heading out of Whangarei at the start of the 1967 Whangarei to Noumea Race
Rainbow II, the yacht whose international victories in the mid to late 1960s were the catalyst for the astonishing and on-going success story of New Zealand offshore, and international, racing over the past 45 years, is coming home.
After her historic One Ton Cup win off Heligoland in 1969, Rainbow II was sold to a Bermudan owner.
Now, the Sparkman & Stephens 36-footer (10.97-metres) has been reacquired by her original owner and skipper Chris Bouzaid who has donated her to the newly established Maritime Museum Foundation in Auckland.
Last month one of the other four icons of New Zealand sailing, Peter Blake's round the world winner Steinlager 2, recently returned to New Zealand after a 22 year absence. Of the other two yachts, both 12 metre America's Cuppers, NZL-32 is on permanent display in Auckland, and KZ-7 is still participating in 12 Metre racing events.
With the help of some close friends, Bouzaid is having Rainbow II brought back to New Zealand to be restored and then displayed publicly – originally by the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust in the Wynyard Quarter then, hopefully, in the Voyager National Maritime Museum in the Viaduct Harbour.
Her restoration, to be led by Max Carter, the man who built her in 1967, will be carried out in the old Percy Vos Boatyard in Hamer Street (in the Wynyard Quarter). The Vos boatshed is adjacent to the newly established Heritage Landing Silo Park Marina where some of the fleet of the Classic Yacht Trust is berthed.
The restoration will include new flooring and mast step, utilizing some of the large stock of New Zealand kauri that was recently donated to the Classic Yacht trust by Gerard van Tilborg of Origin Quarries Ltd.
A shipping cradle has been organized and, the first week in June, Rainbow II will be freighted from Bermuda to New Jersey and then onward to New Zealand where she will arrive late June/early July 2012 (all shipping is being organized by Bill Speedy, of Oceanbridge Shipping Ltd).
Bouzaid observes: 'New Zealand yachting has a lot for which to thank Rainbow II, and Rainbow II has a lot for which to thank New Zealand.
'On the back of Jimmy Davern’s 1966 Sydney-Hobart line-honours win the in 62ft Fidelis, this little yacht along with her dedicated crews was originally responsible for putting New Zealand on the international sailing map.
'During a short two-year period, she won a total of 121 races, including the Whangarei to Noumea and the Sydney to Hobart races in 1967, Kiel Week (in Germany) and the One Ton Cup (off Heligoland) in July 1969. Rainbow won her division and was overall winner in the 1969 Channel Race, followed by winning her division in the 1969 Fastnet Classic.
'Over the years since then, I have often thought of bringing her back to New Zealand. Recently I re-read 'Go Rainbow Go' and I realized that it was 45 years since those wonderful days full of excitement and adventure. I also realized it was time for her to come home.
'With the help of four close friends we have covered the purchase price and the transportation costs to New Zealand where Rainbow II will be donated to the Maritime Museum Foundation in Auckland'.
Bouzaid, who currently lives in Maine on the east coast of the United States, plans to sail the restored Rainbow II in Auckland on the 50th anniversary of her One Ton Cup win (that would be 21 July, 2019) with a crew comprising as many of the originals sailors as possible.
'At this stage most of them are still around and going strong - nothing like a little salt water in the blood to keep you healthy,' he says.
Bouzaid is setting up a Rainbow II website which will have photos of the various stages of Rainbow’s journey, with associated stories. It will also be a blog so supporters can add comments and post Rainbow memories.