by Neil Kennedy
Nimble outside the Auckland Traditional Boatbuilding School in Hobsonville
As we indicated in the initial press release one of the main objectives of the celebrations is to try to assemble a selected fleet of yachts that either competed or were represented in the first three contests held in Sydney 1957, Auckland 1959 and Sydney 1961 that formed the basis of the series as both an individual and teams event.
From the first New Zealand Team ( Ada Q2, Futile Q4 and Nimble Q8) it was Nimble that emerged as the top boat and for the reasons already covered she was the logical choice especially given her pedigree. The new Nimble is already off the mould and we will have further pictures of her as building progresses.
Flamingo and Interlude together with a Seasray report of the Interdominion 12ft skiff regatta.
Following the return of the NZ team and the announcement that the next contest was scheduled for Auckland in January 59, the Q class experienced a significant boost in activity. Peter Nelson who designed and sailed Futile in the initial contest designed Oracle Q54 and Elfin Q52 for Brian Woods, who finished 4th and 2nd respectively, while Ken Rushbrooke sailed Vague Q50 into third, but they and the rest of the conventional Q’s were totally eclipsed by something that no one expected.
When the Class reporter was discussing the prospects in Sea Spray a few months prior to the event he made the following comment. 'John Peet is reported to be building a 12ft catamaran to a design by J.H.Young.'
Q 56 Kitty, the red hulled 12ft catamaran became the sensation of the 1958/59 yachting season as she proceeded to sail rings around every center boarder on the Waitemata Harbour. She won the selection trials and duly won the 2nd Interdominion 12ft championship.
The other outstanding yacht in that series was Don Harland’s Cherub 181 Scurry. Although she finished fifth overall due to a ninth and a retirement, on two occasions she was the first monohull to finish. Interestingly she was designed by Don himself as a variation on the Spencer Modified Mk2 and Pryde Carousel designs that dominated the very strong Cherub class at that time.
Don has recently presented the original drawings to Ken Fyfe and moves are underway to see if a new Scurry can make it to the starting line in January 2010.
At the present time we are looking to have a Kitty cat and at least one Cherub design from the 59 series sailing in the classic fleet.
The third contest held in Sydney in 1961 was the foundation on which the ID 12 ft Skiff Interdominion Series as we know it was built. With teams of 12 yachts representing Australia and New Zealand, it created huge interest in centerboard yachting circles in New Zealand as the contrast between the closely restricted Cherubs and the unrestricted Q class constantly fueled debate as to their respective merits. New Zealand dominated the series and aside from the domination of Q41 Flamingo who won very easily, the talking point was the performance of the Cherubs, which really opened the eyes of the Australians.
Q 41 Flamingo sailed by John Chapple was an easy winner in the generally light conditions and she went on to cement her place in ID 12 ft history by winning again in 1963 to become the first dual championship winner. Ironically John tried to sell for 150 pounds after her first ID win, a steal at the time but there were no takers, so he kept her and won again! Little is known about what became of her, but with her varnished hull and white bottom efficient rig and rainbow striped mast head spinnaker she was a classic example of a state of the art 12 ft footer.
Flamingo, Q41 from the front cover of Seacraft magazine
The other surprise packet of that series from the Q class perspective was the performance of the Dave Marks designed Q’s Magic Q5 and Fugitive Q9 which were not even designed as Q’s but as a club boat for the Wakatere Boating Club.
Fugitive Q 9 sailed by Robert Brooke is still in remarkably good order and she will be sailing in the Classic regatta.
The Cherubs performed outstandingly in the series with the Modified MK II Cherub Interlude # 229 finishing third and Epic #222 fifth. We are very keen to have a genuine modified Mk II Cherub from that era sailing in the Classic event.
But the Cherub that caught the many eyes was the North Shore newer Spencer design Bondi Tram #326, sailed by Rodger Cadness and crewed by a man who was to become one of the great skiff legends in both 12 and 18’s Warwick ‘Rags’ Goldsworthy. She actually got into the contest only because of the withdrawal of Gary Denniston because he was not happy with the performance of his National Champion Topic. But the legend of Bondi Tram was born in the Third heat of the Series when in very fresh Easterly breeze she gave one of the most spectacular displays of sailing to win by over 3 ½ minutes over the best 12 footers of the day, and in doing so lived up to the famous Aussie quote ' Shot thru like a Bondi Tram' after which she was so aptly named.
Like her North Shore compatriot Flamingo, Bondi Tram disappeared from view a long time ago, but who knows the legions of North Shore 12 ft sailors might just decide to prove their superiority over the mob from the other side of the bridge once again and reproduce their champions for the 50th ID classic regatta.
Of course the classic fleet is very keen to attract some Australian representatives to give the event a genuine representative flavor.
The first series in 1957 was promoted by the NSW 12ft skiff Association as a contest between their National champion Yandoo sailed by Jack 'Choco' Winning father of John Winning senior who has so generously devoted so much to skiff sailing and the rest. The Australian skiff administrators and sailors were supremely confident that Yandoo would prove once and for all that their 12ft skiffs were the fastest 12 foot yachts around.
Yandoo was described as a small three handed skiff, a moulded hull with a typical flaired bow but only 4ft 3in beam. She carried three rigs 220, 180 and 140 sq ft on a 'banana' mast ( a bent back top section). She was in Aussie eyes a state of the art 12ft skiff with a performance to match.
The Townson designs, Nimble and a Zephyr outside the Auckland Traditional Boatbuilding School in Hobsonville
But she was just beaten by a Gwen 12 designed by Lindsay Cunningham the father of Catamaran design in Australia. The Gwen 12 was a hard chine plywood yacht notable for the chines that ran up the gunwale about 2 ft back from the bow. The bow was full and U shaped with a flat run aft. With a 5ft beam and self draining cockpit they were potent performers on a reach particularly in fresh breezes. Like the Cherub they carried a small working sail area 120sqft and an 80sqft single luff kite. The Gwen 12’s did not compete in Auckland in 1959, but they competed in the 61 series representing Queensland. They became a very popular class in their own right, spreading to all states, but faded out in the 80’s as a national class.
We are aiming to have both a three handed 12 ft skiff and a Gwen 12 in Auckland for the regatta.
The only Australian representatives in the 59 series were Ajax and Crusader. Ajax performed with distinction and her sheer size was a major talking point on the waterfront.
In 61 again the three handed 12ft skiffs dominated the Australian team with only two Gwen 12’s and two Port Phillip Bay 12’s representing Queensland and Victoria respectively. All were outclassed with the first skiff Valhalla finishing 9th.
But there remains one more target, a 12ft skiff that is truly unique, the mighty Ajax owned by the Notley brothers.
Ajax is an extraordinary craft. A four handed planked skiff that competed in the both the 1957 and the 1959 series. She carries an enormous working rig of 300 sq ft in her big rig, and a giant peak head spinnaker downwind. She is reportedly still in sailing condition at the Lane Cove 12ft Skiff club and as the only known survivor of the inaugural series in 1957 her appearance on the Waitemata 50 years after she last sailed here is something we hope can be achieved.