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Hugh Poole (1924-2012) - one of the hard men of NZ Yachting dies

by Jim Bolland on 5 Jun 2012
Hugh Poole and Charade in a typical Wellington breeze . .


One of the hard men of New Zealand sailing, Hugh Poole, passed away at the weekend, aged 87.

In a bookend to a successful sailing and administrative career, Poole was elected a life member of Yachting New Zealand, four years ago at its 2008 annual general meeting.

In order to obtain the information necessary for the nomination, long time Wellington sailing journalist and painter, Jim Bolland, visited Hugh at his home, under the guise of researching for a story to be published in www.auldmug.com, and Jim's vibrant newsletter, 'a Brush with Sail'.

As a tribute to the life and contribution of Hugh Poole, we re-publish Jim Bolland's excellent story on one of New Zealand yachting's great sons.

Here is that story:


I have had the pleasure of knowing Hugh Poole for as long as I can remember being completely besotted with sailing. And that is, from about age eleven or twelve, quite a few years before he was aware of me!

He is eleven years my senior, so he attained hero status with me when I used to hang out of our sun-porch window and watch the Idle Along and X Class yachts battle for the honour of winning provincial representative honours for their respective National Championships, the Moffat and Sanders Cup’s. For a great part of the twentieth century until the 1960’s, national competition was the pinnacle of sailboat racing in New Zealand. The rest of the world was a long way, away!

Hugh has never done anything by halves, successful businessman, caring family man and full-on sailor! His determination and drive to succeed in his sport, raised eyebrows at times, particularly in his early years, but this happens in all walks of life. Some are just happy to compete, but others compete and are not completely happy unless the job is finished properly. By winning!

Hugh was born in September 1924 and has lived in Wellington’s satellite city of Lower Hutt for all of his 84 years, starting his love affair with the water by building, along with his brother Don, a narrow gutted canoe in which he learnt the art of boat balance and getting very wet.

Whether the Poole brothers' canoeing exploits in the Hutt River were giving their parents cause to worry is not known, but Hugh’s Uncle Alan Bowe, gave him a ‘P’ Class yacht in 1939 and the affinity with water turned into a lifetime affair with sailing. The gift also naturally caused a lifetime relationship with the Heretaunga Boating Club, on Petone Beach, on the northern shores of Wellington Harbour.

From 1940 until 1956 he raced in the Idle Along class, competing in the annual provincial selection trials to represent Wellington, finally gaining selection and winning the Moffat Cup (National Championship) in 1956.


He then moved up to New Zealand’s senior centre-board class of the time, the fourteen foot, X class and over the next thirteen years he put much of his sailing effort into developing the ‘winning’ X Class in pursuit of the Sanders Cup. In 1958 he was runner-up in ‘Beryl’, but in 1960 he joined veteran X class skipper Pat Millar as mainsheet hand and with Trevor Manning forward, they won the coveted trophy for Wellington.

In 1961 Hugh, won the Leander Trophy, (R Class National Championship), and finished fifth in the National Cherub Championship. 1963 saw Hugh trying his hand in the Finn Class and discovering he was not bulky enough for the single-hander, so the following year he began an association with the Flying Dutchman class, competing in the Olympic Trials of that year.


In 1964 he returned to X Class competition, representing Wellington at the Sanders Cup contest of ’65 in Lyttleton, sailing ‘Gidgette’, but it was during that contest that he made the decision to contract Jack Cropp to build him a new cold-moulded wooden X Class hull. Apart from being known as one of the best boat builders in New Zealand, Jack was a Gold Medal winner, along with Peter Mander, at the 1956, Melbourne Olympic regatta.

The new boat ‘Charade’, represented Wellington at the 1966 Sanders Cup contest at Bluff (the Port of Invercargill, NZ’s most southern city) without success, but the following year Hugh and his crew of Tony Dobbs and Graeme Morris, were decisive winners of the coveted trophy in Auckland and defended the ‘Cup on home waters in 1968 and again in ’69.

In 1968 he also contested the New Zealand Olympic trials sailed at Pakatoa Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

The 1970 Sanders Cup contest was sailed on Dunedin Harbour and again ‘Charade’ was a comprehensive winner, setting a record of four consecutive Sanders Cup victories that still remains unbeaten.

With a point or two well and truly proven, Hugh parted company with ‘Charade’ and with the Olympic ‘itch’ still annoying him, he decided to move into the Soling Class. He purchased the first New Zealand built hull of this class which became KZ2 ‘Solitaire’ and over the next four years, campaigned ‘Solitaire’ in his usual fierce manner and gained podium placings in the class national championships and the 1973 Olympic selection trials.

With the knowledge gained from all that competition, he launched a new Soling, ‘Solitude’ in 1975 and with a new crew, the late Gavin Bornholdt and Chris Urry, won the class national championship in that year. Then in the following year, the same combination reached a pinnacle of success, winning the Soling Class national championship again and winning the Olympic selection trials.

Hugh, Gavin and Chris then competed in the pre-Olympic regatta at Kingston, Ontario, Canada and the World Soling championships in Chicago U.S.A. in 1975. In the following year, they represented New Zealand at the Olympic sailing regatta at Kingston, Ontario.

In 1978 ‘Solitude’ and her regular crew, competed in and won, the New Zealand Soling class championship again.

By this time Hugh Poole had been competing at the top level of sailing for the best part of forty years and having achieved several remarkable goals he decided to move into the bigger keel boat classes on the waters of his home port, Wellington Harbour. ‘Virgo’, an S&S half-tonner (ex ‘Cotton Blossom’) was his first, and he immediately began winning trophies, his crews usually containing a fair few of his centre-board sailing mates from previous years plus up-coming young sailors.

A Farr half-tonner ‘Farcical’ and the Young 88 ‘Paddy Wagon’ were Hugh’s winning boats during the period from 1983 to ’88 and the Farr 1020 ‘Jet’ was campaigned by Hugh from 1992 until 1996, with the selection, by his Club, the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, of ‘Jet’ as boat of the year 1995-96, a crowning glory to a lifetime of sailing.

If the thought of intensive competitive sailing for more than fifty years leaves you breathless, then consider this: Hugh David Poole was not just ‘taking’ from his sport to satisfy his desire to succeed. Throughout his sporting career he racked up an impressive record in the administration of sailing, a record that adds emphasis and meaning to the old saying, ‘if you want to get something done, ask a busy person’.

As a young sailor at the Heretaunga Boating Club, were he was a member from 1939 to 1969 (whereupon he became a life-member), he served as: Commodore during the years of 1953,1957 and ’58, President, in 1966,1967 and 1969, administrator in 1970 through 1988 and ‘Club delegate to the Wellington Provincial Yachting Association from 1952 to 1963.

Hugh Poole has been the Heretaunga Boating Club’s Patron since 1998.

His work on the Wellington Provincial Yachting Association includes: Executive member,1952 - 1963, Chairman, 1957-1960 and 1963, member of protest panel, 1959 – 1963, member of appeals panel, 1964 – 1969, delegate to NZYF 1959 – 1963, Moffatt Cup team manager, 1952 – 1953 and 1955, Sanders Cup team manager, 1957.

He was an Executive Member of the New Zealand Yachting Federation, 1959 – 1969, President in 1960, delegate to the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association, 1960 – 1969. Poole was the Yachting Section Manager of the New Zealand Olympic Teams in 1960 and 1968. He was also been intensively involved with the administration of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, the Wellington Yachting Association.

In 1990 Hugh was awarded the New Zealand Yachting Federation Honour Award, in recognition of his outstanding services to the sport. He is a life member of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, and in 2008, was made a Life member of Yachting New Zealand.


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