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The restoration and launch of Rainbow.

by John Bertenshaw on 21 Nov 2007
Rainbow shows off her classic layout and fine decklines, after her launching in Auckland. John Bertenshaw

Last Friday, another classic yacht Rainbow was launched in Auckland, after a full restoration undertaken by the partners, Hamish Ross, David Glenn, Brad Butterworth and the Dymock family of Nelson.

Now 108 years old, Rainbow is one of the iconic boats of the Waitemata, where she was launched and raced.

Writing in 'A Century of Sail' veteran sailing writer, Noel Holmes described her genesis:

It’s a bold character who will thumb his nose at fashion and turn away from the traditional in any sphere of human activity. The great U.K. marine architect George Watson was such a character. In the 1890s he abandoned all the recognised principles of yacht design and set out to blaze a new trail with Britannia, ordered by the Royal Family.

One would almost think Watson deliberately chose to shock, for his innovations were the precise opposite of what was then thought to be desirable in a hull form. Deep forefoots were the fashion. Watson abolished them. Where bows had been allowed to curve, the curve was inwards, clipper style. Watson reversed the line, inventing the spoon bow. Bilges had been slack. Watson made them full-bodied.

English yachting men were appalled. They had nothing against experimentation as such, but were indignant that Watson should have introduced his radical ideas in a craft commissioned by Royalty.

Controversy raged as Britannia was launched, in 1 893, but fell away quickly as it became apparent the Prince of Wales’ yacht was an outstanding success. The critics suddenly forgot their objections. Britain had shown the world a thing or two.

Ripples of interest spread around the globe. The ripples reached Auckland. The canny Logan brothers noted the new ideas and itched for a chance to put them to trial. Their opportunity came when the ubiquitous A. T. Pittar asked the brothers to build him a fast fifty-foot cruiser. This was the big moment. The Watson principles were applied at a drawing board in Auckland, The lines of the ‘fast cruiser’, a modest description if ever there was one, were lofted.

And Rainbow was born.

Here was one of the most graceful yachts ever to adorn the Waitemata Harbour. She was thirty-four feet on the waterline, beam was 8.8 feet and draught 6.8. Bow and counter were lean but her midship section showed firm bilges, and her fore and aft underwater lines gave a flat run. She carried her 1,200-odd feet of sail (gaff cutter rig) quite comfortably. She was immediately Auckland champion. Forty years later she was able to give the longer (sixty-foot) Ranger, then the latest thing with her new-fangled Bermudan rig, a close run for her money.

To link to a full photo log of the restoration of Rainbow on the Classic Yacht Assoc website!click_here and go to Classics Around the Yards, and then Rainbow

The next launchings for the Classic Yacht Association are expected to be a joint launching for Gloriana and Thelma on 9th December 2007.

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