Friday 16 November 2012

2 1/2 raters: Mawhiti and Kotiri

The creation of one of Wellington's great rivalries of the 1890s and early 1900s began with a bet between two young members of the Arawa Sailing Club in February 1897, Fred Petherick and William (Billy) Moore: they would each build a 2 1/2 rater and see who built the better one. Local boatbuilder and designer Bruce Askew says the bet took place over a beer at the Clyde Quay hotel. Terms were that neither would see the the other's progress, and that the better boat would be proved over a series of three races, with a stake of five pounds.

Both men were active in the Arawa Sailing Club, competing in the 14 foot division, and crewed at various times on the 1/2 raters Miru, Ruru and Vixen.

They were no doubt inspired by the lightning visit of the well-named Logan-built Gloriana which had visited in January 1894, and the intense rivalry of the class then in Auckland. Measuring around an easily handled 35 feet, a fast, light 2 1/2 rater capable of crossing the Cook straight for holidays would have been the next logical step for young men in their early 20s (Petherick was then 21 and Moore about 24 years old).

Kotiri outside the wareshouse she was built in Martin Square
Kotiri was built in a warehouse in Martin Square, off Taranaki Street (recently demolished, local readers might remember it as the 33 1/3rd Gallery) by Petherick, Alf Ballinger, Harry Ballinger and Bill Avery; the Mawhiti by William Moore, M. Beck and Arthur Penty in a shed next door to the Clyde Quay Hotel, across the road from the Clyde Quay Marina.
Mawhiti on the street after removal from her shed.
A vertical cut adjacent to the window reveals her escape route
Getting to the water proved an adventure for both vessels, the draft horses bolting down Tarakanki Street with Kotiri in tow out of control. When her time came in November 1898, Mawhiti wouldn't fit through the door of the hired shed in which she was built. The landlord refused to remove the doors, so an overnigh raid with saws and plenty of tackle saw the wall cut away, the vessel put on the street, and the wall put back before anyone was the wiser!

The Kotiri was first to hit the water in January 1898, The bottle broken on her bow by Nellie Petherick. She just made the Anniversay regatta, but not being tuned up, got nowhere. The mast bent in an alarming manner, and a new (second hand) one was taken from the recently dismantled Isca (and old campaigner wracked beyond repair in a heroic victory against the crack Rona), which was also the source for the majority of sails and hardware for Kotiri. Slightly unusual for the time, Kotiri used lugs and track for the luff of the main, rather than hoops.

From the start, Kotiri fair jumped to weather, but was nigh-on impossible to control downwind, requiring up to three men on the tiller to keep her direction. By the beginning of 1899, she had the heel of the rudder removed, and a lead fin added to the stern post. This had the effect of lengthening the keel by four feet, improved windward performance even more, and made her a behave better off the wind.
Kotiri showing off her full quarters, rigged as a yawl.
Taken during a ladies's race.
Probably Nellie Petherick at the helm, with another woman in the cockpit.
The clash between Mawhiti and Kotiri, considered, though not, sister ships, was anticipated with excitement, and much speculation was entertained in the newspapers. Kotiri was painted black, and Mawhiti white to help spectators identify them.
Mawhiti crew. Wm. Moore front left

Mawhiti hit the water in somewhat better form than Kotiri had, and the first two races these boats competed in January 1899, Mawhiti crossed the line first. Mawhiti was lightly and carefully rigged, with a spruce mast and new sails. The only real bit of magpie behaviour was in purchasing the lead, which created a somewhat comedic chain. The Evening Post columnist "Neptune" reported on 26 November 1898:
"Several boats changed hands during the winter, and a few have been pulled about a bit to suit the various owners. For instance Messers. Penty and Co. bought Ariel from Messes. Shennan and Co. for the sake of the lead keel. They sold the hull to Mr. Freyberg, while the sails went to someone else. Mr Freyberg must get some lead for the keel, so he in turn purchased the Haeata, dismantled her, and shifted the lead to the Ariel. Haeata has since been sold, and no doubt the new owner is looking for lead for her keel in his turn."

As yet, no record is known of a settling of the bet in a one-on-one series, and it may never have occurred. However the two boats continued to be associated in the minds of the yachting and wider community. They oten went in company on cruises to the Marlborough Sounds. A log of a cruise the Mawhiti made in 1900 was printed and can be read here.
The Fell family purchased Mawhiti in 1902 and removed her to Picton, part of the general exodus of yachts at that time. With the heat leaving racing in the first years of the 20th century, Kotiri underwent the first of many tweaks. She was converted to a yawl, the lead fin removed and the rudder continued to the bottom of the keel. This curbed her speed, but made her more easily handled in cruising. She got her first suit of new sails in 1904.

Berkeley Clarke purchased Mawhiti November1906 and brought her back to Wellington. A rematch of the original challenge of 1897 was revisited. A prize of five pounds was agreed between the owners, to be competed over a series of three races officiated by Paul Freyberg.

Mawhiti on Wellington harbour 1907
The first two races were taken out by Kotiri, making a dead rubber of the third. Pressure was put on by Clarke and Freyberg to extend the series to five races. Kotiri accepted and was soundly beaten in light airs. Acrimony and accusations began to fly about using larger sail areas than agreed (Mawhiti had borrowed sails from Iorangi for the race) and a rather bold challenge from Kotiri  - 100 pounds on a single race with no restrictions to gear, was published in the Evening Post. Nothing further came of this, and the challenge fizzled out.

Berkeley Clarke had other things on his mind, and had perhaps been talked into the challenge by other parties. He was planning a move to Sydney, and obviously thought enough of his purchase to take Mawhiti with him in 1907. (But not to bring her back - upon his return to Wellington he purchased the mighty Marangi, which is still making impressive passages).
Mawhiti in Sydney ca. 1910
Mawhiti, though she rarely beat Kotiri across the line, was nevertheless felt to be the sweeter boat, in both looks and handling. She was obviously a better performer in "Full sail" conditions, which Wellington does not often supply. She had a fine career in Sydney.

In fact both boats were performers well into the 1950s.

After 1907

Information on Mawhiti subsequent to her move to Sydney, and more photos, can be On Malcolm Moore's website here (many of the photos here are from his website).

Kotiri getting a full makeover at Balaena Bay 1937
Kotiri raced with the Cruising clubs until about 1914 when she was laid up and largely forgotten about until the early 1920s, When Tom Petherick and his son raced her with the Port Nicholson Yacht Club until his son's death in1929 . She was again left on the hard until 1937, when the three brothers decided to break her up. They were talked out of it, and she was stripped back refinished, rerigged with bermuda sails, and the use of her given to some young men who appear to have made a great life of it. The images of her below show her in action in 1937 or 38.

She continued to race in the first class after WWII. It is thought she was sold to an American owner and taken overseas some time in the mid 1950s.

on board Kotiri 1937 or 38

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