Saturday 22 June 2013

Home Builds 1 : Taipare

Taipare. Source: Wellington Museum of City and Sea

Wellington has a long history of do it yourself design, experimentation and adaption in yachts. Though there were plenty of skilful boatbuilders in the early days, commercial work kept them busy, and there was not enough local business to concentrate on racing vessels over an extended period. With a few notable exceptions, local boatbuilders' involvement with racing yachts was in the realms of repair and adapting existing boats for clients. To own a yacht with the latest in go-fast technology, you either had to buy one from Auckland, or design and build it yourself.  Taipare was a successful early example of the latter.

Source: Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club archive
Launched in October 1897, Taipare has the distinction of being the first spoon-bowed yacht built in Wellington. She was designed in 1896 by Jack Moffat, who had also designed, built and raced the 18-footer Irex (1893); which raced with the Arawa Sailing Club. He had owned various other small racers, including the half rater Arawa. Taipare was his own design, based on the latest ideas as published in the English journal "The Yachtsman".

She was designed for Bob Stead, a previous owner of the Red Jacket, and later some small third class not very good yachts. Moffat challenged Stead that he should have a proper yacht for a change, and that he was just the man to design her. This was the mid 1890s, and the fleet in Wellington was a strong one, which boasted three class fleets of keel yachts, 14 and 18 foot centreboarders, and half raters. Taipare was designed to be a third class racer.

Source: NZ Yachtsman, 15 November 1913
Taipare was built in Walter St by the brothers Robert (Bob), Thomas and Richard Stead over one year during their spare time.  She was built of kauri, of 1" carvel planking over a 1/4" diagonal skin. Her interior panels sported oil paintings of coastal scenes painted by students at the local art college - altogether a smart little racer of a nudge over 25 feet in length.

Taipare first raced in the two races for third class yachts in the 1898 Wellington anniversary regatta. She was helmed by Jack Highet, of whom it was said that if he had a hand in the tiller, whatever the boat, that boat would find itself "placed in the finish, and usually first". Jack had designed and raced successful centreboarders and continued to do so with the Arawa Sailing Club, only to be eclipsed by his talented younger sibling, Harry, who would go on to dominate the boats of the seemingly invincible Ted Bailey in the Te Aro Sailing Club in the years running up to WWI, and would later design the famous P-class. Taipare and her crew of three won both races, in winds that increased to gale force as the day progressed.

Taipare made a cruise to the Marlborough Sounds in 1898. She only just survived the return journey. A short account can be read here.

Source: Wellington Museum of City and Sea
The Stead Brothers from then on stuck to racing with Arawa Sailing Club. In 1900 they decided to experiment with her a little. There was talk in 1899 of Wellington entering one or two boats for a national championship for One-raters in Auckland. Bob removed Taipare's deadwood and keel, and converted her to a bronze fin and lead bulb configuration, in an effort to make a fast one-rater of her.  The experiment was a failure. Thomas and Richard moved overseas the same year and Taipare was sold for 20 pounds.

Taipare passed through several hands until 1903 when she was purchased by a syndicate led by William Highet. He converted her back to a proper yacht with deadwood and external lead ballast. The first race Taipare entered with her new owners was a sweepstake race of thirteen yachts organised by Oscar Freyberg, which she won.

The keel yacht fleet by this time had diminished rather quickly as sheltered moorings at Thorndon and Te Aro were lost to land reclamation from around 1900. Boats were continually slipping their anchors and fetching up among the rocks around the Northern coast of the harbour, and the survivors were quickly being sold off. It was not until Clyde Quay was opened in about 1906/07 that the fleet once again slowly began to build.

Lizzie (foreground) and Taipare. Source: Terry Ward
It was due to this that the PNYC ran only two racing fleets, both of which were somewhat a mish-mash, and Taipare found herself racing against bigger and fleeter yachts. Nevertheless, under the Highet guidance, she dominated the second class until the little 22-footer Lizzie, built by Ted Bailey for C. J. Ward was launched in 1909.

Bill Highet sold his share the same year, but despite Lizzie's dominance over the next few years, Taipare could still on occasion steal her thunder. When Lizzie was sold to Charlie Neal in 1912, he slightly altered her mast position. Although she was a little easier to handle, she lost her racing edge. Taipare once again became the scratch boat for the division until WWI.

After the war, Taipare got little use in club activity, and she is hard to track until the mid 1930s, when there was a resurgence in interest in the sport, and more people began purchasing and racing small yachts. She was active in racing, but was never tuned up to her potential. Taipare's fate is unknown. She was sold to new owners in the far North of New Zealand shortly after WWII. I wonder if she survives?

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