Friday, 30 August 2013

Fading away

NZ Yachtsman 18 January 1916
"Old soldiers never die", goes the ballad, "they just fade away" (or as one WWI wag had it in the trenches: "the young ones wish they would"). It appears to be a fitting epitaph for the Viking, which belonged to Oscar Freyberg, eldest brother of three other soldiers, Paul, Cuthbert, and the famous Sir Bernard DSO KCMG etc., etc.

NZ Yachtsman 11 March 1911


Viking, which started life with the name Moana, was built by Robert Logan Senior in Auckland and launched 22 December 1890. She has been thought to be the first yacht in New Zealand built to the Rating rule, as a 5 rater. Though she looked the part and ended up rating well, racing was still done under the tonnage rule, and she entered the 4-7 tons division at the Auckland Anniversary Regatta in January 1891. She didn't win, but looked promising. The following year she came second to Spray in a good tussle. She was up for sale January the 1893 and made the move to Wellington later that year with her new owner J. P Maxwell, who renamed her Waiwetu, after a river in the Hutt Valley.

She was entered in the 1894 Wellington Anniversary Regatta as a five rater, but lately arrived, was overcanvassed and overpowered, and didn't perform very well. She continued to compete in the Regattas and Club racing through the 1890s, and although she came away with the occasional club trophy, never really stood out. In 1897 her internal ballast was taken out and added to the external. By the end of the year she was up for sale again.

Evening Post 02 November 1899
She was picked up by E. Bucholz and G. G. Schwartz, who continued to race her for a couple of years. She broke her moorings in May 1899 and fetched up on the beach at Ngauranga with her port side stove in. She was immediately put up for sale but there were no takers. J. Henshilwood and Frank McKeever removed the lead in exchange for the bare hull. In November her gear was auctioned off.

Henshilwood and McKeever kept the hull at Paul and Roberts slip at Te Aro and rebuilt her on the hard over the next couple of years.




Source: Wellington Museum of City and Sea
The boat isn't mentioned until 1903, when she is being taken for her "annual cruise in the Marlborough Sounds". She entered Oscar Freyberg's ownership in about 1904. Freyberg was a legal clerk and had owned quite a few yachts in his time (Mapu, Ariel, Haeata, Neva, and later Siren) as well as centreboarders (Taipu, Kura) which he raced with the Port Nicholson Yacht Club and Arawa Sailing Club. He was the eldest of four boys, and known as a wild and adventurous spirit. During the 1890s he and his brothers regularly sailed across Cook Strait in barely seaworthy boats in all kinds of weather conditions. He wrote a yachting column for the engineering and industry magazine "Progress" through 1911 and 1912, and was also Vice Commodore of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club in the years running up to the war. Oscar was killed in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, aged 34.

Viking and Siren start of Ocean Race 1911
Viking was purchased by Elton and Headland in 1907. The Headland family (Charles, then his son Cyril) retained a share in the boat until 1947. It was during their ownership she became best-known.

In 1911 The Port Nicholson Yacht Club held its first Ocean Race. These are now known as Offshore Races, and generally start in Wellington, crossing the Cook Strait and finishing in different parts of the top of the South Island. This new series was at the instigation of Freyberg, and the race took place in difficult conditions, to Port Underwood and back. Many retired early, but the Viking, with Oscar Freyberg acting as master, pushed through and emerged the winner on corrected time after 9hrs 11min (see photo above of her during the return crossing). Read an account here.

Cyril Headland ca 1947. Source Elise Atkinson
The Viking was moored at Evans Bay, and Charles Headland kept a shed there. It was from this shed that the meeting was held to create the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club in 1919. She was from that time always thought of as an "Evans Bay boat". Viking was a regular campaigner in harbour and offshore racing up until WWII. What happened after that is a little murky. She broke her moorings again in 1950 and went aground (Viking was definitely a boat that didn't appreciate being tied down!). She was then converted to what Pat Millar calls a "funny looking launch", and moved to the Marlborough Sounds some time later.

There is a rumour that she was tied up by a wharf in the Nelson area and converted to a cafe. Is she still around, or has she just faded away completely?

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