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The History of the CYANZ

The detail of the history is almost overwhelming, and unlike so many other maritime cities with a historic static display, many of our heritage vessels are still in sailing and cruising condition, there for the public to see racing on the harbour and at the Heritage Landing display.

Who would have thought back in the early 1990s that the Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand (CYANZ) would be the organization it is today? Back then, the “old clunkers” were changing hands for very little money. The friends of these wannabe custodians looked at them as if they had lost their marbles and were busily counselling them to enjoy recreational sailing on some other vessel, any vessel other than a tired old yacht.

Classic Yacht and Launch party in Auckland

Fortunately, back then, the passion for these old boats was overwhelming. The new blood of Hamish Ross, who had bought Little Jim in 1994, Greg Scopas, the new custodian of Ngataringa, and John Gorter, the custodian of the little “C”Class Thelma since 1987, was mixed with that of Chad Thompson, who had enjoyed a life time of sailing on Prize. The group were spurred on by Ron Copeland, the then Commodore of the Ponsonby Cruising Club and custodian of Nomad, a beautifully restored 26’ mullet boat.

The classics had dropped off the racing scene after the change in rules governing the size of spinnakers in the mid 1970s, and the older custodians of the pre-WWII keelers were getting to the stage in life where racing was all a bit too hard. There were also these modern light displacement keelers making the racing a little one sided.

With John Gorter having bought Thelma in 1987 and wanting to convert her back to Gaff and Hamish Ross wanting some serious racing; Ngataringa and Prize represented some reasonable competition as did the other old keelers, if only a program of racing could be put together that the classics could participate in without being knocked around by the modern yachts. Old heavy displacement yachts with long keels and, in some cases, no winches, do not race around the harbour in the same way as the newer fin keeled competitors.

A good day racing Thelma
Classic yacht racing in the Waitemata Harbour

The first meeting of these like-minded skippers was in the workshop of the NZ National Maritime Museum where they, along with a number of Greg Scopas’ friends, had gathered to review the work in progress on the restoration of Ngataringa in January 1995. The remainder of that season saw more of the classics get together in ever-increasing numbers. Word was spreading amongst the custodians of old yachts and after a late season meeting in the saloon of Prize, a meeting was called for the 8th May 1995 at the Ponsonby Cruising Club (PCC). Twenty-three custodians of old yachts gathered that night and within a very short time there were 50 expressions of interest in participating in an association.

By October 1995 an event program had been established for the 1995/1996 season and the numbers of members was growing weekly. Initially most of the active yachts were the racing keelers, although an increasing number of cruising yachts were showing interest in participating. It was also great to see the number of early custodians and their crews taking up subscriptions in the association in order to keep up with the news of their old rivals and the progress of the ever-increasing number of restorations.

At the time of the founding of the association our heritage vessels were protected by the 1975 Antiquities Act and were thus protected from being taken permanently offshore. The revised “Protected Object Act now gives our classics full protection from permanent export.

The international success of our early 1900 designs and the quality and durability of the world-famous Kauri timber, coupled with the unique style of construction was world leading at the time and is today still internationally recognized for that. New Zealand’s lead in the world in hull design and technological development in the marine world is not new.

Ariki’s restoration in the late 1970s and Tawera’s restoration in the late 1980’s were very singular events. It wasn’t until Greg put Ngataringa through a restoration in 1994, then Little Jim (1995), Thelma (1995) and Prize (1996) that things really took off.

Ariki Classic Yacht

Sheerlines includes updates on upcoming social events, races and regattas. With your subscription you'll also receive the CYANZ Journal bi-monthly.

Classic Yacht Sailing in New Zealand

Racing in the following seasons saw all of the above out on the water along with Moana, Rawene, Tamatea, Iorangi, Rawhiti, Teal, Victory, Lexia, Yum Yum, Spray II, Scout, Undine, Matia, Aorere, Irene, Reverie, Katrina, Ranger, Hinemoa, Waione, Francis, Aronui, Ta Aroa, Tucana, Dolphin, Jonquil, Gleam, St George and Alia. The list goes on.

By 1996, the profile of the CYANZ was way out of proportion with the number of yachts it represented, the committee had been looking to create financial security and independence for the association. Sponsorship was essential for the growth of the association and a very natural fit was identified between Logan Clothing and the association. With the assistance of Mark Bartlett, Logan Clothing (marketed by Specialty Brands Ltd) became the association’s sponsor for the next 5 years.

The association flourished through the generosity of Logan Clothing and the PCC who provided a home and were the official host of the CYANZ. Membership grew with the regular publication of a magazine brought together by Sandra Gorter, monthly social gatherings at the PCC and an event program built around the traditional feature races of each of the major yacht clubs around the Auckland harbour.

The fifth anniversary of the Association was focused around the first defence of the America’s Cup in February 2000. The Logan Classic (12 – 14 February 2000) was a huge success, with more than 70 competitors, including a number of the overseas classics yachts that had sailed here to join in racing in the regatta and to view the America’s Cup.

Classic yacht racing Auckland
Sheerlines logo

The 1999/2000 Season was also the start of Joyce Talbot’s enduring support of the affairs of the association. She joined in as the regatta secretary for the Logan Classic Yacht Regatta and has been the secretary of the Association ever since. With her ever increasing activity the membership has grown to over 350 members in this our 25th Anniversary year.

After the America’s Cup, the association were left with the reality of running a busy events program, with increasing demands and costs, as previous sponsorship support was no longer available. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), the traditional home of the old keeler’s up until the mid-1970s, offered financial support for the journal and the association agreed to move to the RNZYS. It was a natural return to the classic’s traditional home in 2002.

The generous support of the Squadron saw to the publication of the New Zealand Classic Yacht Journal in the Squadron’s bi-monthly Breeze magazine, as well as its independent distribution to members of the association. Under Harold Kidd’s expert editorial control, the journal has developed into one of the most well-read sections in the Breeze magazine.

The New Zealand Classic Yacht Journal
A slow day of sailing in Auckland

After the success of the International Classic Yacht Regatta in 2000, there was a lot of support for an ongoing event of a similar size. The Royal New Zealand Squadron, as the association’s new host, enabled the planning of a regatta based at RNZYS’s Kawau Island facility to commence. This regatta was the first of what has now become a major annual event of the association.

The 2004 regatta was held at Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Without the support of the weather gods, the regatta was blown away not once but twice when a second cyclone passed over Auckland during the second attempt to stage the regatta. Since 2005 the regatta has been based from downtown Auckland’s Viaduct harbour, and more recently from Westhaven at the RNZYS special events marina. The success of this venue which has been easily accessed by the public, was the success skippers and crews had been wanting and the scene is now set for this annual regatta to be staged from this location for the foreseeable future.

Until 2003, most of the original founders had overseen the affairs of the association. Times were changing and so too were the interests and needs of members. It was well recognized that it was necessary to expand the events program to entice the launch custodians who were following the racing yachts to many of the Hauraki Gulf destinations. This enthusiastic group were keen to be more involved if only we could accommodate their particular needs and interests. The 2003 Regatta at Kawau was the first time the launches were involved by providing important support for the smaller yachts racing the long passage races to and from Kawau Island. It was also the first time they enjoyed their own log rally.


Enjoying a cuppa with friends on a classic launch
Mahurangi Regatta Classic Launch Parade

To grow the association the founding members agreed that the committee needed new people, to move from being a group of racing keel boat custodians, to a more all-inclusive association offering custodians, crew and all classic “boat” enthusiasts a more appealing event program and giving it the wherewithal to pursue its other goals. New blood in the form of Russell Brooke, as chairman; supported by an almost entirely new committee set about taking the association to a new level.

Through the efforts of passionate founders and members of the CYANZ, the classics that were under threat of being trashed are being saved on an ever-increasing basis.

The most recent restoration of Ida is a wonderful example of the continued interest in the classics. She was brought from Sydney, Australia and has joined the classic yacht fleet for the current winter series.

Ida Classic Yacht
Rocky Bay division

The passing of the 25th Anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the 8th May 1995 almost went unnoticed under the COVID-19 lockdown. The CYANZ are preparing a series of celebration events for the coming season to mark this tremendous milestone in the recognition of our heritage fleet.

We look forward to sharing our story and to introducing you to the boats that have captivated our members and many people from across the world.

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