Paul Mullings goes racing in New Zealand on board the Logan-built Ethel

New Zealand-based regular reader and contributor Paul Mullings has been sailing, and has quite a story to tell.

The photos, which are used here with permission, come from the excellent

Here’s what Paul has to say:

‘Every last weekend in January, Auckland celebrates her birthday with a long weekend of events culminating in the Anniversary Regatta, and this year the young town reach the grand age of 175.

‘Auckland’s harbour side location has fostered a love affair with the sea among locals; with more boats per capita than any other city in the world, there are so many yachts dotted around the harbour that the city is nicknamed the ‘City of Sails’.

‘During the Anniversary Weekend regatta local yachties have an annual Friday Mahurangi Night Passage Race, and dthen on arrival take part in the following day’s Mahurangi Regatta – all before racing back to Auckland to take part in the Anniversary Day Regatta itself… phew!

‘The 48 ft cutter-rigged yawl Ethel was built by Logan Brothers in 1897 for Herbert Dawson, who owned and farmed Mercury Island, which lies to the east of the Coromandel peninsula.

‘He used her for carrying supplies to the island and wool and stock to the coast. She was therefore more generous in beam than most yachts of her time, which proved useful when she was later used for racing on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour during the early part of the 20th century.

‘Roll forward one hundred years or so and Ethel lies unloved ashore and in urgent need of massive restoration. Fortunately two friends, Keith Munro and Kevin Ebbitt, both lovers of traditional boats stepped in, and after two years of restoration she was relaunched in October 2013 in a condition that probably was better than that of her original launch. Fortunately, there are enough people with the enthusiasm, skills, dedication and deep pockets to ensure that many of our heritage yachts and launches are restored and continue to ply the waters they were built for.

‘It’s a thrilling thing to sail on a living piece of nautical history, knowing that a century ago she was forging the same furrow across the same piece of water, and to know that the brilliance of the Logan Brothers is as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

Ethel has been restored to reflect her former racing days with wooden spars,blocks and endless miles of rope to service the many halyards and sheets… and definitely no winches!

‘This year’s night race was plagued with light headwinds, which gave us a challenging 22.5-mile beat against a flooding tide. These are not the ideal conditions for Ethel: starting at 1500h we finally crossed the finish line in the dark at 2200h! Oh well there’s always tomorrow…

‘Waking on a boat is always a wonderful thing, but especially when you emerge to a summer vista of brilliant blue sky and a sea dotted with many classic yachts and launches. I looked around and though ‘the clan has gathered’.

‘The regatta course takes in a harbour start with two laps around Te Haupa Island, which keeps the fleet close-in, and that provides  a fantastic spectacle ashore.

‘A mass start calls for cool nerves as skippers jockey for their ideal spot. Conditions were again a little light for our liking, but no one seems to care as we join in what becomes a procession led by the glorious Logan raters.

‘The Saturday night prize giving and dance ashore at Scott’s Landing in a perfect setting with barbecues and the gentle sound of the Prohibition Big Band is another highlight of the weekend, but the night is all too short, however as then had a 0930h start for the Mark Foy race home to Auckland.

‘Unfortunately there was again  rather too little breeze, which  led to us crossing and re-crossing the starting line at least three times, and ended well behind our handicap… Eventually a steady breeze arrived and we had a glorious sail to the finish with all canvas set including spinnaker and mizzen staysail. There were no prizes this time, but spending the weekend in the company of a sprightly one hundred and eighteen year old lady named Ethel was priceless… ‘

Thanks Paul! I’m amazed – all that racing in one weekend must be shattering, if wonderful!

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