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Hanging with the Hobbits: A closer look at the Kiwi Skiff Resurgence in Auckland

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  • Hanging with the Hobbits: A closer look at the Kiwi Skiff Resurgence in Auckland

    Hanging with the Hobbits, Hamlin, Martin and McKinlay visit Middle Earth

    “Fun, Tricky sailing” is the terminology intrepid voyager and dinghy ace Howie Hamlin used to describe the condition from his 1st trip to Auckland New Zealand to compete in the 2012 Mark Foy Trophy. The fleet of Fourteen 18 footers were sharing the waters in Okahu Bay , in the southern end of Auckland ‘s Waitemata Harbor with the fleet of 16 skiffs 6 feet shorter but no less challenging, The 12 footers for their Interdominions. Dominion being a lesser used term of properties of the British Empire, of which both New Zealand and Australia share common heritage. Kinda like a Shire, only different.

    They also share the fancy (British term) of small boats with too much sail and a penchant for wild rides and spectacular crashes. Much like it’s bigger breathren:

    The 12 footers have and open rule, length 3.7 meters ( 12’ 1”) and width of 1.8 meters ( 5’10”)and a minimum of 45kg when dry, other than a few other minor rules, you can carry all the sail you wish. Lesser well known than their 18’ and even 14’ cousins, the 12’s are a popular 2 person dinghy with roots in Sydney Harbor , dating back to late 19th century. And much like the 18’s some names you might recognize, Don Ligard, Bruce Farr, John Winning, Tony Bouzai ,Iain Murray, Michael Coxon, Alex Vallings all have excelled in the hobbit sized skiff over the years.

    Vintage 12's

    Auckland has enjoyed resurgence in the 18’s of late, due in a large part to Graeme Catley, a former 12’ sailor who is leading the charge to reconstituting the Kiwi skiff fleet, both the 12’s and 18’s via the Auckland Sailing Club, an amalgamation of the former Auckland 18 Footer Flying Squadron, the 14” Javelin Class“ Q” class, as the 12’s are referred. Cateley has taken a page from Hamlin’s fleet building model and one up him. By importing on new hull each year from Van Munster Boats in Sydney, the 18’s are once again relevant on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor, sailing a solid schedule from Late September through early May.

    The Auckland Sailing Club, located on Okahu Bay in the South Side of Waitemata Harbor
    is the home of the Kiwi resurgence in all things Skiffy

    The Kiwis are proving themselves quite relevant once again, taking 6 of the top 10 spots in this years Mark Foy Trophy event, a strong showing at the StFYC’s International 18 regatta and the JJ Giltinans in the 18’ class.
    In the 12’s their climb back to the top has been much quicker with dominating performances in the past 2 decades which continues today with 7 of top 10 finishers hailing from New Zealand.

    Green Grass and High Tides Forever, the influences of tall hills, man made structures and islands
    sitting mid stream of the mighty Southern Ocean foot path create challenging conditions

    New Zealand is really just a bump in the road for weather systems racing around the southern hemisphere, and sailing in Auckland’ Waitemata Harbor really demonstrates that fact. While breeze can be quite strong, its direction changes constantly as systems pass, add that to the area’s topography with large hills, buildings and island deflecting winds as well, sailors are quite keen to look for and anticipate shifts like few places else on earth.

    This go around, Hamlin brought with him an old friend Mike Martin to be mid man and call tactics along another Newport Harbor YC mate, Matt McKinlay, and though they had not trained together in quite some time, won 4 of 9 races but settled for 2nd in fleet overall . The trio will represent again at the JJ Giltinans in Sydney in just over a month, along with the McCormack’s from SFYC, on their recently acquired CT Sailbattens skiff.

    Looking forward, Hamlin indicates another increase in participants for the summer’s StFYC International 18’ event and hopefully a superb 2013 Mark Foy Trophy to be hosted for the 1st time ever in San Francisco Bay, encapsulated by the 34th Americas Cup. If were lucky, maybe they'll smuggle a couple 12 Footers in some of the containers!

    Above images courtesy Auckland Sailing Club and New Zealand 12 Foot Skiffs
    Video courtesy Argentina Marine Media

    More Important Reading:

    NZ 12 foot skiffs Site

    NSW 12 Footer Site

    Auckland Sailing Club
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