The Mahurangi Cruising Club was formed in 1988. The story told is that a small group of friends, sitting around on a beach in the Mahurangi Harbour, decided to create a home for disaffected sailors who did not want to belong to a proper yacht club. Rather, what was needed was a something less formal, very inclusive and definitely without a club house with all the complications and costs that property entails. A committee was thought to be essential, though – one that had a lot of fancy titles, could organise a programme of events and compete for lots of lovely trophies. A very large tree stump outside the heritage Scott house at Scott’s Landing on the Mahurangi Peninsula was claimed as the new club HQ and the vision of the club was formalised as ‘Encouraging the ownership, use and restoration of classic wooden boats’.
On Anniversary weekend of 1990, the new club held its first classic yacht race in the Mahurangi Regatta. This was the perfect fit for the traditional spirit of the new club, as the regatta, brought back to life a decade before by the Friends of the Mahurangi group, was modelled on the old Mahurangi Settlers Regatta that had been held annually in the harbour from the late nineteenth century until the outbreak of the second world war.
The race, at first rather small and gathered together by personal invitation, soon grew and has continued to grow, attracting a large number of visitors to the harbour every Anniversary Weekend. Over a hundred boats now take part in the racing and upwards of 600 boats anchor in the Mahurangi to enjoy what is now recognised as the southern hemisphere’s largest meet of classic wooden boats – yachts of all sizes as well as classic launches.
While the regatta race remains the club’s premier event, there are also club races held around Kawau Bay at Easter and in again in early spring. The club was keen to see, and welcome into the regatta, newly built replicas of the old Mahurangi punt – tenders that were used around the harbour as early as 1860. In 2009 following a major reconstruction project supported by members of the club, the trading scow Jane Gifford was re-launched. The Jane is now permanently berthed in the Warkworth river basin and provides excursions in and around her old sailing grounds in the Maurangi Harbour. She has a regular outing at the regatta acting as the Club Start Boat.
In 1999, the Club launched its first Yearbook and this continues to grow both in size and appeal. Initially providing information about the club and its boats, the magazine now features articles about their builders, their sailors and their adventures around New Zealand and in distant waters. The profiles of New Zealand boat designers – especially the wooden boat designers and wooden boat restoration projects – remain a central focus of the magazine.
In 2010, the club was dealt a blow when its club HQ and sometime trophy cabinet was destroyed in a covert operation by Parks Management. The stump was cleared away. Committee members spent some months meandering haplessly from pub to pub in search of a suitable venue for meetings. At last, two club members offered their magnificent shed in Warkworth as a base. Admiralty House on Bertram Street now provides us, our trophies and other odds and sods, a permanent home.
Unfortunately, as the years go by, boats made of wood are less visible. But every year we are approached by more sailors wishing to take part in the regatta and we respond by creating additional classifications to enable them to take part. In the spirit of inclusivity in which it was founded, the club continues to encourage and celebrate any boat that reflects the traditional spirit of classic boats.
- Victor Hapwood – Yearbook manager for fund raising, advertising, distribution and sales – Ngairehopwood@yahoo.co.nz
- Lyn Begquist – Photographer, Yearbook designer & production – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Stephen Horsley – Regatta Committee member and handicapper – email@example.com
- Kelly Grove-Hills – Yearbook editor, secretary & public relations – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hugh Gladwell – Club Captain, Regatta Committee member and handicapper
- Lin Pardey – adviser and Kawau Boating Club Liaison – email@example.com
- Martin Farrand – Yearbook printing – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Svetlana Pencheva – race results manager – email@example.com
- Jacques De Kervor – adviser and handicapper – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sally Meiklejohn – adviser – email@example.com
- Jill Hetherington – adviser – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ngaire Hopwood – adviser & Club rooms manager – email@example.com
- Kelly Grove-Hills and Ian Free copywriting help;
- Lyn Bergquists’ amazing photos.