Thursday, 12 December 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tracking down the trophy that Chantal won

Whitianga residents, Malcolm and Pauline Brown, have owned their 36ft yacht, Chantal, for more than 34 years, but it wasn’t until recently that they’ve actually laid eyes on one of the prestigious trophies that was part of the boat’s rich past history and ocean racing successes.

Chantal is a John Lidgard (Kiwi) designed yacht launched in 1971 with the intention of competing in the popular and highly competitive One Ton Cup series. At the time the One Ton class, whose original history dates back to 1899, was considered the pinnacle of international ocean racing. The class would also go on to become a leader in the future design and development of ocean and match racing boats, with both Kiwi designers and skippers at the forefront of international success.

Well-known New Zealand yachting identity, Chris Bouzaid, was one of the first sailors to put New Zealand firmly on the international yachting map when he won the One Ton Cup series in 1969, skippering a boat named Rainbow II. He repeated the achievement three years later.   

Apart from taking part in many popular ocean races of the time - including Whangarei to Noumea, Auckland to Suva, Wellington to Gisborne and Tauranga to Vila - during her racing days, Chantal’s crowning achievement came not long after she was first launched, when she was entered in the 1972 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The race is an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), traditionally starting in Sydney on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is around 630 nautical miles, with the event widely considered to be one of the world’s most difficult yacht races to participate in.

“To help keep the race competitive for all entries, there are various class wins on offer as well as the big prize of being the first across the line,” says Malcolm. “In 1972, the line honours went to a boat called American Eagle, while the One Ton class was won by Chantal, skippered by Kevin Lidgard.”

As tradition goes, the winning skipper of each class is handed a trophy for their efforts. For the One Ton class, the silverware was a rather large and beautifully crafted ornate plate. The downside is the skipper and crew only get to savour the moment for a short time as the trophy is handed back to race officials after the prize-giving and photos have been taken. It is then placed on display or in safe storage until the following year.

The story goes that Chantal went on to win the race back to Sydney from Hobart and was then sailed back to New Zealand with her winnings, which included bilges filled with champagne and a cockpit full of crayfish.     

“We knew Chantal had won the One Ton class in the Sydney to Hobart race back in 1972, but had never actually seen the trophy, so on a past visit to Australia we decided to try and track it down,” says Malcolm. “We flew to Hobart and visited the Royal Hobart Yacht Club of Tasmania, but the trophy was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t a wasted journey, however, as Pauline and I were treated extremely well by the club commodore and the long history of the club was so interesting.

“Not to be put off, on a recent visit back to Australia, we decided to visit the CYCA at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney. After meeting with club officials, we were able to finally lay our hands on the silverware. It had been placed in storage as the One Ton class trophy is no longer competed for. And what a magnificent trophy it was, plus it was so pleasing to see how it has become part of the long and successful history of both the CYCA and the Sydney to Hobart race itself. We came away feeling so pleased we were the owners of a yacht which had earned her place in the history books of this iconic ocean race and the CYCA.”    

Chantal was retired from ocean racing in 1985.

When Pauline and Malcolm purchased the boat, they had no intention to sail her competitively although the fibre glassed over diagonal kauri planked yacht was, and still is, kept in very much original condition. Many former crew members have been on-board since her retirement from ocean racing and can still remember the boat’s original layout because of the minimal changes that have been made. One past crew member was Whitianga local, Rob Blackburn, who sailed in many ocean races onboard Chantal. 

Chantal has become very much part of the family for Malcolm and Pauline. They love cruising out to, and around, Great Barrier Island and try and get out there for long stays as much as they can. If that’s not possible, then they’re a happy threesome cruising around the Mercury Islands on day trips or overnighters.  

While Malcolm has been a keen sailor most of his life, Pauline was only introduced into sailing when she first met Malcolm. It was love at first sight on two counts. “I took an instant shine to Malcolm from day one and fell in love with boating at the same time,” she says. “The love affair for both has not worn off either after 35 years.”

Malcolm was a key driver in the fundraising efforts to set up the x-ray facility in Whitianga. “It wasn’t difficult, to be honest, as the support from within the community for this service was overwhelming, so I simply helped get the wheels turning on the fundraising efforts,” he says.

Malcolm has been part of the Lions Club of Whitianga for around 10 years also had a hand in the recent establishment of the Whitianga Menz Shed on South Highway. 

Pauline has also been involved in the Whitianga Lions for the past six years and was instrumental in the restoration and relocation of the historical Cemetery Point lighthouse to Joan Gaskell Drive.

It’s possible Chantal will be put on the market in the near future. It will be a sad day for Malcolm and Pauline, but her past achievements and the enjoyment the boat has provided them over many years will always hold special memories for them. And with that trophy safely stored away in Sydney, Chantal will not be forgotten in the history of one of the toughest ocean races in the world either.  

Pictured: Whitianga residents, Malcolm and Pauline Brown with the trophy their boat Chantal, won in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1972.

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