Saturday, April 30, 2016

Header Photo: The New Zealand M Class

The previous header photo was of the New Zealand classic M Class, a restricted lapstrake design originally by Arch Logan from the 1920's. Below is another M going upwind. I culled these beautiful photos from Facebook so I'm not sure who the photographer is.

Neil Kennedy, New Zealand trade consultant, and sailing historian on the side, sent along several emails detailing the history of the M Class. A tip-of-the-hat to Neil from Earwigoagin for filling us in on these classics.
"Now to try and give you a hopefully " brief " understanding of the two photos and the origins of the class. The yachts concerned are M class which is a restricted center board class that sprang from a design by Arch Logan in 1922 for a prominent Auckland family for their two sons. The first named "Mawhiti" and the second "Manene" were launched in 1922 and made an immediate impression. They evolved into a class which attracted the interest of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron ( the leading yacht club based in Auckland) . The "M" designation came from a decision by the Auckland Provincial Yachting Assoc to classify the various and rapidly growing yachting fleet in Auckland by designating the various types of keel boats and center boarders with a letter and a number.

"As with all great ideas it worked until vested interests bent the rules. In the case of "Mawhiti" and her sister ships it was assumed that they would be classed with the other 18ft center boarders as a V class, but the RNZYS decided that their new restricted centerboard class was too valuable to be lumped in with the "working man's" V class 18 footers, and "persuaded" the APYA to allocate the letter M to their new fledgling class, probably based on the fact that the first two had names starting with M.

"The authority on the M class or "Emmy" as it was colloquially known is Robin Elliot whose book Emmy is a fascinating study of the class. Robin and I go back to the 60's when I was a junior customs clerk in the Customs department in Auckland and Robin was a customs agent clerk. We had a mutual interest in yachting and history which has remained until today.

"Now back to the M Class photo's. The Header page is "Mach One", M46, which was the first of five boats built by Owen Reid to his own modification of the Laurie Davidson designs which had dominated the class from the 1960's onwards. The Reid boats are very fast down wind and are unique in that the plank lands are glued despite being made of solid Kauri in normal clinker fashion. All the planks were saturated with Everdure to stabilise them. "Mach One" weighed 421kg when launched when the average was closer to 500 kgs so a minimum weight limit of 450kg hull and center board is now in place. The second photo, "Menace" is M48 and the last of the Reid boats to be launched, she is one of the best now and fitted out just like a normal top line racing yacht. As you can see they have a four person crew; yes, there are a few girls crewing but they are powerful boats needing a bit of muscle in windy conditions. They have been based for years at the Royal Akarana YC in Okahu Bay in the inner east of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour and currently have about 8 to 10 active boats.

"The Mullet Boats are not connected in any way with the M's . Their origins are from the fishing smacks that fished in the shallow bays and estuary's of the Waitemata harbour, an inner Hauraki gulf where mullet abounded. They were identified by length of hull ( but not overall as they carried bowsprits and overhanging booms) in 20, 22, 24, 26 and 28 footers. They were sailed by a crew of two and were fast and weatherly half decked boats, that once they had caught their quota (around a ton or 40 dozen fish) they headed back to the Auckland wharfs to sell their catch (no refrigeration) in the best possible condition. They were a straight stemmed shallow draft craft with a broad vertical tuck, barn door rudder with a large rig two headsails set off a long bowsprit and a larger gaff mainsail. Built single skinned carvel with steamed frames from the 1890's with half decks and a small cuddy aft of the mast. Powerful boats that could, in suitable conditions, out sail many longer keelboats of the day.

"In the 1900's as fishing stocks declined they became popular as racing craft for the working class based around the inner western Ponsonby Cruising Club which still sponsors them today. They were known by their letter designation "H", 26ft's only a couple are around today, "I", 24ft's which were never that popular. "L" 22ft's the most famous of them which still race with modern rigs, and "N" 20ft which were only a few and you can see one on the Waitemata Woodies website.

Another photo. Gorgeous sailboats!

Another article on the web about the NZ M Class from

1 comment:

John Welsford said...

I'm surprised that you have not mentioned the V class mulleties. Or are they not a
"proper" Mullet boat. I started my serious sailing on one of those, a George Honour gaffer called "Sun". At the time she was all we could afford, but since then has become a "historical treasure".

John Welsford