This site has been established to acquaint, or in some cases re-acquaint, you with the last of the big, unballasted centreboard dinghies racing in New Zealand – the Emmy, as the M-Class Yacht is affectionately known by her many admirers.
WHY THE EMMY? WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THEM?
These questions are often asked by bemused souls pondering the survival and present popularity of the 18-foot kauri-clinker M-Class, first formed in 1922 following designs by Arch Logan and adopted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
The Emmy, as the M-Class Yacht is affectionately known, is one of the few traditional racing yacht classes that has survived the relentless march of progress. It is testimony to the quality of the Emmy and the dedication of those fine sportsmen committed to it that a class of expensive, wooden clinker boats continues to flourish in a world dominated by exotic, hi-tech materials and keel-boat racing.
Perhaps more than anything else, it is the comradeship that is at the heart of the Emmy’s appeal. For generations of yachties it has been the lasting friendships brought about by the close-knit racing and cruising scene that has made the class so special. At its cornerstone has been the unique facility of the Okahu Bay boat ramp where, with ten to fifteen boats and four or five crew each, the entire complement gather at the same rigging area both before and after the race.
Triumphs and disasters are a shared experience on each boat, to be related and embellished as everybody gathers to assist in the ritual of hauling out ‘the beasts’ over the sometimes treacherous slime on the ramp.
Of the Emmy’s contemporaries in the pre-war dinghy world, none remain. All three of the once- prolific 14-foot classes – T, X and Y – are gone, as has the 16-foot S-Class, which had its heyday in the years up to 1930. The unrestricted 18-foot V-Class, which in the early 1950s evolved into the spectacular Flying 18′s, hung on longest. But they too, have now gone the way of many other open-development classes, their decline hastened by the ever-increasing costs of new technology. (Not surprisingly, though, many of the older and sturdier V’s are still around the Hauraki Gulf, being cruised just as comfortably as always.)
Today the Emmy stands alone as the last of the big, unballasted centreboard dinghies racing on the Waitemata Harbour (or in the rest of New Zealand for that matter). Its survival appears to have been a subtle and finely tuned mixture of good design, tradition, comradeship and plain honest fun, coupled with the gradual introduction of modern ideas without ever sacrificing its ‘essential character’.
While nothing is ever certain, the future of the Emmy is at least promising.
THE M-CLASS MEN (MEN WHO MADE THE EMMY)
ARCH LOGAN – THE WIZARD OF STANLEY BAY
The name Arch Logan is synonymous with boat building and design on the Waitemata Harbour. Arch, the family moved to New Zealand when Arch was 9 and set up a boat building company in Devonport. Arch naturally followed his Dad into the business and by 1895 was the Chief designer at Logan Brothers.
Arch quickly established his reputation as a fine designer and builder working on huge variety of motor and sailing craft. But it was the yachts – centreboard and keel, clinker and carvel – for which Arch became renowned.
In 1910 when the Auckland Harbour Board bought back the lease on the Logan’s yard Arch no longer had to continue working at the same pace and so the partnership was dissolved. Logan then set up a smaller operation near where he lived in Stanley Point, in a boatshed overlooking Ngataringa Bay.
Logan could now pick and choose what he wanted to build and over the next 30 years he produced many yachts, launches and small craft that have become legend. By the time Arch Logan built his first M-Class, in 1922, he was considered the best designer and builder on the Waitemata.
The fact that Logan was building M-Class yachts was big news and his boats did not disappoint. Clearly superior to most 18 foot V-class boats racing at the time, Logan’s beautiful designs can be distinguished by his trademark dark top plank and it was used until his last M-Class, Manu, built in 1929.
Arch Logan, M-Class designer and yachting legend, died aged 75 on 27 March 1940; his achievements were recognised 12 months later with the creation of the Arch Memorial Trophy.
BOB STEWART – GENTLEMAN
Aside from Arch Logan, the one person who most influenced the M-Class was Bob Stewart. He was a terrific designer and an even better skipper. His sailing reputation and his affection for the M-Class was such that that very little change in the class was ever attempted without consulting Bob first. In short he was Mr M-Class in the close-knit Auckland yachting scene.
Bob’s arbitration skills were put to the test in 1948 with the launch of a radically different and controversial M-Class; Myth. The Davidson designed Myth was so outside the design norm that it was considered a rebel boat and opinion was so split that it threatened the survival of the class.
It was to Bob Stewart that the M-Class owners turned for a way out of a confused and anger-filled situation. Stewart’s solution was typically fair, balanced and reasoned. He stated that if the boat measured, it must be considered an M, despite its obvious differences. Without his mediating role, and the final acceptance of Myth as a true M, and therefore the future of the class around the Davidson designs would never have taken place.
In his last years, Bob suffered from a debilitating short-term memory loss and was unable to witness the revival the M’s have recently undergone. His last direct contact with the class was on the morning of the Logan Memorial in March 1988, when, on a grey morning, he was brought down from the Meadowbank Home to stand once more by the yachts he had done so much to promote. His delight in being present was obvious, but the weather conspired to make it less than convivial for one so frail, and after looking over the new boats and asking about ‘my old Manene’, he was taken back to the warmth of the Home.
Bob Stewart – a true gentleman – died on 28 November 1988.
BILLY ROGERS – THE CURRAN STREET CRAFTSMAN
Billy Rogers was perhaps the finest centreboard boat builder this country has ever seen. His contemporaries still regard his creations as near perfection, not only for the design and construction, but for the immaculate finishing as well.
Billy Rogers was the preferred builder for Arch Logan’s clinker M’s. Mercedes was his first and Arch must have been satisfied with the job, as Rogers also built Marita in 1939, the last of the Logan M’s. His peak was perhaps in the mid-40s with the lunching of Marilyn, Makaere and Marauder in the winter of ‘46 – followed by, Moani, Matana and Monalua in 1947.
Monalua, probably his best design, was the last Emmy he worked on. In 1962, Rod Lewis and Dick Church had rescued her from the mudflats at Glendowie and, having bought the bare hull, engaged Rogers to re- rib her.
In 1965, Billy was called out to Frankham’s slip following Monalua’s destruction in a gale. He declined to rebuild her: in his view she was beyond repair and it would be cheaper to build a new hull.
Failing health and a heart attack in 1968 put an end to his working days and he died on 22 May 1972, aged sixty-six.
KEITH ATKINSON – THE LAST OF ‘THE OLD SCHOOL’
The resurgence in popularity of the M during the mid-1980s was due in no small part to Keith Atkinson’s building prowess and his love of the class. Keith practically built the fleet; of the twelve M’s racing in 1987, eight were Davidson designs built by Keith Atkinson.
Atkinson was an apprentice at Lidgard’s, working on Fairmiles and Minesweepers for the Royal New Zealand Navy as well as the M’s that flowed out of the yard in 1946. On completing his apprenticeship, he was hired at a variety of boatyards before setting up on his own shop at Bute Road in Browns Bay.
By the end of the 50′s, the Atkinson yard was one of the last in Auckland still doing clinker work. The quality of his craftsmanship was second to none, so when the Mahina was commissioned in 1960 no other boat builder was seriously considered. Moonlight and Matapan soon followed, but demand for clinker built boats was fading. As a result Keith moved away from the M-Class to build several Sea Scout Cutters and a couple of Frostbites.
In the 1970s the Townson 32 design arrived on the scene. Keith set up a limited production line and turned out a dozen or so of these durable, well-mannered keelers. It was through these that he returned to the M’s. After building Motivator and Masquerade, Keith went into retirement as the 1980s arrived.
Keith built his last M, the champion Marksman, in 1981 which he raced until his death on 15 September 1982.
LAURIE DAVIDSON – DESIGNER OF THE MODERN M
These days Laurie Davidson (CNZM) is a famous yacht designer best known for the America’s Cup winning boats of 1995 and 2000 and few outside the class know of his long and successful association with the Ms but in 1947 as a 20 year old he set the class alight. He designed and raced the boat which was the forerunner of the modern day M class boats, the boat often referred to as the “Black Arrow”, the legendary Myth. Laurie had come to race and his boats were designed and built to do so which many bemoaned as a step away from the cruiser/racers that Ms had become.
Davidson’s first paid design commission was an M Class, Mystery, launched in 1954 and in all 11 Davidson M Classes were built, and they dominated the fleet until the arrival of Owen Reid’s Mach One in 1987. Between 1950 and 1990 the premier race of each year “The Logan” was won by a Davidson design no fewer than 32 times.
Such was his love of the class that the last three Davidsons built were to a design donated to the class by Laurie in 1978, long after he had become an internationally renowned yacht designer. These three boats, Motivator, Masquerade and Marksman along with Matapan, Mirage, Marquita and occasionally Mystery and Mahina continue that proud racing history of Davidson boats to this day.
Owen Reid, formerly from Christchurch came to epitomise the spirit of the M-Class and to become its saviour as the 1980s drew to a close. A highly competent sailor in his own right, Owen foresaw that the class could not survive on revamped older hulls. He, along with John Ashton, had the M-Class Association pursue a new design by Laurie Davidson and three of these boats were to be built by Keith Atkinson.
Owen successfully campaigned and then owned the first of the new boats, Motivator, for several seasons before embarking on building an M to his own design. Mach One was launched in 1987 and she immediately became a fleet leader.
Buoyed by Mach One’s tremendous success, Owen quickly set about building another M to strengthen the class. Not content with building a single hull, Owen set up shop in the Auckland Maritime Museum and built three Ms side by side. It was the first time since 1944 that several sister Ms had been built simultaneously. The resultant sisters: Matara, Mistress and the recently launched Menace, reinvigorated the class and remain at the top of the M-Class fleet to this day.
When it again appeared M-Class development had gone quiet, Owen decided to build yet again. He had his line drawings computer enhanced and built Monsoon in 2009.
An absolute craftsman, Owen, has been a total gentleman throughout his long association with the M-Class. A humble man of great vision, with a passion for the class which knows no bounds, Owen’s generosity of spirit, coupled with an eagerness to spread his knowledge for the good of the fleet, typifies the very character on which the M-Class Association has been built.
SPONSORSHIP – HYUNDAI NEW ZEALAND
Sailing has been part of the New Zealand way of life since the country’s very beginning and messing about on boats has become a firm favourite of many Kiwis. Not only is it a perfect way to enjoy our great outdoors and stunning coastlines, it has proven to be fertile ground for Kiwi inventiveness and sporting prowess. Hyundai has been supporting sailing in New Zealand for many years now and is proud to be involved with the M-Class.
Like the M-Class, Hyundai New Zealand is a 100% New Zealand owned and operated company that is working hard toward becoming New Zealand’s best loved car brand. Hyundai currently holds NZ’s largest selling diesel passenger range, including the Hyundai Santa Fe, NZ’s #1 selling diesel passenger vehicle, the all-new award winning i30, and the highly sought after European designed iX35 and i40 wagon.
Check out www.hyundai.co.nz for more details or call us on 0800 HYUNDAI (498 632).