Few yachtsman would dispute that this cup, which has been raced for regularly since 1932 apart from the war years, is probably the most prestigious yachting trophy in New Zealand.
It came into existence in a curious manner. In 1931, the 130ft schooner Northen Light arrived in Auckland in the course of a world cruise. Her owner, Monsieur Zlatko Balokovic, was a concert violinist , who gave concerts in the Town Hall, He and Madame Balokovic were entertained by the Akarana Yacht Club and Madame Balokovic suggested that they present the Club with a cup for a 100 mile race, part of which must be sailed during the hours of darkness. The course for the first race was set out by Madame Balokovic in collaboration with the Harbourmaster, Captain H. Sargent, and the club secretary, Mr Walter Ure.
Other clubs began to institute similar programmes. Not surprisingly, in Auckland this led to too many races chasing too few entries and the lower numbers of entries in some events spoilt the competition. RAYC again took the lead by persuading the other major keelboat clubs to co-operate and arrange a Joint Clubs Programme in 1981. To hold the year’s programme at a reasonable number of offshore race’s. RAYC dropped several races to allow space for events from other clubs to be fitted into the combined programme. Unfortunately, as so often seems to happen, after a few years new race committees in various clubs lost sight of the reasons behind the Joint Programme and administrative difficulties caused it to fall into disuse for a period. It has since been reinstated in a modified form and constitutes the present Gold Cup Series.
The Gold Cup now comprises a series of five races, namely
- Spring Regatta – Richmond Yacht Club /50nm
- Roy McDell Memorial – Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron /35nm
- Bean Rock Race – Royal Akarana Yacht Club / 44nm
- Percy Jones Memorial – Buckland Beach Yacht Club / 48nm
- Balokovic Cup – Royal Akarana Yacht Club / 89nm
While still active and important in the promotion of longer coastal races, RAYC can no longer claim a virtual monopoly in this field. Nevertheless, members can recall with pride that their club led the way in this type of racing in New Zealand. It set high standards which paved the way to the very important position which this country holds today in the international world of yachting.
Clearly a person of stentorian attitudes, Madame Balokovic urged that the race date be set for a period when there was no moon and this custom has been adhered to, but the original course suggested by Madame Balokovic was 160 miles, outside Little Barrier, Great Barrier and Cuvier. Akarana Yacht Clubs sailing committee was unhappy with this and substituted an inner Gulf course of about 90 miles, including Flat Rock as a course mark. This substitution may well have been with Madame Balokovic’s approval.
The first race started on January 15, 1932, and was won by Victory (Harold George). The 1936/37 racing programme indicates that year’s race started at 7:30pm with the course around Canoe Rock to Channel Island, then around the Cow off Coromandel to finish at Matiatia, a distance of 94 miles. The entry fee was 10 shillings and the Balokovic Cup miniature and a 7 Pound cash prize went to the winner., with 2 pounds to second and 1 pound cash to third. Subsequently, the starting time was moved to 10am, but the increasing speed of modern yachts resulted in boats finishing in daylight, and the starting time was again changed to 1400 hours.
The race has had its share of disasters. In 1947 Nada (Fred Norris) hit the rocks at the foot of the Cow off Coromandel Harbour. It was a foul night with rain squalls making it very difficult to see the light. I was close by aboard Mokena (Chas Wills), and we rounded the Cow in white water. To our horror we heard calls from Nada, which were inside us. There were no flares — probably no-one had them at the time. But by then we were in trouble ourselves, having hoisted our kite as we rounded, only to be laid flat. It was difficult to get the kite off as the enormously long poles in fashion at the time had to be unshipped from the mast as the first step. Thankfully, adoption of the RORC rule in later years put an end to such unseamanlike appendages.
Nada’s fate after hitting the rocks was a sorry one – she broke up and, after everything salvageable was removed, the wreck was burned where she lay on the Cow’s outlying reef. Most notable of the Balokovic disasters probably occurred in February 1964, when Northerner (Boyd Hargreaves), in her first season, struck Bollons Rock just after dark and sank in 100ft of water. Northerner was being sailed by her builder, Max Carter, as her owner was away. I was following on the catamaran En Avant (Mark Williams) and saw some red flares go up in Tire Passage. A passing freighter, the Kawerau, picked up the crew and took them to Auckland. Mr Hargreaves arrived at Orakei and was amazed that the Northerner had not shown up. At this time the freighter was passing the wharf and the captain advised by radio that he had the Northerner’s crew aboard. To his credit, Hargreaves only comment way “Thank God, the crew are safe”.
Dismastings have also occurred. In 1969 there were 50 entries. Before the start Pamoana (E.Beer) lost her mast, and Rival (C.Pailtier) was also dismasted soon after Later Narwee (Murray Crapp) withdrew and shortly after she too lost her mast. It was blowing a very fresh north-easterly and the race was won by Roulette II, Fred Andrews’ new boat. Over the years we have progressed with our safety requirements. In 1951 four boats carried pigeons which were released in intervals. In 1956 RAYC launches carried members of No.1 Troop, NZ Regiments of signals on board and radioed to headquarters the positions of yachts at various stages. Mr Lawler’s MV Ngaroma was stationed as usual at Canoe Rock. The full effects of the RORC rule began to show in our racing fleets. Our safety inspections improved and the safety of crew became paramount. Offshore racing was coming of age.
In my earliest Balokovic races, I never crewed on a yacht which had lifelines or flares and I even completed a course on a yacht with no compass. The race has been under five different handicap systems – General, RORC, IOR, PHRF, and now IMS> The list of winners is a Who’s Who in New Zealand Yachting. For a long time John Lidgard held the record for the most wins, three times in the Matuka. Now the records show Golden Kiwi (Gil Hedges) with the same total. Fastest time on record is 8hrs 18mins. Set by Steinlager II (Peter Blake). From 1932 until 1975 the race was run as a fleet with one overall winner. From 1976 until 1982 the volume of entries saw the Club dividing the fleet into five divisions, with individual winners for each division, but after 1983 the diminution in competitors saw a return to one fleet with one overall winner. This classic race will undoubtedly go on into the future still ranking as on of the most popular race in our Club Calendar.
By D’arcy Whiting – RAYC History 1895 – 1995