Boating NZ : FREE TO READ March 2014
I n the December issue I left Ron and Michele Copeland midway through their restoration of Nomad, a boat that many would have turned firmly away from as a hopeless basket case. The Copelands’ perseverance reflected Ron’s deep respect for the mullet boat, which he had learned from racing Taotane with Ponsonby Cruising Club, the mullet boat’s ancestral home. It also reflected the genes Michele had inherited from her father, Whisk Martinengo. Whisk had little formal education but was a man of great intellect and culture. He was a line fisherman who felt a strong connection to his seagoing Venetian and Adriatic forebears and counted as his friend and mental equal Professor John Reid of Auckland University College’s English Department. Nomad’s restoration also required great mental application, problem-solving ability and trade skills which Ron and Michele developed as the project continued. As Nomad’s rebuild progressed, and it became clear that, despite the odds, the project would be completed, people flocked to Ron and Michele’s idyllic property in Norwood Road, Bayswater. None were more delighted that Tom Townson and his family. Ron met Tom’s son Des Townson, who had admired Nomad as a child. Des told Ron that Nomad’s midsections had influenced him in all his designs. After Nomad was relaunched on 23 November 1986, Tom Townson took her helm for a quiet sail on the Waitemata and became quite an emotional man. “This is one of the best days of my life,” he told Ron. Nomad proved to be a powerful yacht which Ron and Michele raced and cruised consistently. When the Classic Yacht Association was formed in Auckland in 1995, driven partially by Rodney Wilson of the Maritime Museum, Nomad was amongst the fleet. In fact, restorations like Nomad; Peter Smith’s Rebecca, now reverted to Dolphin; and the C & W Bailey 21⁄2 rater Thelma were vital sparks in forming the association and led the way towards restorations to original configuration rather than leaving our old classics in their modernised form. From time to time I crewed for Ron in regattas and Ponsonby Cruising Club races. The club was a hothouse for mullet boat enthusiasm. Fortunately that enthusiasm has never waned, thus keeping alive Auckland’s truly indigenous type of racing yacht, an enthusiasm kept alight by the club’s annual race for the valuable Lipton Cup presented by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1921. Ron usually borrowed a 22-footer for the Lipton Cup race, Melita (L28, Percy Vos, 1934) or Jim Davern’s Honey (L51, fibreglass Taotane clone, 1974), but in 1990 we got to talking about buying a 22. Geoff Crooks’ Snatcher (L54) was available at the time. We bought her with Brendon Crawford, then a Navy midshipman, as a third partner. Snatcher had been designed by Bo Birdsall and built in 1978 by Don Lidgard and Murray Moyes as Blossom. She was pretty and beautifully built, with an open cockpit for working the gear, just a big dinghy like those first mullet boats that fished and raced on the Waitemata 100 years before. She had won the Lipton Cup five times and had a good chance of winning it again, something that Ron desired. We campaigned her hard with Brian Peace and the amazing Janet Watkins as for’ard hand. Snatcher was a delight to sail but we didn’t win the Lipton Cup with her. Brendon Crawford still owns her but these days spends most of his life overseas as a superyacht skipper. Now, if you had to choose the best mullet boat ever, you would have to decide between two yachts, the 22-footer Tamariki and the 26-footer Corona. Both were built in the 1930s; both were the best in their class for many years, and both were designed and built by Charles Collings of Collings & Bell in St Mary’s Bay. In its early years the firm specialised in mullet boats but began concentrating Ron and Michele Copeland NOMAD AND OTHER FINE YACHTS, PART II VINTAGE PERSPECTIVES HAROLD KIDD 98 98 Boating New Zealand March 2014 Vintage Perspectives March14.indd 98 18/02/2014 5:50:33 p.m.
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