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Star of Sydney–Hobart ’66 here for Mahurangi’s red-letter day

by 30 Dec 2008Regatta 20090 comments

Rodney Times 1901

Line Honours: The Fidelis crossing the finish line, Hobart 1966—the first New Zealand-built boat to finish first since the Sydney–Hobart’s inception, in 1945.

Two recent days could be termed red-letter days, in respect to the Mahurangi Regatta.

The first was when marine artist Paul Deacon emailed regarding his donation of two works, to be auctioned at the prize-giving and dance.

The next was when the owner of one of the most magnificent boats ever built in Auckland emailed, and then phoned, saying he was bringing the Fidelis, to the Mahurangi Regatta. The Fidelis, when she made her mark on the Waitematā in 1964, and on Bass Straight in 1966, typified the attitude of New Zealanders totally undaunted by being small cheese, on an international stage.

Auckland jeweller Vic Speight was not content to simply build to an existing plan. He took a design of Sweden-based Knud Reimers and commissioned Fred and Jim Lidgard to further-develop it, and build the Fidelis state of the art (triple-planked kauri)—a worthy rival for the Ranger.

James Davern promptly bought the boat, had Australian naval architect Warwick Hood redesign the rudder and rig, and proceeded to take line honours in both the Auckland to Suva race and the famously formidable Sydney to Hobart.

In the 1980s, rather be locked in an undignified and un-winnable pursuit of line honours against new breeds of ocean-racer, the Fidelis was completely and classically and luxuriously fitted-out below—all teak and leather upholstery; everything needed for her current role of corporate and private charter. Given her mixed Australian, New Zealand and Scandinavian heritage, it is entirely appropriate for a Sydney-sider to now own the Fidelis—Nigel Stoke is a role model for a rather more adult trans-Tasman relationship, where achievements in the arts, sport and commerce are respected, regardless of which side of the ditch the architect of that success resides.

Fidelis has been in Sydney now for close to 15 years but we are in touch with much of the history and are in contact with Jim Davern etc.

The regatta is indubitably the Mahurangi red-letter day, in a quasi-religious sense of the word. It was certainly bigger than Christmas for many locals in the 1920s, as the Warkworth crowds aboard the regatta-bound Jane Gifford attest.

In bringing his decidedly distinguished lady to the Mahurangi Regatta, Nigel Stoke contributes to that coming together of a wealth of talent and resources that invariably has a positive spillover…

…for the projects and people dedicated to a brighter, and less muddy, future for the harbour.

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