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Stewart 34

Mar 19, 2009 8 Comments by


Greetings yachties,

This year the Stewart 34 will be 50. A book is almost printed and pre orders can be entered here. Later in the year there is a dinner planned, seats are limited so an early booking is recommended.


I will update this thread with new information about the event as details are confirmed.

Brad Butterworth is coming to dinner and will be quest Speaker.

I just love the way they used to tack these yachts, 4 to get the headsail round and kite on the bow.

The Stewarts are very social folk. they welcome people from all over the world to go sailing on a Thursday afternoon. Bring a small entry fee of a bottle of Rum.:)))

Bill Miller, love’em or hate’em!

Every now and then an icon comes along and makes a difference in our sport. The Logan’s, Baileys’, Farr, Young, Elliott, Stewart, Blake, Hasler, Stagg, Dickson, Bouzaid, Daven, Coutts, you get the idea, well, at another level there is Bill Miller, Godfather of the Stewart 34. Bill got into yachting late in life, he was in his 40’s when a property deal included a yacht. “A yacht!!”, “What do I want a yacht for!!?” Bill was developing Mt Eden Villas into blocks of Flats, yes folks its all his fault Grange Rd, Mt Eden is full of 1 ½ bedroom boxes in blocks of 30 something, ripping down Victorian Villas and building concrete block boxes. Well it didn’t take Bill, a true competitor, long to find his next love. The rest as they say is History, but unless ingrates like me put pen to paper, some of our best will just live in our memories.

At 82 he goes yachting every Thursday and Monday Sprints during the summer and winter racing every 2nd Saturday. Name me another sport that allows the over 50’s to compete with the young guns? But wait there is more, he doesn’t only compete, he and his hand picked team keep winning. It’s the best short course racing anywhere!!

A few weeks ago I asked Bill why he thinks Stewart 34’s are such a good boat. His opinion is extremely bias, but who cares, if it wasn’t for people like Bill we would all be still be sailing dugouts. Bill gave me 26 reasons for just last year, 26?? I hear you say, 26 Stewart 34’s turned up most Monday nights for 0,06nmile W/L’s across the Harbour at Westhaven, now the Y88’s do the same on Thursdays, watch this space for the next group of one designers keen to compete.

Bill and his mate George Backhus, an American who got hooked on Stewarts ten years ago, will launch the book later this year about the Stewarts and Bill reckons everyone who yachts should buy 10 copies. I did say he was bias. He also reckons anyone over 60 who can’t go yachting on a Thursday afternoon is a “failer”. Well, Bill has a way with words. He once told a sail maker “I wouldn’t use your sails for toilet paper if I had diarrhea,” Thanks Bill, another gem. A hard core of old farts turn up each Thursday afternoon for a fang down the harbour and back, then off to Pioneer for a rum or 3. The rum that was won last week is consumed with gusto by these old farts and anybody is welcome (just bring some more rum & coke). Lonely Planet have it featured and randoms from all over the world turn up for a taste of Kiwi, and Bill is always welcoming, he puts you on a Stewart and away you go.

Bill recently lost his life long partner, his wife Bette, 250 old salts and many others turned up to pay their respects, even Brad Butterworth sent the biggest bunch of flowers, you see this old fart has sailed with a few young guns that have gone on to world domination. Bette made the sandwiches for the crew.

I asked Bill, as I said before, what is so great about these Stewart 34’s?

Designed in 1958 by Bob Stewart the first one Patiki splashed down in 1959 and the old farts back then said too radical, too light, too this, too that and dismissed them out of hand, well since those days Stewart 34’s have done the Sydney Hobart, crossed the Atlantic, been around the world, and even across Cook Strait 59 times, once with a broken spreader, Aurora, Built for Les McDonald Snr for Wellington conditions and still owned by the family, run by Les McDonald Jnr ( his son ) and his family, 3 generations of McDonalds enjoy there Stewart 34 Wednesday night racing in Tauranga. Bill delivered one to Nelson in the 70’s down the west coast, got a fair kicking in 70knots of Raglan, called into New Plymouth for a cup of tea and then carried on, the local cop thought they were mad. Probably were, (he still is), in those days they just got on life. They had a transistor radio for navigation, if they had a signal they were close to land, if not they were at sea. No in thoses days.

2 P boats battle it out over 90 miles in last weekends Balokovic Cup.

Report is by the one that finished 1min 30sec behind. Enjoy.

Waiting for crew, boat all ready?  Cat 4 got everything? White flag. Night race so jackstays on, upside down light thing tied to lifebuoy, throw rope good to go.  Throw everything unnecessary off. 5:50pm and still one to arrive.  Bacon and egg pie and corned beef left at home.  Looks like muesli bars and beer for the next 24hours. Crew arrive, lets go.  First sched is check-in for start.  Sea breeze west to south-west.  Clear air kite start 15 secs late but ahead of opposition.  More or less square to Bean, mid fleet, 4-5 lengths ahead of other p-boat.  Round Bean to Browns, off the quarter, sea breeze dropping, p-boat behind a group of big slugs, stay high to keep clear air.  Round Browns and shy kite to Passage.  Dropped to 3-4 lengths to p-boat.  We stayed out to keep clear of big boats so we weren’t rolled by the opposition, they dropped to the Waiheke coast and got through us at passage.  Darkness, very light breeze.  Has anyone been through Ruthe before?  No, me at helm, calling the numbers to navigator.  Through Ruthe, lost 4-5 boat lengths by the time we came back out into the gulf.  Went below to rest.  Woken at Calf to hoist genoa.  Pack the kite.  Caught p-boat under genoa, Still very light airs.  Around Cow and into a huge hole.  Kite up and maybe 1kn, flap. Opposition still moving, damn, flap.  And away, flap, they went.  And we waited, flap.  Fuck this going nowhere sloppy shit, flap.  They are getting away, flap.  Can hardly make out their stern light, flap.  Flap, fuckin flap.  Breeze? yes 1kn boat speed, OK up to 2 knots, we are going again, building apparent, excellent, where are they?  Gone. Damn. Where are we?  On the rhumb line to Flat Rock shy kite.  A mile from Cow maybe.  Still very light airs.

Beautiful night so many stars and meteors.  Two legs of a triangle course with shy kites and the forecast is for northerlies so probably a kite home!…Hmmm…..Patchy till dawn, rest of fleet to weather, hope this doesn’t knock.  Consistent when there was breeze, 3-4kn average up startled out of stupor around 3am by something coming up beside boat to take a breath.  We are not alone, big breath, pilot whale?  Dawn arrived and so did a 30 deg shift to east, everyone up hoist genoa.  Opposition, maybe 1 mile ahead and half a mile to weather.  Must have gained on the shy kite run, hope they can’t lay flat rock from there.  We are almost half a mile east of the rhumb line.  I am off to stack a few zzzzs.  Up again 2 hours later 5miles from the rock. P-boat is ~500m to weather and off our beam, great we have a yacht race again.  Each shift knocks a bit and we look a little better.  Opposition knows this and tack away.  Wait till next knock and tack to stay in touch.  Knocking more, excellent.  We cross 3-4 lengths ahead.  Too close to tack wait till they cross our stern, tack, build speed, how are we looking?  Same speed, got 5 degrees, great.  Lifting off them.  Over lay Flat Rock, no point putting 2 more tacks in when it is this close. Kite ready?  They follow us and make slight gain.  Getting lighter as we approach, good call to over lay.  Hoist kite around rock, no air, p-boat hoists kite sideways, still very light.   They gybe, so do we.  No air kite sagging.  They drop main to fill kite and start to move. We do same.  They come back to us we follow, boatspeed now 3 knots, kite shy, breeze filling in, hoist main, they do same.  We are on their tail “Nice morning” I call.  “Will be if you stay there” is the response, from Miller. Good, got them worried.  Cat and mouse, we get an overlap to weather, they luff up. We respond, I hear “they’ve got us” from the other boat and then what the @#$@?  Brace jumps off winch and our kite is all over their boat, bugger.  “360, PENALTY” is the rather excited calls from them.  We gather kite and do a turn.  Build speed on port gybe, they have gybed but are dead in the water, we stay on port in better breeze.  The call is to stay with the breeze.  Maybe a mile of separation, breeze is still good but they are moving as well.  We have to stay in touch, we gybe back.  Gybed again before crossing but lost 500m to them, combination of unlucky shift and tide pushing us sideways, should have gybed as soon as we had speed.  So what do we do?  Lets throw some gybes at them, good practice for us and we may wear the old buggers out.  Crossed Tiri channel just clearing the point.  Weed?  Where did that come from, why can we see the bottom? Chart says 20m.  #@$%@# its shallow, depth sounder is on ‘simulation’ mode,  Who ever heard of a depth sounder simulation?  By the lee to deeper water, lots of weed and rocks, a few scary moments.  Breathe.  Back onto the race, lets head to the beach, a few more gybes on the way to the coast, matched by the opposition.  Count is one bad gybe each, are they getting further to leeward.  Try sailing square, and then we match them for heading and speed.  They still have 500m or so on us.  About ½ a mile from the beach they gybe, we match them and it is shy all they way to Orakei.  8 miles to go.  Are we quicker? Is it enough? 8.5knots, 9.2 on waves.  Slowly pulling them in.  About 3 miles from home we fly the no.3 genoa inside the kite.  Adds maybe 0.2?  Definitely faster. Got a 10.5 Too little too late.  Finish maybe 200m behind. Results not posted yet.

Great race.  20hours racing with ~1minute between us.  3 hours with genoa the rest was kitework……got home and dropped into a coma at 7:30 for 12 hours.  Best sleep I have had for years.  Haven’t stopped smiling all day today (Sunday)..

Lessons learnt?

too many spies and these old bathtubs are too well matched!

Thanks Brett.

A total of 63 Stewart 34 yachts have reportedly been launched since 1959.  Sixty one are believed to be sailing today.  Hundreds of owners and thousands of crew have sailed tens of thousands of races and hundreds of thousands of miles, providing for many interesting “sea tales,” some hilarious, some tragic.

My book Stewart 34 Yachting-the First 50 Years is an account of the history of the mighty Stewarts.  It is nearing completion and scheduled for release in October 2009.  Included with the book will be a DVD containing exciting footage from the Citizen Watch Match Racing Series in 1987 and an extensive photo archive from the 50 year history of the Stewarts.  For more information, watch this space!

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