The Next Era of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club

In the last issue of Bay View, we described the formation of the yacht club and the building of the boat harbour at Clyde Quay. (This history is abbreviated from the club’s website.)

The standard yacht-racing course in these early years was around Somes and Ward Islands, starting and finishing at the clubhouse at Pipitea Point. On occasion, matches were arranged around a buoy off Pencarrow Lighthouse. Harbour racing was popular, as it is today. Tack-by-tack reports appeared in the local press after each weekend’s racing.

Towards the end of the 1880s reclamation began on the harbour front, and the Club’s headquarters were transferred from Pipitea Point to a site near the old Thorndon Baths. The sport of yachting flourished in the 1890s. A New Zealand championship yacht race was proposed in 1891 and later that year the New Zealand Yachting Association was formed and its sailing rules were adopted by Port Nicholson Yacht Club.

The outbreak of World War I saw many members joining the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and Club affairs slowed. Out of a membership of 130 in 1917, 54 members were away at war. ...... At the end of World War I, the Te Aro Sailing Club (formed in 1906 by a group of young lads with centreboard yachts) and the Te Ruru Yacht Club (a group mainly interested in cruising) amalgamated with the PNYC.

A few records remain from the 1900 to 1930 period, the most significant event being the granting of the Royal Charter to the Club in October 1921. In the following year the Governor-General, Viscount Jellicoe, was selected to represent Wellington at the Sanders Cup in Dunedin. The Port Underwood race of the 1929–30 season was the first to be reported by radio.

In December 1930 the club yacht Windward made a historic passage to the Chatham Islands crewed by experienced Club members — I P Rollings, C A Steele, A H Irwin and D A Graham. Unfortunately, Windward failed to reach Wellington on her return voyage. She was last sighted sailing in heavy conditions in Palliser Bay and was believed to have been lost close to home.

The depression of the 1930s resulted in the curtailment of many social activities and cast gloom over the Club’s 50th anniversary in 1933. World War II affected the Club greatly. In the first year more than 100 members were in the forces and more were joining.

When the American forces arrived in New Zealand in 1942 the Clyde Quay boat harbour was turned over to them, and all craft other than those requisitioned for defence service had to be removed. Throughout World War II the Club operated in temporary premises in Evans Bay and only returned to the old Clubhouse adjacent to the Freyberg Pool when the Americans left at the war’s end.

By 1948 it was apparent that the old Clubhouse was not adequate for the Club’s needs, and a sub-committee was formed to discuss new facilities. It proposed that a new Clubhouse be built on a site near the Clyde Quay Wharf. In view of the Americans having taken over the boat harbour and the old Clubhouse, Commander Coene of the US Marines proposed that the RPNYC be able to take over the premises as the new Clubhouse.

The RPNYC trough a maze of masts

The RPNYC trough a maze of masts

So the Club’s main concern in the early 1950s was to obtain a new Clubhouse, and there was much fundraising activity including the selling of “Special Life Memberships” at £25 each. Tenancy of the Clubhouse was negotiated in 1956 and, after extensive renovations, the building was opened as the new Clubhouse on 1 November 1958. The opening of the Clubhouse marked the beginning of the Club’s current history and a sharp increase in the number of members and new boats.

The club’s centenary in 1983 opened a new era in the club’s history and these recent years will be described in the next Bay View.

— Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018