A long-ago mystery of the yacht club

In our last account of the history of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, the loss of the yacht Windward was mentioned. For local resident Lorraine Christie, it is a very personal memory which she writes about here:

The Windward (Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club archives)

The Windward (Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club archives)

The Windward was a 26.5 yacht built in Wellington in 1921 by Mr R Millman. It was built to withstand heavy weather; however, it failed to return from a trip to the Chatham Islands, lost in a storm between Cape Palliser and the Port Nicholson Boat Harbour on 15 January 1931. It remains one of the mysteries of the Club.

My interest in the article in Bay View stemmed from my uncle, Archibald Havlock Irwin (Arch) who was one of the four crew. They were lost before I was born, but I grew up very aware of a large photo of the Windward in pride of place on my grandmother’s wall in Ponsonby Road, Karori.

I grew up with the family myth of this highly talented athlete and new graduate of Victoria University who was lost at sea in the prime of his youth. I grew up knowing that my grandfather, whom I also never met, never got over the shock of the loss which contributed to his early death the following year.

An account of the loss of the Windward and the attempts to find out what happened is recorded in Little Ships by Ronald Carter (published by AH Reed in December 1944). It makes interesting reading, as great efforts were made to locate Windward. Carter concludes: “One of the mysteries of Cook Strait is that it seldom, if ever, gives up its dead. Many a brave little vessel has been sucked down into the vortex of the cross-road of mighty ocean currents never to rise again.”

— Bay View newsletter 72, November 2018