5 August 2013

Howzat (Whiting Half Tonner)

In 1976 New Zealand designer Paul Whiting was beginning to win world attention as a result of his success at the Quarter Ton level with Magic Bus and his Half Tonner Candu II. Auckland yachtsman Allen Walbridge commissioned a new Half Tonner from Whiting, which was essentially a development of Candu II but with a longer and more cruising-oriented cabin. The 31 footer was named Howzat - not just a cricketing reference but also a representation of the moment of truth when various measurement challenges were overcome in the midst of IOR rule changes and a Half Ton rating of 21.7ft was achieved.

Such challenges included the need to place her 12hp engine not just for'ard of the mast, but actually in the bow. This provided sufficient bow down trim to gain a critical rating benefit, but as can be imagined it made the boat particularly cranky downwind.
Howzat on launching day, Westhaven Auckland (photo Allen Walbridge Collection)
Profile drawing of Howzat (courtesy demi-coques website)
Howzat was raced extensively in Auckland regattas and some of the offshore classics, including the Auckland to Gisborne race. Her first major series was the 1977 South Pacific Half Ton Cup. By this regatta the hot favourite was another new Whiting boat, the centreboarder Newspaper Taxi, which won all but one of the races. Howzat finished fifth overall, with placings of 5/3/11/3/6. 

Howzat during the 1977-78 season (photo Allen Walbridge Collection)

Howzat alongside the Paul brothers' Farcical off the now-demolished Hobson Bay dinghy lockers sometime in the late 1970s (photo Allen Walbridge collection)
Howzat then went on to contest the New Zealand Half Ton Cup trials later that year, a series which was dominated by yet another new generation of yachts, the Farr centreboarders Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble and the Davidson centreboarder Waverider, and Howzat was out of the running for selection but enjoyed close racing with other 'second division' keelers such as Instinct and Farcical

Mast reinforcements after withdrawing from the Tonga Race 1978
Soon afterwards Howzat contested the Southern Cross Cup trials, coming up against her centreboard Half Ton competition as well as their bigger One Ton sisters. Howzat initially gave a good showing in the fourth race, running second on corrected time in the early stages but fell back later after a big wind shift. Still, she had a consistent regatta, just finishing out of team contention in fourth place overall. Howzat went on to race in the 1978 Tauranga to Vila race, and then the 1979 Auckland to Tonga race - in the latter she suffered almost complete rig failure near the Kermadec Islands, but a jury rig arrangement saw them arrive back in Auckland safely.

She nearly made the Southern Cross Cup team in 1979, but after leading the series she was forced to withdraw from the final race after failing to find Groper Rock in fading light, big seas and high winds, and finished the series in fourth place overall.

Above and below - Howzat has been part of the racing scene in Tauranga before being recently transported back to Auckland

Walbridge has recently found his former charge in Tauranga and she has just been transported back to Auckland for a full refit. This will include repainting the yacht in her original colour scheme, and the fitting of a new keel and rig, in a similar manner to her earlier sistership Candu II. I will be following Howzat's refit with interest and will post updates on her progress here.

Howzat on arrival at the Okahu Bay boatyard, August 2013 (photo Heath Walbridge)
Later in August, the keel and rudder are off, the skeg has been cut out and the hull has been stripped back (photo RB Sailing)
More recent photographs (May 2014) can be seen here.

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