Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Pet's lines. Source: NZ Yachtsman 28 October 1916

Pet was built by Charles Bailey in Auckland, and was launched in 1877.

Pet at Thorndon

She was of an unusual shape - in an era of slab-sided vessels and plumb stems, she had quite a pronounced tumble-home and a ram bow. This made her both longer and wider at the waterline than at deck level.

This construction was to cheat a class racing rule of the day which was based on measuring the beam and length of a boat at deck level - a smart little trick to make the boat bigger where it matters and therefore have a faster theoretical (and practical) maximum hull speed. Needless to say, like all other rule cheaters, it didn't take long before a new system was arrived at in the eternal tussle between the designer and class handicappers.

Charles Hill in 1916.
Bailey laid the keel and framed up the boat "on spec", and the structure hung in the rafters of his workshop for some time before being purchased. She was unnamed, and become known in the yachting fraternity as "Bailey's Pet". The nickname stuck when she was purchased by Charles Hill in 1877. Hill was a hatter by trade, and was one of the founding members of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club in 1883.

Hill had Bailey plank her up, and fitted out as an open centreboarder, and after a couple of races in Auckland, brought her to Wellington, where she easily beat her competition.

In 1879 Charles Bailey arrived from Auckland with his recent build Toy, a lightly built open boat of cedar with a clear finish, and sporting the latest in light wire rigging. Toy won the second class race of the annual Wellington regatta. Hill took advantage of Bailey's presence to do some work on Pet - having her half-decked over, and a small counter added. Pet was entered in the first class race but had to withdraw when her rigging failed.

Red Jacket in Christchurch
1880 was a big year for Pet, and secured her fame as the classiest racer in town. She was entered in the Anniversary Regatta for second class vessels, which was greatly anticipated for the clash with Red Jacket, built in Sumner about 1865. The race was postponed due to rough weather. A week later, Pet led the fleet, Red Jacket 50 yards behind, when the wind died away and the race postponed once more. The next attempt was got away in rough weather, and one of the mark buoys came adrift. It was once again a "no race". However, the Regatta Committee in a surprise move, decided to award the prize to Pet, as it felt she was the better performer. Furthermore, the Committee decided to run another race to decide second place!

The owners and crew of the Red Jacket of course would not abide this, and laid down a one-on-one challenge in the newspapers. The Regatta race for second place took place, with Pet, although banned from entering, also going around the course. Red Jacket crossed well ahead of the fleet, including Pet. Hill may have been up to some clever gamesmanship here, but there was no denying now that nothing would be settled until a one-on-one private race was sailed.

Terms were agreed, and the race was to be around a moored mark boat at the head of Barret's Reef at Wellington Heads, around Somes Island and back to Queen's Wharf. The event was much discussed in the local newspapers, and a great deal of money was laid out in the pubs - mostly at even money. Pet won, and won easily. She was five minutes ahead at the mark boat, and won by 30 minutes, Red Jacket having to bail hard after starting her garboard planks on the beat up the channel in rough seas.

Later that year, Pet was shipped across to Nelson for a challenge race against the brand new yacht Isca. She also won that easily; The proud new owner of the expensive Isca so disgusted he never bothered racing again, and sold his boat. (Read Isca's story here).

Pet at her moorings ca. 1890
Pet remained the cream of the fleet until the arrival to Wellington of Robert Logan's Jessie Logan in about 1890. Luckily for Pet's racing career in Wellington, Jessie Logan was purchased and spent the next 15 years in Nelson, before suffering the indignity so common in those days of being converted to a launch.

Pet had a well-known, though somewhat secret internal ballast system when she was a centreboarder (see the ballast systems of Pet and Red Jacket below). To stiffen her up and make her better fit for regular club racing, deadwood was added to her keel and external lead ballast attached some time around 1888.

Around 1900 Pet was retired as a racer, and converted for use as a fishing smack at Warehou Bay north of Wellington, She was then converted to a motor launch and used for fishing a little further North at Paremata. She was wrecked while pursuing this work during the 1930s.

Pet's moveable ballast system

Red Jacket profile and ballast system

Pet readied for external ballast ca. 1888

Pet as a launch at Paremata in 1916

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