|A Thorndon Dinghy Sailing Club race in progress. Source: Wellington Museum of City and Sea|
Younger potential members didn't bother to join the club and mucked around on their own account with yacht tenders with a spar and often not much more than a bedsheet for a sail. It was felt at the time that youth should be organised for their own safety and to learn to sail properly for the good of the sport (keel yacht racing in Wellington at that time being in a slump). It was senior members of the Thorndon Yacht Club and Port Nicholson Yacht Club (PNYC) who appear to have been the main drive behind the formation of the club. These men were owners of crack racing yachts: Mills a founding member of the PNYC, commodore (1903-1905), and owner of Rainbow (and later Iorangi); Turnbull a recent commodore (1899-1901) and owner of the Iorangi; J. S. Swan, soon to be Commodore (1906-1907). McLean was owner of Waitangi, and Renner who within a few years would buy a share of Waitangi, was owner of the 2 1/2 rater Muritai (Rogue), Georgeson and Bucholz were also yacht owners and regular office holders of the PNYC.
|Club picnic. Source: Freelance 26 Mar 1904|
|Thorndon Yacht Clubhouse ca. 1900|
|Oeo. Source: Alexander Tunrbull Library|
1904/05 was the first full season, with 36 members and twelve boats. Healthy racing was had and of course, people's sporting blood got up, with the result that purpose-built racers were commissioned. The first of these was the Oeo built to order by Logan Bros. in Auckland for Stirling and Jones. She first began racing towards the end of the season in 1905, and carried all before her. It was now all on.
|Source: Alexander Turnbull Library|
The next few years belonged to Ted Bailey. For the 1906/07 season, he built the Zel for L. Palmer. Bailey helmed her for the three-race Saturday series, and won them all. The Vera, now he had shown how she could be sailed, won the season aggregate trophy. These two boats, along with the Irex, shared the top three spots for both series. Logan's Oeo, though placing reasonably well at times, was already out the back door.
|Source: NZ Yachtsman 23 April 1910|
A sculling race was organised by the officers of the club for the Port and Starboard watches of the training ship Amokura. The future looked bright.
In 1907/08 arrived Ted Bailey's Thelma. He sailed her himself, and as scratch boat won the aggregate series. Oeo had obviously had a kick up the backside the previous season, and came away the victor in the championship series. However only Oeo, Zel and Thelma had entered. Oeo was advertised for sale at the end of the season, in August 1908.
|Source: NZ Yachtsman 01 Aug. 1914|
Despite the dominance of Vera, Zel and Thelma, racing was still good. Wednesday evening Mark Foy racing was still hotly competed, and that each race win resulted in your name on a trophy almost guaranteed a result for most competitors over the season. The club donated a trophy for the Amokura's Port vs Starboard watch race, and closer relationships were forged between the various clubs. This year the first sheds at Clyde Quay were made available - the Thorndon Dinghy Sailing Club leased number 44 and sought to dispose of the the shed at Thorndon Esplanade to free up debentures.
|Postcard showing the first row of sheds at Clyde Quay. Source: Gavin Pascoe|
Bailey's Thelma won both the aggregate and championship trophies during the 1908/09 season, Blowfly and Zel sharing first and second for both series. Oeo won the other Blue riband event - the Oates Challenge Cup. For two years these boats had been untouchable, and the club imploded. At the AGM in 1909 it was decided to plan only half a year ahead. Only four boats registered for racing: Rona, Zel, Blowfly and Vera.
|Nan. Source: Wellington Museum of City and Sea|
It may be argued that the Thorndon Dinghy Club was actually a great success, in that it did indeed, create new, skilled and confidant yachtsmen - they just moved on and sailed yachts. The club's failure lay in not attracting new members.
One of the final and most significant actions of the Thorndon Dinghy Sailing Club was to use leftover funds to commission a trophy named the Thorndon Dinghy Club Challenge Cup, to be competed for by other centreboard racing clubs of the region. This trophy was hotly contested for decades.
|Source: NZ Yachtsman 02 July 1910|
The only record of any boat being built to this design was in Evans Bay in 1913 by a man named Forbes, who also at the time owned Bailey's Thelma. Forbes departed from the construction plan, using an internal diagonal skin rather than ribs (was Thelma built thus?). Another unnamed person in Evans Bay took on the Blowfly (by no means a shabby boat).
Interrupted by the war, plans to resurrect the class came to nothing, but these were among the first murmurings of the creation of the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club, created in 1919, well known for the quality of its centreboard racing into the 1960s.
|Source: NZ Yachtsman 16 July 1910|
|Source: NZ Yachtsman 09 July 1910|
I created a few tables while researching this article, of officers, fleet and placing for each race reported by the newspapers. There are a few inconsistencies in spelling, etc., but if interested, you can see them here