|Atalanta shortly after her arrival to Wellington, 1895. Source: ATL Library|
Atalanta, or "Attie" as she is affectionately known, was launched in Auckland, 7th May 1894. She was built at the yard of Charles Jr. and Walter Bailey. Brothers Charles and Walter did not get on very well, Charles was a drinker with a convivial reputation, and Walter that of a dour teetotaller. I believe they they generally worked on their own projects, though each influencing the other in the interests of the company - a kind of post-Sgt Peppers Lennon/McCartney arrangement.
Atalanta vital statistics:
Centreboarder with a lead keel (two tons) shoe
Beam 9', 6"
Draught 3' (centreboard raised), 5' (centreboard down)
Charles Bailey Sr and Jr were there at the launching, and presented with gifts of a cigar box and a silver watch respectively, each engraved with an image of the yacht. It may have been that that Charles Sr., who had a long career behind him, including some very successful centreboard racing yachts (most famously Pet), was the primary designer, and Charles Jr, just starting out, the builder. However, Atalanta also sported long carved trail boards, carved bow, and had a stylish and thoughtful interior layout - all Walter's hallmarks. Maybe he just wasn't a party sort of guy.
|Rona. Source Wellington Museum of City and Sea|
|1895 Anniversary Regatta, 2nd class yachts. From left, Rona, Waiwetu, Mapu, Mahina, Atalanta, Isca. Source: ATL Library|
The Anniversary Regattas
The Anniversary regattas of the 1890s were the greatest sporting spectacles of the age. There was fleet racing for keel yachts, centeboarders, rowing and swimming events. Boats from around the Dominion would come to compete, and thousands would line the waterfront to watch.
|Atalanta. Source Wellington Museum of City and Sea|
Atalanta's owners returned to Napier, leaving her in Wellington up for sale.
|Atalanta off Oriental Pde. ca 1920. Source: RPNYC archive|
|Atalanta. Source: Museum of City and Sea|
The revival of yacht racing from around 1909 focused on small racers of about 22-30 feet LOA which established a strong second class once again, but forced larger boats like Atalanta and Rona up into a hodge-podge of a fleet for the first class.
In 1914 Atalanta collided with a pilot boat. There was a great deal of argument and acrimony of the incident, and the NZ Yachtsman ultimately had to ask people to stop writing in about it. The accident left Atalanta somewhat shaken and leaky.
|Source: Evening Post 20 Feb. 1933|
Attie had an inboard auxilliary installed in 1927, and on occasion had a bit of fun racing with the motor boats.
She did maintain good results in offshore racing, where handicaps were of combined fleets, and she was handled well.
Attie's second wind 1937 onwards
It wasn't until Cliff Cunningham, owner of a slipway at Island Bay purchased her in 1937 that she got her second wind.
|Source: Bruce Askew|
Cunningham set about tightening her up by refastening her. Bruce Askew says he used bronze ringnails driven into the inner skins from the inside - not what anyone would recommend, but it worked.
He then stripped her out completely, and removed her engine.
Cunningham also converted to her a bermudan rig, and fitted the main with tapered full-length steel battens. Exactly when Attie was converted from a centreboarder to a fixed keeler is not known, but it was probably during this time.
The image left shows her during Cunninghams tenure, when she was once more scratch boat.
|Atalanta with her huge post-war rig. Source: Askew|
The most prestigious cup in the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club is the Mills Askew trophy, which is for the best season aggregate for first class yachts. When donated to the club in the 1890s by E. C. E. Mills, it was known as the Mills Challenge Cup. If you managed to win the first division season aggregate three years running, or three times in five years, you could keep it indefinitely.
Hugh Askew achieved this with Atalanta in 1948 and was presented the cup. He took it away, had a drawing of Attie (it must have been from a pattern - she is pictured gaff rigged and has a spoon bow) engraved large on it, and re-gifted it to the club to be presented for season winners of the division, on the proviso that it would remain the property of the club. Since then it has been known as the Mills-Askew Trophy.
Askew sold her her 1951. She was subsequently owned by Cox and Cameron and1962-1974 by Pat Millar, who continued to race her in the first division with RPNYC and Evans Bay. Her current owner, Julian Matson, purchased her in 1974 and took her first to Wiakawa, then Dunedin when he moved there.
Mason donated Atalanta to the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust in 2013, and she is now in restoration. You can follow her progress on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/wgtnclassic