We are in a new age of fast, foiling carbon-fibre America’s Cup yachts and foil-assisted IMOCA 60s – technology has taken yachting to places today we could not have imagined a few short years ago, writes Roger Mills.

While sailing development and technology will continue to evolve, most of our sailors remain in displacement mode, with an increasing number involved in caring for our yachting heritage, from preserving old classic yachts from the turn of the 19th century to restoring more modern classics.

As the yachting time horizon stretches forward, more of our ‘modern’ yachts are beginning to become classics, one such example being Bruce Farr’s half-tonner Titus Canby.


Titus Canby was Bruce Farr’s first keel yacht design, which he undertook as a 21-year-old. The design was requested by his friend and fellow 12-foot racer, Rob Blackburn. Rob required a yacht about 26 feet (8m) in length that was relatively inexpensive to build.

The concept from Bruce was for a light displacement yacht, with broad aft sections to allow high speed reaching and running, and fine forward sections. She had a slim fin-keel and a transom-hung rudder.


Bruce designed a 7/8 rig, which meant small headsails and, for the time, a relatively large main sail. Construction was three layers of 6/32-inch ply laid vertically, with joints staggered, and glassed on the outside. Rob built her in 16 months working in his spare time.

She was launched in 1971 and her performance exceeded all expectations. It was reported at the time that Bruce Farr did not expect the design to be exceptional to windward in fresh winds and in open sea conditions because of her low weight. However, in her first race she led her division back from Kawau in 20 knots of wind.

Rob rated the boat as a 1/2 tonner and went on to win the New Zealand Half Ton Championships in 1972. She won the opening 40-mile race by five minutes making quite a statement. A 14-minute win in the 180-mile ocean race secured her the series victory.

The win was a big feather in Bruce Farr’s cap and, as we know, he went on to become one of New Zealand’s most prolific and successful yacht designers.

History retained

Titus Canby was sold to Ian Gibbs in 1974, who renamed the yacht Tohe Candu (meaning “I try harder”), and he went on to win the 1974 South Pacific Half Ton Trophy and to conduct a successful campaign in Europe.


Years later, after numerous owners and back to her original name of Titus Canby, Auckland sailors Ken Fyfe  and Andy Ball spotted her for sale in Wellington.

Both Ken and Andy are involved with the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust and had been active in the recent restoration of the 1895 Bailey yacht Ida. They are keen to see that New Zealand’s yachting heritage is preserved in all its forms.

Ken and Andy found Titus Canby was in reasonable shape for her age and decided to set up The Manukau Classic Yachts Charitable Trust to own the yacht and ensure her restoration and future use.

The trust is also aiming to educate youth in boatbuilding and sailing skills – and Titus Canby will be one of the platforms to achieve that objective.

She was transported to Auckland’s Okahu Bay Landing early in 2022 and her refurbishment began.

Andy explained the objective was to restore her to as close to original as possible, matching her launch day colour scheme. Some improvements were made to help her ease of sailing, such as a balanced rudder design to lighten the helm, a lighter engine, and a new, much lighter, spinnaker pole.


The hull was in good shape with only a few minor interior soft spots on the first lamination requiring work.

According to Andy, “Bruce Farr was a bit disappointed Titus Canby was built too strong, it was 100kg heavier than what he would have liked. But I think it has served the boat well. We don’t have any structural issues on the boat.”

A number of suppliers have donated materials to the project, with International Paints coming to the party by matching the original paint colours.

Ken Fyfe has been in touch with Bruce Farr during the project and Bruce has kindly donated to the Trust.

In addition to repairs and painting, Titus Canby has been rewired and received a new set of sails: three headsails, a main and spinnaker.

Launch day

I was down at Okahu Bay for the relaunch, a rather blustery day with the Akarana 350 race starting in the background.
A small crowd cheered the old girl back into the water, but there was still work to do on the motor, together with a small task list, so she was towed round to her marina in Westhaven.

In April this year we finally got a break in the weather and the chance to film her out sailing. She was crewed by a group of youths, out after school, keen to pick up tips from Ken and Andy.


As you would have it, the future of sailing in the form of Te Rehutai was returning from training during our shoot. A fitting sight indeed, considering the boat will be used to help foster sailing among our youth, maintaining a connection between the past and the future.

Well done to all those involved with this important project keeping our sailing heritage alive.