By December 1928 the brothers Harold and Geoff George had the reputation of being game sailors, with a good sea-boat in Victory. They sailed her hard, racing in the Auckland A Class. She was renowned for carrying all the sail she could, at all times.

Harold George as a Flag Officer with RNZYS.

In 1914 all yachts had to carry sail numbers for war recognition purposes. The numbers were allotted based on performance/pecking order and Victory was proud to wear sail number 6. When the Auckland Provincial Yachting Association set up a new alpha-numeric system in 1922 she was authorised to carry the sail number A8, again a pecking order construct. However, she almost did not qualify for the A Class which was for “First Class yachts exceeding 28ft lwl”. The Georges ensured that Victory was measured at 28ft 3ins … with a bit of tweaking.

Harold was always involved in maritime law. In 1922 he appeared as junior in the landmark inquiry into the sinking of the steamer Wiltshire at Coralie Bay on the east coast of Great Barrier Island. He became involved more deeply in the local shipping industry when he was executor for his uncle Herbert Couldrey in the scow Glenae in 1925. Then he and Geoff bought the elderly (1889) 163-ton steam collier Hikurangi in 1927. Geoff had a series of collisions with Hikurangi, which exercised Harold’s legal skills until they bought the 110-ton auxiliary ketch Will Watch in 1933.

Back to 27th December 1928, the Auckland newspapers broadly hinted that the George brothers had set off on a Christmas cruise in Victory to Norfolk Island 600 miles north. With Northcote yachtsman Cecil Bowman, they sailed north on Wednesday 19th

December into a rising NE gale. Victory sheltered at Shakespear’s Bay, Whangaparaoa, that night and made Whangaroa the next day, leaving there at midnight on Saturday 22nd December and soon faced an ESE gale. The experienced crew easily coped with the heavy weather.

The Burns Philp steamer Makambo.

Beyond North Cape the wind lightened and went around to NW. Harold attempted to capture a Portuguese Man of War and was badly stung, suffering considerable agony for some hours until the toxins wore off. A day or so later they witnessed an extraordinary running fight between a school of dolphins and a swordfish.


Geoff George’s navigation was impeccable. Victory raised a hazy-looking object dead ahead at 10am on Boxing Day just as the wind fell but it took another 26 hours before they dropped the anchor in Kingston off the stone pier, built by convicts in 1839. That evening Harold cabled his sister in Northcote that Victory had arrived safely at noon. Newspapers throughout the country trumpeted the news, marvelling at the fact that an Auckland racing yacht could have made such a trip and taken only four-and-a-half days to cover the 500 miles from Whangaroa.

“The voyage is a decidedly sporting one, but the three men are experienced yachtsmen, and Captain George is a navigator of note,” said the Auckland Star and the New Zealand Herald commented, “A plucky ocean voyage has been made by the well-known Auckland yacht Victory. When the little craft left port, provisioned for a long cruise, her ultimate destination was shrouded in secrecy, and it was not until tonight that the precise goal of her enterprising crew was made evident.”

At the time Victory arrived the Burns Philp steamer Makambo was lying off, loading bananas. The ship’s crew, the local boatmen and the island’s residents greeted the unannounced Victory crew with astonishment. The skipper of the Makambo was among the first to come aboard. ”We found that the Victory was the smallest and the only yacht of its kind that had called at the island from New Zealand, or from anywhere, I think” said Harold George in a later interview with the Sun newspaper.

Victory at the time of the Norfolk Island trip

The stay at Norfolk Island had to be brief as there was no harbour at Kingston, and indifferent holding on the coral. The first anchorage was made at Cascade Bay on the northeast coast in utterly transparent water but they had lost an anchor through chafing by next morning. The crew then shifted Victory around to Headstone Bay on the western coast, one member standing by all the time while the other two enjoyed the liberty of the island and the “unsurpassed hospitality” of the residents with motor trips, dances and dinners. The anchor was lifted every day to check it.

They spent four days at the island, reprovisioning the stores and taking on fresh water and fruit. After all three had attended the island’s New Year’s Ball they set sail back home at 2am on Tuesday January 1. Victory made slow progress through calms, leaving a trail of passion fruit and banana skins across the Pacific. The winds were so light that the deck never got wet. But, in an interview with the Auckland Star in 1934, Harold made this startling disclosure.

“We were about 100 miles off North Cape when we saw the monster. It was in late afternoon. At the time only Mr. Bowman was on deck. He saw it and then called us up on deck from down in the cabin. We looked to leeward, and there, about a swelland-a-half away, was this snake-thing, stretched in a curve on the surface of the water. We could see its head, its neck and part of its back. Though there was a big swell running, it was not breaking, so that we had a clear view. It just floated there, half submerged, and then, as we passed it at nine knots, it slowly melted beneath the surface.

The crew of Victory, from left Geoff George, Cecil Bowman and Harold George.
Harold George.

“We did not see it for long, since, as said, we were doing nine knots, but we saw enough of it to be sure of what it looked like – just like a great snake about 25ft [7.6m] long. We did not wait any longer round the spot, and we were very glad that it had not come any nearer.”


Victory arrived at Whangaroa on January 7, 1929 after fiveand-a-half days at sea and was tied up at King’s Wharf on the morning of the 10th after a total voyage of 1,200 miles.

But there was a sting in the tail of the happy homecoming. The Medical Officer of Health, Dr Herbert Chesson, a yachtsman of standing (Reverie and Solace, designed by Prof. R.J. Scott and Quest and Reverie II, designed by Albert Strange and built by Bob Brown of Northcote) charged all three with breaches of quarantine regulations under the Health Act. The grounds were that they had not flown a yellow flag from the masthead, sought pratique, and been cleared by the Whangaroa Port Officer before they landed. They had gone ashore on arriving to replenish their Norfolk Island drinking water, which had gone bad during the trip, from a stream near the entrance.

A press photo of the Georges’ steamer Hikurangi.

Bill Endean appeared for them in the Auckland Police Court. His plea of urgent necessity because their water was spoiled was rejected. In a reserved decision, the Magistrate convicted Harold George alone and ordered him to pay costs of £3 13s. Some regarded this episode as a nit-picking Crown fiasco, but Dr Chesson was still something of a folk hero after his efforts during the 1918-19 Spanish ‘Flu epidemic only a decade before.

The trip had a secondary purpose. Geoff George knew that the New Zealand Government was likely to withdraw the service to Norfolk with its recently-built motor ship Maui Pomare. He was keen to assess the viability of setting up a service himself with his old steam collier Hikurangi and started. In one trip, in July 1931, she unloaded 2,000 cases of oranges, bananas, kumara, potatoes and beans, but the onset of the Depression made the service unprofitable.

Back on land, the legal practice of Lovegrove & George prospered. Their first premises were in Vulcan Lane, conveniently between the Queens Ferry and the Occidental Hotels. By 1930 the firm had a splendid suite in the new Auckland Electric Power Board Building in Queen Street. In 1932 Harold started his climb up the ranks of the Squadron by being nominated as ViceCommodore. “Few deserve this honour better than Mr. George, who has won many races with his yacht Victory, and has cruised as far as Norfolk Island.” BNZ

Victory and crew back in Auckland at King’s Wharf.