This July marks the 50th anniversary of two extraordinary events that electrified New Zealanders: man landed on the moon – and a nondescript Auckland sloop won the One Ton Cup in Germany’s Heligoland. Both events featured on the front page of the Auckland Star’s first edition on Monday 21 July, 1969.
It’s hard to overstate the impact of the little sloop’s achievement on Kiwi sailing. She not only announced the nation’s presence on the global yacht racing stage, she also inspired generations of local sailors, designers and builders. Perversely, she was almost lost for good – rescued in the nick of time from a marina in Bermuda.
Designed by Olin J Stephens II (Sparkman & Stephens), Rainbow II was built in 1966 to meet the RORC rule. Her construction – focused on weight reduction – was single-skin splined kauri, and builder Max Carter completed the job in just eight weeks! Her owner was a young Auckland sail maker, Chris Bouzaid.
Despite the frenetic pace of the build, she was fast. Bouzaid campaigned her very successfully, winning 121 races over two years. Among them the Whangarei-Noumea and the Sydney-Hobart races in 1967, Kiel Week in Germany and – that illustrious One Ton Cup in Heligoland. A month later, she won her divisions in both the Channel Race and the Fastnet Classic.
And then she and Bouzaid parted. He sold her to Bermuda’s Charlie Berry. She remained there for the next 43 years and might have rotted in obscurity were it not for Bouzaid himself. He happened to be passing through Bermuda in 2009 and decided to visit the old girl. She was in bad shape, but with a couple of friends he took her for a sail and was amazed at her performance, especially in the light air.
“Unfortunately, as the breeze increased, so did the volume of water coming in through the garboard planks. We were lucky to get back to the mooring without drowning the engine. I decided this was not a fitting end for a yacht that had inspired so much and so many – she had to be brought home to Auckland.”
Bouzaid bought her from the then owner and called a few friends who collectively stumped up both financial and physical help. A few years later, with the help of the Maersk Line, Rainbow ll came home, arriving here in 2013.
The original plan was a basic restoration, after which she’d be donated for public display in Wynyard Quarter’s Voyager National Maritime Museum. That revival involved various craftsman and helpers – including Carter, her original builder, his partner Alan Wright, John ‘Bulldog’ Street, Tony ‘Womble’ Barclay and Roy ‘Rocket’ Dickson. The work was also tackled in various places – among them the Percy Vos boatshed and, later, at Wayne Olsen’s Horizon Yachts in Stillwater.
Olsen repaired some rot in the hull and then fibre-glassed and painted it. All deck hardware was refurbished or replaced, with the deck and cockpit fibre-glassed and repainted with anti-skid. The cabin top and teak toe rail were reinstated and coamings scraped right back and re-varnished.
The interior, meanwhile, received new floors and a new mast step. The original bunks were restored and the galley and nav station refurbished. Her engine’s been reconditioned, she has a new toilet and all the wiring’s been renewed, along with new batteries, nav lights and a hot performance electronics package.
In the words of the gents who reconvened for the accompanying photo – the finished restoration left the old girl looking “waaaaaaay smarter than she ever was when we raced her. Unbelievable.”
Though the ultimate plan was to deliver the boat to the Voyager National Maritime Museum for permanent display, this was put on hold when it emerged there was a lot of interest in Rainbow having another romp around the harbour with as many of the original crew as could still get their leg over the life-lines.
Over a few beers at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, veteran yachting journalist Alan Sefton suggested a rerun of the old One Ton Cup boats in Auckland around the time of the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover (January 2015). This date also coincided with the 175th year of the Auckland Anniversary Regatta. That plan never materialized, but Rainbow ll did race against six other Auckland-based One Tonners in 2016 – and beat them all!
She is currently moored down at Westhaven’s Silo Marina – among all the other classic yachts – and is sailed regularly by Neil Gillard who has become her official curator. Gillard is a member of the NZ Classic Yacht Trust.
Bouzaid has donated Rainbow II to the Trust and still cherishes the hope that she will eventually end up on display at the Voyager National Maritime Museum.