Saturday, 24 October 2015

Auckland skippers - Hoturua Barclay-Kerr and 'Haunui'

The day I sailed with Hotu and his crew on Haunui, he had a party of school kids aboard, mainly Maori and Pacific Islanders. He spoke to them of the biology of ocean voyaging; astronomy, physics and the agriculture of the Polynesian peoples. He spoke of Captain Cook’s admiration for the masterly seamanship and vast distances Polynesians travelled in their waka as a matter of course. He pointed to the flag he was flying on the stern … the Confederated Tribes flag, and explained how in the 19th century Maori were active traders around the coasts and to Australia. The boat had become a classroom.

“I’m from the Tainui tribe, and my parents would often visit Turangawaewae where I saw the revival of the Waikato River canoes at Ngaruawahia. At the Auckland Anniversary regatta in 1970 a war canoe was used for the first time in years … I was young but it had a huge impact on me. In 1972 the Maori Queen commissioned a new war canoe, and this boosted the tradition.

             Skipper Hotu and Haunui waka                The Waikato Independent

"By the time I was 17 I was in charge of a big waka. Then in 1975 I saw a film about the launching of the Hawaiian waka, Hokule’a at the Maori Queen’s house … from that time I was fascinated by this ocean going craft and wanted to sail on her. After studying anthropology at Auckland University I went to Hawaii and hung out with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who were relearning ancient celestial navigation techniques. They had brought in a Micronesian master navigator called Mau Piailug to teach them the old skills. He became navigator on a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.

"Until 1992 the Hawaiian canoe was the only double-hulled waka in Polynesia. Then Hec Busby built Te Aurere here in NZ and from then on I was involved in her ocean voyages … to Rarotonga and back, and there was a lot of knowledge exchange with Hawaiian crew …

"The German philanthropist Dieter Paulmann became interested in the impact of man on the world’s oceans, and saw a waka fleet in the Pacific as a way of publicising this. We agreed to build waka to teach sailing and navigation and to record the degradation of the oceans … First Peoples from every land were saying we had become deaf to the message of nature.

"Haunui was built in 2009, the second in the fleet of seven, which were all built at Salthouse Boats in Greenhithe. She’s made of modern materials, but based on drawings made by 18th century European explorers … meticulous naval drawings of Polynesian canoes. Each of Haunui’s twin hulls has its own name … I named the port hull after one of my aunties and the other hull after my Dad. He was pretty sceptical about my whole interest in waka revival.

"As different island groups acquired their waka they came to Aotearoa to learn to sail them home, and I helped teach the crews the skills they needed. In 2010 we shipped Haunui to Samoa and then sailed back on her maiden voyage … the first such voyage in 400 years. We had to learn everything along the way; points of sai;; how to use the steering paddles.

"We’re re-introducing the Maori and Polynesian kids on board to the greatness of their ancestors. Many of them aren’t aware of how astronomy, biology and sailing are part of their heritage.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Auckland skippers - Marguerite Delbet on 'Nomos'

I met Marguerite at a concert at the Auckland Town Hall - a string quartet playing works by Shostakovich. A Parisian lady whose family owns a 14th century castle in central France, Marguerite worked for the United Nations in South Africa and Cambodia, and learned to sail on the Mediterranean. She is Head of Democracy Services at Auckland City; and at the time was handling the fall-out from the infamous Ngati  Whatua Room Incident. She skippers ‘Nomos’, a Catalina 400. Her crew of nine is almost entirely men.
“Water is not my star sign, but it is my soul sign … I love the way my boat puts me in touch with the beauty of the Hauraki Gulf ... I have a responsible, high stress job, and sailing takes me back to nature, it grounds me.  I like to say ‘the world was discovered at five knots’ … that’s the speed Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas.
Marguerite Delbert
"I grew up in Paris in a family of art, classical music, and literature lovers who spent a lot of time at the theatre and opera. My father was a reconstructive surgeon specialising in burns, and my mother worked as a flying nurse repatriating injured French soldiers from the Vietnam War … I  was their little princess and learned to sail Optimists on the Cote D’Azure at the age of seven. I have memories of  free diving for sea urchins in the Mediterranean, spearing them with a trident, then eating them raw on fresh baguettes and butter …

"I studied business at Lille University in Northern France and during that time I began sailing with some friends on the Brittany Coast  … In 1992 I went to work for the United Nations as a supervisor for the first elections after the overthrow of the Khymer Rouge … it was an intense and captivating experience for me, and a huge change for the better in the lives of  the Cambodian people. Then I went to South Africa as an observer in the 1994 elections when Nelson Mandela was elected. That felt very much like being part of history!
"I came to New Zealand in 1995 and had to learn sailing terms in English … I sailed a Warwick 10.6 on Wellington Harbour and in Cook Strait. I raced on Nomos  for several years in Wellington, before buying a half share of her in 2014 and when I moved to Auckland I sailed her part the way up the East Coast.
Nomos on the Waitemata
"I’ve always had a special feeling for the boat … She was built in California to the Catalina 400 design, so there’s nothing unique about her … but she’s really well designed and constructed.  Very spacious downstairs, well laid out, and comfortable to cruise on … my floating bach! My racing crew in Auckland consists of a Chilean doctor, a English video producer, a Dutch business partner and bunch of Kiwis … mainly guys!
Nomos means ‘the law’ in Greek, and when she sails in her sweet spot, particularly with the spinnaker up, it’s something special. If you can get a crew that gels you get a wonderful sense of elation … the combination of a great boat, a team of good people and a beautiful environment … it’s a unique feeling. We cruised around the Hauraki Gulf last summer, to Rakino, Waiheke, and Kawau Islands and had a magical time on Great Barrier … and a beautiful spinnaker run back to Auckland.