The sailing was great, but equally fun was the post-race party and prize giving, where we met many of the sailors whose boats we'd admired earlier that day. Hugh Gladwell's Hermes was one that had really caught my eye. The 53-footer, which Hugh describes as "a heavy-displacement fin-keeler, with a long fin and a skeg-hung rudder," was built of French carvel construction in Auckland in 1975. The "modern classic" Bruce Clarke design draws seven feet eight inches, has a 14-foot beam, and displaces 21 tons. And I can testify that she's very well sailed.
Hugh, a lawyer, was actually one of the founders of the Mahurangi Cruising Club. "It was about 20 years ago," he says. "A bunch of sailors were sitting around a campfire in Kawau Bay. Everyone was complaining about stiff, formal yacht clubs. So we decided to form one for the disaffected people. There'd be no funds and no clubhouse. We'd own nothing. There'd be no formal procedures, at all. A club that could be wound up in five minutes." Of course, when the Mahurangi Regatta became the club's signature event, it had to reflect the same attitude, or lack thereof. "The organization is fairly shambolic," says Hugh. "If the results blow away, we make them up afterward. We get a few complaints, but most everyone's used to it."