The Idle Along is the only Wellington design to become a National Class. It was designed by Alf “Unc” Harvey in 1927, the first one completed at his home at 20 Aurora Tce Petone in 1930. His inspiration and ideas were rather unorthodox, though the end result answered some practical problems for Wellington class racing.
Wellington had had several centreboard fleets and sailing clubs come and go, though these never really got off the ground - professional boatbuilders like Joe Jukes and Ted Bailey reigned supreme during the early part of the 20th century, and their boats almost invariably won.
A cheap one-design class, easily built by amateurs was needed, and Alf Harvey provided the answer.
|Above: Idle Alongs at Worser Bay during the 1930s
Harvey sought stability and speed, and found it in nature - a 12 foot, 8 inch porpoise in fact, which he captured, measured, and released in Worser Bay. The curve of the porpoise’s back inspired the keel profile, the back fin the centre plate, and the tail the rudder. These lines can clearly be seen in the boats' profile. In section however, it is a different story! The design had a very large beam for the time - at 6 feet, almost half the length, it gave the boat stability. Airtight sections fore and aft lent extra buoyancy. The chined hull made it reasonably simple for amateurs to build and race their own vessels.
In the early days the Idle Along was scorned by most in the sailing fraternity; nicknamed butterboxes (in Wellington they were built from Kahikitea, and they had rather square sections) or at times aircraft carriers. This was until a famous day of racing in a typically blustery Wellington Northerly during the 1933/34 season. All racing was cancelled, but that didn’t stop the small Idle Along fleet racing. People paid attention, and respect.
The first inter-province championship for the class (for the Moffat cup) took place in Wellington in 1936, which was won by Tauranga. The last one was raced in 1969 in New Plymouth and won by Taranaki. John Spencer designed a plywood version for the Association in 1960, but by then the class was already suffering a decline due to interest in the Olympic classes, and the successes that NZ Olympians were having - thanks in a large part to the techniques and skills they learned sailing Idle Alongs as youngsters.
The class has recently revived, and the Moffat Cup competed for in February 2010. The 2011 competition was held at the Bay of Islands, and will be held in Taupo in 2012. More information on the Class Association can be found here.
In 1951 an official plan, set of offsets, etc were drawn by A. M. Fitton for the Wellington Provincial Yacht and Motor Boat Association. These, and the plans for a ply version by John Spencer in 1960 are held at the Alexander Turnbull Library.