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 - the vessels not really suited to Wellington’s wind and seas.
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. 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 the more conservative minds in the sailing fraternity; nicknamed butterboxes (they were built from Kahikitea and 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 learnt sailing Idle Alongs as youngsters.
The class has seen a few small revivals over the last 40 years, and is enjoying one at the moment.
Originally from Whangaroa, Harvey became sailmaker in Auckland before fighting in France during WWI. Severely wounded there, he settled in Wellington upon his return.