One look at Keith Glover’s trophy cabinet is enough to tell you that sailing is his passion. From years of competitive sailing – except while involved with flying and motor racing – the shelves are crammed with silverware from various regattas and ocean-going races both here and abroad.
He now has the job of finding space for a clutch of trophies he brought home from a very successful campaign in New Zealand, racing his beautifully restored 60ft, John Alden designed ketch ‘Wraith of Odin’.
In the wake of what can only be described as an outstanding performance in and around Auckland’s Waitemata Bay in early February, Keith can now lay claim to being, if not the very first, at least the first Australian sailor in recent memory to have his name added to the winner’s list of New Zealand’s oldest nautical event – the Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Regatta Race.
First sailed in 1840, this race is New Zealand’s oldest sporting challenge and very much the blue ribbon event. The New Zealand Classic Yacht Series 2010 is an eight race sailing regatta, conducted by the Classic Yacht Association of New Zealand, under the auspices of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
Involvement for Keith began in 2007, when he was invited to New Zealand by the Australian Classic Yacht Association to participate in that year’s series, as a guest sailor aboard several of New Zealand’s renowned classic yachts. He returned again last year to race in one of New Zealand’s most iconic classic racing yachts, ‘Ranger’, a sleek 60ft sloop that set the benchmark in New Zealand yacht racing from 1935 to 1980.
His involvement in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 series led to Keith making the decision to sail his own boat, Wraith of Odin, across the Tasman Sea in early January – to take them on in the 2010 series.
When battling seas whipped up by southerly fronts halfway across the Tasman, Keith admits he began doubting his decision to make the voyage, but in the light of subsequent events and results, he now sees it as a somewhat better move.
“It was an uncomfortable passage with a lot of green water over the decks and big confused seas, but given the way we were received and welcomed by the Kiwi’s classic yachting fraternity, and the results we were able to achieve, it was well worth the effort,” said Keith.
Keith and his Australian crew aboard Wraith of Odin, joined a fleet of over 80 boats at the starting line of the famous Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Regatta Race, and following a fast and furious 50km race around the broad Waitemata Bay, lifted the Division 1 trophy by the narrowest of margins.
As the winner of many Australian yachting titles, Keith is no stranger to sailing success, but rates winning the Auckland race as “amongst the best” of a long career on the water, sailing all manner of boats from 18ft hobies to 80ft maxi-yachts.
“You really have to be there to realise just how big and important an event this particular race is, not only in the eyes of New Zealand’s yachting fraternity but also for most Kiwi’s in general, and certainly in Auckland.”
“With the big number of boats competing and hundreds of other spectator boats lining the course, plus huge crowds swelling the foreshores of Auckland’s numerous suburbs fronting Waitemata Bay, it really is a special and spectacular event, unlike anything we have in Australia in classic yacht racing. Probably the best analogy I can give is that it’s something like the start of the Sydney to Hobart on Sydney Harbour, with boats and people everywhere.” Keith said.
According to Keith, to win such an event you need a good boat, a good crew and a pinch of luck. “Fortunately I was able to organise most of my outstanding race crew from Australia to come over for the series and we set the boat up right for the race, then luck favoured us by delivering the right conditions … a 30 knot Easterly.”
With every single competitor dreaming of having their name added to such a coveted honor-roll (which includes such luminaries as America’s Cup winner, Sir Peter Blake; and this year’s winner of the Sydney to Hobart, Neville Creighton), everyone was sailing on the edge in strong conditions.
“There were a number of casualties and with so many boats in such testing conditions, there were incidents on every leg of the course,” he recalled.
The competitiveness can probably be best gauged by the fact that Wraith of Odin won the race by just one second from the New Zealand entrant, Rainbow (a 50ft Logan designed classic racer owned and sailed by Brad Butterworth, another famous America’s Cup sailor). Third across the line, just 15 seconds further back, was Thelma, a particularly famous 60ft gaff-rigged yacht sailed by one of New Zealand’s yachting royalty, Tony Blake, brother of the late Sir Peter Blake.
While the win was a big highlight, it was by no means Keith’s only victory of the eight-race Challenge Series. Indeed, in addition Keith steered Wraith of Odin to second honours in the Mahurangi Classic Race, and finished first over the line in the Mahurangi to Auckland Race. He was second over the line and first on the corrected time in the Devonport to Mahurangi Night Race, and also second corrected time in the four-race Southern Trust Classic Regatta (two Ranger).
These performances were enough to make Wraith of Odin the overall winner of the New Zealand Classic Challenge Series 2010, a feat it is believed no other Australian boat has accomplished. “We did a bit of a check of the records and we couldn’t find another Australian boat listed as the winner of the Auckland Race or the Series,” said Keith.
As well he also won the “John G Alden Plate 2010” for the highest placed “Split Rig” boat in the Series. For Keith, the Alden Plate trophy was especially significant and gratifying, as Wraith of Odin is an Alden design from famous Boston boat designer’s Malabar X111 Ketch.
Wraith of Odin was built in 1949/50 in Forster Tuncurry by highly regarded master builder, Alf Johansson, for Dr Brian O’Brien of Sydney. Almost 50 years later, as only the second owner, Keith purchased the boat from Dr O’Brien’s wife, Dagmar, in a much dilapidated state in 1997. Due to her condition, Wraith of Odin had not been sailed for some 10 years. Therefore necessary repairs and a new motor were needed to allow the yacht to be safely motored from Sydney to Port Macquarie. The work in Sydney was carried out by the well known Ken and Colin Beashell in Elvina Bay.
Once safe in Port Macquarie, under the expert guiding hand and outstanding knowledge of boat restorer and builder, Neil Wallace, Keith and Sea King Marine embarked on a four year refurbishing program that virtually saw the boat restored or rebuilt from the bilge up.
“While we had to replace some things including the deck, cockpit and the rig, we did everything that we could to ensure the original design and integrity of the boat was retained. From the awards we have subsequently won and many complimentary remarks received, I feel that, thanks particularly to Neil and his local craftsmen, we have achieved that goal.”
Since being relaunched in time to attend the 2003 Hobart Wooden Boat Festival in Tasmania, Wraith of Odin has won every ‘Concourse’ event Keith attended – some every year since 2003.
“Over the past eight years we have enjoyed success with the boat, mainly in the Morton Bay area, which has Australia’s best fleet of classic yachts. But the way it performed in New Zealand against such competition has really taken us to another level.” said Keith.
His sailing career began as a pre-teen, sailing VJ’s on Sydney Harbour at the Greenwich 12′ Flying Squadron. “Even in those early days I had a real passion for sailing and it is something that has never left me throughout my life … and today the passion is as strong as ever,” Keith declared.
His move to Port Macquarie in 1976, to take on the role of General Manager of Port Macquarie RSL Club, did not diminish his sailing activities. Indeed, from his sailing connections in Sydney, Keith organised the very successful Super Skiff series here in the late-eighties involving Sydney’s 18ft skiff fleet. He was also instrumental in having the 1985 World Hobie Catamaran championships held here in Port Macquarie.
Keith’s success in New Zealand has motivated him to campaign Wraith of Odin in New Zealand waters over the next 12 months. “The intensity of competition over there is way above what we have here in Australia in classic yacht racing. With a big push now on to re-establish trans-Tasman classic yacht challenges, my intention is to base Wraith of Odin in Auckland for the next 12 months and campaign the boat in New Zealand,” he said.
While Keith acknowledges the Kiwis have been gracious hosts, he believes there will be a concerted effort by the New Zealanders to reassert some authority. “I think we are in for some very tight, competitive racing in the months ahead,” Keith declared.
In the meantime Keith has just returned from New Zealand being presented with the Agnus Cup as winner of the Oceanbridge Auckland Anniversary Regatta Race. The honours were given by the New Zealand Governor General Sir Anand Satayanand at a gala presentation for the various category winners at the Auckland Town Hall, resided over by Auckland Mayor, Mr John Banks.