Townson's Electron was his 'brushstroke'

READY TO RACE: Bruce Tantrum admires the first Electron to be made since its creator Des Townson passed away. He says the electronic model yacht is the first Electron AD – After Des.
Photo: AMELIA JACOBSEN
READY TO RACE: Bruce Tantrum admires the first Electron to be made since its creator Des Townson passed away. He says the electronic model yacht is the first Electron AD – After Des.

Bruce Tantrum is making sure the legacy of one of New Zealand’s top yacht designers lives on.

The Orakei man has made the first Electron since its creator Des Townson died last year.

The small electronic model yachts are used as toys on luxury yachts and displayed in lounges worldwide.

Rumour has it that Mick Jagger owns one, as does Ringo Starr.

Clubs up and down the country meet regularly to race them.

Just before Mr Townson died he shared the secret of the Electron’s success with his longtime friend.

Mr Tantrum recorded the conversations and has recently launched Tahi, the first to be made since Mr Townson’s death.

Widow Sue Townson says it isn’t an easy job to recreate the vessels which are known not only for their technicality but also for their beauty.

"Des was an artist and it was his brushstroke," she says.

"He’s left something which I know will be evolving for quite some years."

The "essence of it" is that each Electron is exactly the same, so all racers are on an even playing field, she says.

"There’s some very top skippers that sail them. It’s not just a toy boat, it’s one that requires skill."

Last year, Mr Townson, the man who was "very ill but cheerful to the end", was recognised for his services to yachting when he was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Mr Townson, who grew up in the east and bays and later moved to Howick was involved in the creation of the most well known classes in New Zealand sailing, including the Starling, Zephyr, Mistral and Pied Piper.

By the time he died he had built 1016 Electrons in his home workshop.

With the help of Nathan Walesby and Nick and Todd Olson, Mr Tantrum has made number 1017.

The team plans to continue to build the sought-after boats.

Enthusiastic Electron owners, who come from all over the world to race in Rarotonga each year, are sure to be delighted that more of the class is being built.

While anyone can operate one of the 90cm, 4.9kg vessels, experienced sailors definitely have an advantage, says Mr Tantrum.

"They are a beautiful, high performance model racing yacht that appeals aesthetically but more importantly appeals to sailors who have taken it up because it simulates racing in a larger craft."

The model yachts are even used in training academies.

Mr Tantrum, who has built many wooden boats, one of which is displayed in the New Zealand National Maritime Museum, says Tahi was the first he has made using resin and polyester.

Selling for $3260, he says there is no money in making them once time and materials are considered

But he’s just happy he can keep the legacy of Des Townson alive – so the "wonderful Electron culture" can continue to expand.

East And Bays Courier