Aussies got point of Pencil

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014
Wairau Creek

TROPHY BOAT: Jim Daverne proudly holds the Sydney to Hobart yacht race trophy – one of many he won skippering Fidelis.

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A yachtie who shook Australia by winning the Sydney to Hobart race almost 50 years ago has been reunited with the boat he did it in.

The yacht self-made businessman Jim Daverne owned and raced in the 60s turned up in Auckland for the Anniversary Day regatta.

Fidelis, an 18.3 metre ocean racer built in 1964 and nicknamed The Pencil, catapulted the 36-year-old Daverne to yachting fame in 1967 when it won the prestigious event.

Its once-spartan interior is now luxuriously appointed to cater for corporate cruises on Sydney Harbour. But Fidelis rattled a complacent Australian yachting fraternity unused to competitive New Zealand boats in the 60s.

"When we got to Sydney for the Sydney to Hobart, we flew through the heads at 10 knots," Mr Daverne says.

The 84-year-old grew up poor in Pt Chevalier and was the child of an itinerant Irish seaman who he never met.

He was determined to show up the Aussies.

The Aussie sailors scoffed, "‘what are you going to do with that pencil'.

"I said, ‘I'm going to beat you with superior sailing skills and a fast boat, I'm going to p*** on you guys'."

And he did.

Fidelis won the race in 4 days, 8 hours and 39 minutes, a record which stood for nine years.

Seeing the "dream to sail" Fidelis for the first time in many years brought "tears to my eyes", Mr Daverne says.

Owning the yacht was the proud realisation of a boyhood dream for Mr Daverne, who was awestruck by the longtime king of New Zealand yachts, Ranger - a boat Fidelis beat.

His first boats were canoes made of scrap tin roofing. He wasn't even 10 years old when he and a friend nearly drowned paddling from Meola Creek to Pt Chevalier. A lifetime later he found the crude craft on display in Swashbucklers bar in Westhaven.

"It's important for young kids to know that there was this guy with no money, no education, who came from inside himself. All the top guys are made from themselves," he says.

Mr Daverne made his fortune in construction as one of the pioneers of transporting entire buildings by truck.

Now he is excited about the possibility of captaining a vintage yacht again. He's working on classic boat race series to help fundraise for up-and-coming-sailors.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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