The Ponsonby Cruising Club was founded in October 1900 as one of first purely cruising Clubs in the colonies of the then British Empire. William Bettany of the yacht MAHOE was the first Commodore and Alf Thompson, the Secretary. The flag chosen, a blue pennant with a white chevron, is still the Club flag. A new clubhouse was built in St. Mary’s Bay in 1905 but had to give way to the harbour bridge approach works in the late 1950’s. The Club then took over the present site at Westhaven from the Auckland Harbour Board and modified the building to suit its purposes. It is one of the most dramatic sites on the Waitemata.
Ponsonby has always been in the forefront of yachting in Auckland. For many decades it has been the home of the Mullet boats, the unique type of centreboard yacht indigenous to Auckland that was descended from early fishing boats, but developed into a group of racing classes that had their classic period for fifty years from about 1910. The St. Mary’s Bay clubrooms were in the middle of the yards of some of the most notable yacht and launch builders of the time. In the bay itself were Collings & Bell, Leon Warne and Dick Lang; to the west at Curran Street was Billy Rogers, while to the east on the Reclamation there were many, principally Chas. Bailey. So, for many years the Club was right in the heart of yachting activity, not only the wonderful sailing off the breakwater that became Westhaven Marina, but also the practical side of the sport with its builders and repairers close by.
Sir Thomas Lipton was associated with the Club from as early as 1905. In 1920 he presented it with a superb silver trophy, the Lipton Cup, which was allocated for annual competition by clubs and sailed in the 22 footer Mullet boat class, the “L” Class, the largest restricted-design class this country had at the time. The Cup is still sailed for every year by these “Mulleties”.
While the Mullet boat classes took much of the glamour over the years, the Club has always catered for its keel boats and unballasted centreboarders. Ponsonby was instrumental in popularising the Tauranga 7 foot trainer in Auckland from the late 1930’s to the extent that it was christened the “P” class. Much work was done with youth training from early times and still continues with our Learn to Sail programme.
Currently, keel yachts with a very full calendar do the bulk of our racing. The Thursday night Rum Races and Friday night races are very popular. Social events are plentiful, taking advantage of the splendid position and amenities of the clubhouse.
Perhaps because of our continuous involvement in Mullet boats for just under a century, there is a deep sense of tradition in the Club. In association with the Club is the Ross 930 Association and The Vision Impaired Sailing Club (Auckland) to add further dimensions to the Club. The Stewart 34 Association is also proud to be associated with P.C C.
Ponsonby Cruising Club takes pride in its long history in yachting and its part in the development of a breed of New Zealand yachtsmen and yachtswomen who have proved themselves at least as capable as any others in the world.