Our Story

The Ponsonby Cruising Club has been a part of Auckland & Ponsonby’s Water Front for over 120 years.

The Ponsonby Cruising Club was founded in October 1900 as one of first “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.

In 1904 Sir Thomas Lipton was elected Vice President of the Club and continued to follow the Club’s progress for many years. In 1920 he presented his magnificent trophy to the club for interclub competition.

The first race was sailed in 1921 in the 22 footer Mullet boat class, the “L” Class, the largest restricted-design class this country had at the time.  The Lipton Cup has been sailed every year since, in the same boats – the 22 foot Mullet boats - under the same basic rules for 101 years – a record recognised by the world of sailing.

1940: January - due to stormy conditions on the Auckland Harbour all yacht racing was cancelled except the Lipton Cup!

The Mullet boat is a unique type of centreboard yacht indigenous to Auckland that grew from the early shallow water fishing boats into a group of racing classes in the early 1900’s.

A new clubhouse with the slipway and jetty were built in St. Mary’s Bay in 1905. Our original club house with its associated slipway, hall-out area and jetty were established on the beach at the bottom of Saint Mary’s Bay Road where there is now a grass reserve shut off from the foreshore by the motorway to the harbour bridge.

The Ponsonby Cruising Club has always been in the forefront of yachting in Auckland. 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 all yachting activity.

In 1909 St Mary’s Bay was Zoned a Safe Anchorage by the Auckland Harbour Board (AHB) and Gazetted as a “Protected Anchorage for pleasure Craft.” In 1928 after another major storm wrecked a number of boats, many of which were driven ashore at the PCC slipway and wharf, plans were put in place for the development of the West Haven breakwater. The breakwater and reclamation were completed in 1940 “To create the safe harbour for recreational boats and the site for yacht clubs and their facilities” The Bay became officially known as West Haven in 1941.

While Richmond Yacht Club, the Victoria Cruising Club and the Auckland Motor Yacht Club moved to their new club rooms on the breakwater, Ponsonby Cruising Club was still secure on the foreshore of the St Mary’s Bay with the haul-out and storage area where PCC decided to remain. (There were no plans in 1939 for a bridge or a motorway.)

In 1939 PCC was becoming more involved with small centre boarders and in association with the Tauranga Yacht & Motor Boat Club adopted the P Class, then known as the Tauranga Class. In 1942 PCC became the first home of the seven-foot Tauranga Class in Auckland and the first official Register was formed by the Ponsonby Club in 1943. “P” was approved by the Auckland Yacht & Motor Boat Association (Forerunner of the AYBA) as it was not in use at the time by their established Register of Yachts in Auckland. The Club set up the United Services Trophy as a memorial to servicemen overseas. for the first Inter-port competition by the P Class!

The Ponsonby Cruising Club has been running junior ‘Learn to Sail’ classes at St Mary’s Bay, in the heart of the city, since the 1930’s! This even included a fleet of model yachts in the early years.

1945 World War II had ended, sailors were returning from overseas but Ponsonby Cruising Club’s battle, that at times would seem endless, had just begun! First with the Auckland Harbour Board and then with the Auckland City Council.

The old clubhouse in St Mary’s Bay was in need of paint and repairs but!! In 1946 The Lipton Cup prize giving was held in the Auckland Harbour Board Cabaret at West Haven (Now the RNZYS) managed by the AHB as a social centre.

In 1947 the Lipton Cup was on display in RYC’s new clubhouse. 1950, January 29th - The centennial Anniversary Regatta was held at West Haven. The old PCC club house was still in need of repairs but there was still no decision on PCC’s future location!

In June 1951 the club was again seeking confirmation from the AHB of a possible site for a new clubhouse and there was still no definite information on the waterfront (motorway) road. In 1954 PCC was still in the old clubhouse which had been partially repaired but work on the Harbour Bridge was expected to have an effect. In 1955 discussions were on-going with the AHB re the Harbour bridge and approaches. In 1955 The AHB Recreation centre, VCC, RYC & AMYC buildings were now complete and established on the Breakwater.

In 1956 Ponsonby Cruising Club’s water access had disappeared! Takapuna Boating Club (TBC) at Bayswater was lent to the PCC for events including the Lipton Cup. (Bayswater Marina had not been established and sailing off the club house was still possible!)

By late 1956 Ponsonby Cruising Club was a club of no fixed abode! Prize giving was held at the Ponsonby League Club. No ladies were permitted!

1957 and the RNZYS won the Lipton Cup which would remain in the RNZYS Club rooms in Parliament St for safe keeping until required by PCC.

1958 The Lipton Cup was held by the winner for safe keeping, the Takapuna Boating Club!

In 1958 Finally, PCC was notified that the club house was to be demolished to make way for the bridge approaches.

1959 The RNZYS, still in Parliament Street, gave their full support to PCC to move into the cabaret building which was now up for lease and owned by the AHB. This was ignored!

Lipton Cup prize giving held again at the Ponsonby League Club and again NO ladies.

In 1960 PCC was considering possibilities. At the AGM it was recorded that PCC still had no premises and It had been a quiet year due to the lack of premises. The Club’s opportunity to occupy the Cabaret was not granted and the club was working with the AHB and an architect towards the occupation of the AHB building where PCC now reside.

PCC was still monitoring the measurement and registration of “P” class but junior sailing was severely affected by the motorway & lack of storage.

1961- PCC meetings were held at RYC. Lipton Cup Day was celebrated at the Cabaret and at the PCC AGM it was reported that the situation was worse than last year! “The AHB was being very evasive but the racing was good!”

The club was compensated by the AHB for the loss of the club house and given assurance that a site could be made available to the west of the Harbour Bridge! When final details were settled, although not totally satisfactory, PCC was told the site was no longer available because of the Shelley Beach flyover. The PCC then put forward plans with the support of the AYPBA (AYBA), of a proposal for the leasing a part of the Cabaret!

1962 The Ponsonby winch was removed from the old club site and installed at West Haven for the haul-out which was where the marina office and Burnsco now stand. This was an extensive haul-out area for keelboats for their winter maintenance.

PCC was given permission to build club rooms above what was occupied by the AMYC and West End rowing club. When the AHB built their new premises in Customs Street PCC took over the ground floor for dinghy lockers & mast storage, committee room, office and toilets.  

In the 1962-63 season PCC was finally operating from the “new” Clubhouse though it was not yet converted for club use.

1963-64 From PCC AGM Reported – “A difficult year financing new club house. PCC hosted the Tanner & Tauranga cup for the P class. In 1965 the AYPBA agreed that PCC remain as sponsor of the “P” Class which did not prove popular with some clubs!

In 1967 PCC had barely settled into its new club rooms when the AHB took back half the locker space downstairs to lease for commercial use. The new club house plans were almost complete but were yet to be approved by the Auckland Harbour Board!

In 1979/80 RNZYS moved in to the cabaret building which had been leased Trillos. RNZYS had previously supported PCC application to lease the Cabaret building!

1983 PCC negotiated to take over the AMYC lease of their upstairs club room which is now the Logan Lounge and set about combining the two premises into one club. AMYC had joined the RNZYS. PCC was unable to negotiate a lease with the AHB who would assess the Club’s Balance sheet annually to determine what rental to charge. The rental was peppercorn, not commercial. In 1983 the AHB was to install a ramp on the west side of the Harbour Bridge in support of youth yachting and for the Ponsonby Sailing School and the Girl Guides who had established their club house on the reserve by Curran Street. By 1987 the ramp had still not been installed by the now POA and PCC was asked to pay for the construction of the ramp!

It took 30 years of negotiations before the Ponsonby Cruising Club was again established in a permanent Club house with a lease of some security after having to give way to the harbour bridge approach works in the late 1950’s.

After those years of “no fixed abode” the Club was finally established in its present location but the junior sailing programme continued. It is a still major part of the Club’s programme and still operating in St Mary’s Bay across the motorway from where it was first established. The programme also includes adults wishing to learn the art of sailing in dinghies.

90 years of the Ponsonby Sailing School in St Mary’s Bay serving the community is another recognisable achievement.

West Haven and the Marina has seen many changes over the century and more are currently happening with the renewing and redesigning of marina piers G, H and J. It is the intention to complete this work by the start of the new season in September /October, 2022. Work is also planned on the breakwater and the foreshore reserves so there will be interruptions in the interim.

At Ponsonby Cruising Club we will just keep sailing along as we have done for 120 years!!!

The 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 proven themselves at least as capable as any others in the world.

The PONSONBY CRUISING Club and the Mullet Boat Fleet have been a major part of St Mary’s Bay, West Haven and Auckland City’s Maritime Heritage for 120 years and will continue to be so!