Robert Julian Scott was a British-born engineer who spent most of his life and career in Christchurch. He had an outstanding engineering mind, which can be read about on Te Ara and wikipedia. He also happened to be a founding member of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club
Scott had designs built in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. He started out in radically changing existing boats, to designing yachts and rigs. He met with varying levels of success, but they were always somewhat experimental if not radical in concept.
This article was first published in the Journal of the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust, October 2017.
The Isca was built at Clyde Quay, Wellington in 1880 to a Dixon Kemp design by T. R. H. Taylor, for A. S. Collins of Nelson. Her build was a single skin of 1″ kauri on Australian Blackwood. She was not a success, being down at the head. The smaller second class centreboard racer, Pet, was shipped across from Wellington for a challenge race, and beat the Isca easily. Collins lost interest and the Isca lay idle until Scott purchased her for racing with the newly-formed Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
Scott tweaked her up, importing a new douglas fir mast from Australia, adding a lead shoe to the counter to bring her nose up a bit, and added 3 1/2 tons of external ballast. Her performance improved somewhat, and she won a few races in Wellington. He took her to Lyttelton in 1884 to compete the anniversary regatta there, but was defeated. He soon sold her, and she returned to Wellington where she campaigned for some time up until 1897 when she was broken up immediately having won one of the most exciting races in local history.
The image below shows two versions of the same 36 foot (on deck) yacht, Zephyr. She was built by Green* in the 1870s and raced locally at Lyttelton and Akaroa. She was taken to Melbourne and then Hobart to race, with mixed results. The version left shows a somewhat unusual rig for the era, basically a bermudan rig on a sliding Gunther or topmast, mast well raked. She was converted to gaff and external ballast added by the owner previous to Scott, which completely overpowered her.
When Scott purchased her around 1890 he completely changed her underwater profile by cutting away deadwood forward, and adding a 2 ton lead fin keel. He returned the bermudan rig, but used a single pole mast fitted with a metal sail track for easy management. He used wire halyards to decrease windage and enable tighter luffs to his sails. This didn’t become common until the 1950s. He called the racing mainsail a “batwing”, referring to its extreme roach. His cruising mainsail was more conventional. In 1896 she beat the crack Logan-built Waitangi in the New Zealand championships at Lyttelton. By 1911 Zephyr had been converted to a motor launch.
Scott helped create the Arawa Sailing Club in Wellington, in 1894. He designed a 1/2 rater to be built by Robert Logan of Auckland. The boat was named Vixen (later renamed Waterbeetle). She arrived late in the 1894/5 season and was not a success. She was significantly altered by Bringans and Hogg at Clyde Quay. She competed well, but was never really consistently in the money, dominated by Jack Chalmer’s Dauntless, and the two Logan-built William Fife designs Miru and Ruru.
Scott drew Wylo in 1904. She was designed to be a strong, easily-handled fishing boat which could stand up to most weather, but also be useable as a cruiser and racer. She was eventually built in 1911 by Ted Bailey at Clyde Quay, Wellington. She was among the first designs of the flat transom, stern-hung rudder keel yacht which became popular from the 1920s through to the 1960s. She was among the first sailing vessels designed to include an auxilliary.
When launched, Wylo sat a little higher than anticipated, but internal ballast being added, she became a very stiff and successful boat which made hundreds of Cook Strait crossings and still in good service into the 1950s. If anyone knows where she is now, please let us know!
The drawing below is an ink sketch by Scott of a design for knocking about. Not very much is known about her other than the name “Boojum” and that she was actually built. The name comes from Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. A boojum is a being which makes people disappear. Quite a playful and to my mind slightly sinister name for a small boat designed for ease of single-handed sailing.
Scott designed Kia Ora as a 5-rater and shouldn’t be confused with the Bailey and Lowe-built vessel which famously was attempted to cross the Pacific (against both the law of the day and good sense) in 1903.
She was built for J. B. Collins to be based at Lyttelton; and raced her first major regatta at Akaroa in 1898, where she came second to Pastime. It was felt at the time she had not been sailed to her potential. Collins continued to race her in the hotly-contested provincial annual regattas at Akaroa and Dunedin until 1913.
The Kia Ora had a long racing career, competing well into the 1930s, and now sadly sits in an irretrievable condition at Lyttelton.
Yvonne is a 5-rater designed by William Fife and built by Robert Logan Sr. in Auckland in 1893. Scott purchased her for his own use in 1908 and campaigned her hard in the South Island Regattas. She has been around a bit, including a long stint in Wellington, where at one time she was sheathed in fibreglass. This was painstakingly removed during the early 1980s by Mike Joy (now the well-known environmentalist) and others. She is now back at Lyttelton, and after some years of neglect now is seeing some much-needed attention.
Her most famous feat is the ‘Jumping the mole’ incident in 1909, which can be read about in Scott’s own words here, published in 1946 (an eyewitness on the committee boat said the incident had been slightly exaggerated!) An account of her early history can be read here, published in 1937.
Some other designs by Robert Scott
The lines and sail plan below, published in Oscar Freyberg’s column in the Wellington engineering journal Progress, are for a large fishing vessel. It is not known whether this vessel was built.
Below is the plan of a canoe-stern launch, also published in Progress, April 1911 issue. The accompanying article states she was built in Nelson, though a name is not given. She is reported as being very well-behaved in a seaway.