The Moore family


There are at least two families named Moore who have a long association with boating in Wellington. This one has been part of the RPNYC at least as far back as 1893, when William (Billy) Moore raced his 18 footer Myra with the Arawa Sailing Club. The Club was set up by Port Nic members for the purposes of small boat sailing which would be for youths to learn the art of racing together – a grassroots investment in the sport.

Moore and his friends soon began sailing the top boats of the fleet, Miru, Ruru, and Vixen. These boats were owned by senior Port Nic members who rarely raced them themselves, rather got together the best crews and laid bets and prizes for their boats – much like horse racing – and enjoyed the spectacle from the balcony of the Empire Hotel.

Over a glass of beer at the Clyde Quay Hotel In 1897 Billy Moore, now about 24 years old, forged a bet with his friend Fred Petherick that they would each design and build a 2.5 rater, and see who made the better job. Measuring around an easily handled 35 feet, a fast, light 2 1/2 rater capable of crossing the Cook straight for holidays would have been the next logical step for young men in their early 20s.

The terms were that neither would see the other’s progress, and that the better boat would be proved over a series of three races, with a stake of five pounds. Moore and friends built the Mawhiti in a shed across the road from Clyde Quay, and launched her in November 1898.

Mawhiti, designed by E. Mantell Silk and built by William Moore, M. Beck and Arthur Penty in a shed across the road from the Clyde Quay Marina. She wouldn’t fit through the door of the hired shed in which she was built. The landlord refused to remove the doors, so an overnight raid with saws and plenty of tackle saw the wall cut away, the vessel put on the street, and the wall put back before anyone was the wiser! You can see the vertical cut adjacent to the window in the building behind.

Mawhiti was beautifully finished down to an interior of red pine panelling, with areas painted pale green and white with gold trim. Her cabin roof was lined in lincrusta and the skylight was glazed with Muranese (also known as Florentine) glass. Mawhiti hit the water in somewhat better form than Kotiri had, and was described by an Evening Post columnist as “the finest specimen of amateur boatbuilding that has come under our notice”.

There was a bit of comedy involved with the acquisition of the lead ballast: The Evening Post columnist “Neptune” reported on 26 November 1898:
“Several boats changed hands during the winter, and a few have been pulled about a bit to suit the various owners. For instance Messers. Penty and Co. bought Ariel from Messes. Shennan and Co. for the sake of the lead keel. They sold the hull to Mr. Freyberg, while the sails went to someone else. Mr Freyberg must get some lead for the keel, so he in turn purchased the Haeata, dismantled her, and shifted the lead to the Ariel. Haeata has since been sold, and no doubt the new owner is looking for lead for her keel in his turn.”

The first two races these boats competed in January 1899, Mawhiti crossed the line first and won the wager. Mawhiti was lightly and carefully rigged, with a spruce mast and new sails.

The Mawhiti was campaigned and cruised successfully before she was sold in 1902. In 1907 she was taken to Sydney, where she remained at least into the 1970s, when her trail goes cold.

Mawhiti in Sydney ca. 1910

The story of the Mawhiti/Kotiri rivalry may be read here

William got back into small boat racing with the 10 footer Ajax, which he raced in the Thorndon Dinghy Club from 1906. His younger brothers Penwill and Charles also got involved, and sailed the boat with him, with Penwill stepping in as skipper from time to time from 1907, and Charles from 1908. In 1908 they splashed out on the Crack Zel built by Ted Bailey. The brothers swapped around and competed with both boats,  winning a lot of prizes with them.

Zel ca. 1909

Both Charles and Penwill were active in the administration of the club also, donating trophies, and acting as committee members. Charles acted as the club’s official measurer, and delegate to the boat harbour joint committee from 1908.

At the time the dinghy club began to disintegrate, Charles moved to England for a few years. Penwill and William purchased the yacht Mahina in 1909. She had a dark hull, and there was no light inside. Over the next couple of years they refitted the interior, installed an engine, painted her white and added a skylight, which helped immensely in lighting the rather dingy interior. They owned her for 10 years and campaigned her in club racing.


In 1914 Charles and Penwill also came into the ownership of a mullet boat, stolen from Auckland and wrecked at Worser Bay. They converted her to a motor launch, and kept her in the family for decades. When Charles died, his nephew Penwill took over her use for several years.

Doris on the hard at Clyde Quay

Penwill and William both had sons who also got involved in sailing. William’s son Lionel (nicknamed “Bosun”) raced Z classes and his Idle Along Courier with RPNYC and the Worser Bay Boating Club, with the younger Penwill (Jr) as crew. In 1939 Lionel, probably in partnership with his father, commissioned local designer Archie Scott to draw a yacht to be named Mawhiti II. The drawings show a beautiful cruiser-racer, which sadly was never built. William died shortly after WWII.

Lines for Mawhiti II drawn by Archie Scott for Lionel Moore in September 1939 – the month Britain declared war on Germany. Reproduced from the Wellington City Archives Collection.

Penwill Moore

Penwill Joined the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in 1936, aged 16, and in 2020 is still a member!

He began racing in Z Classes, and moved up to the 14 footers as a bailing boy on board the X Class Suelem, and the square bilger Advance, both registered at the time with RPNYC.

Advance ca. 1936

With the help of his father, Penwill built an Idle Along named Aurora, which he launched in September 1939 – just when the UK declared war on Germany. She was registered with the RPNYC, and got a few races off with her before, at the age of 21, Penwill joined up with the RNZVR.

He was commissioned Sub-Lieutenant in 1943.  He served throughout WWII. He had many adventures, including working as a navigator during the D-Day landings in June 1944.

After the war Penwill resumed his Club activity, sailing Aurora with some success, and crewing on the RPNYC keelers: mainly Waiomo, Argo, Restless, and Matatua.

In 1949, the same year that a committee was raised to plan the purchase of a Clubhouse, Penwill was elected Treasurer, which post he held until being made Secretary Treasurer in 1953. He held the post until 1960. Over the next ten years he worked up programmes to raise money for the clubhouse fund. The project was a success, with the RPNYC able to purchase the building which is still used as a clubhouse to this day.

In 1962 Pen had Capella (a 39ft motor sailor) built by Roger Carey in Picton and was launched in August 1962. Capella was raced regularly in the Motor Sailors and Cruising Division of RPNYC, and cruised in the Marlborough Sounds with the family for 30 years. Pen was also involved in the 1968 Wahine Storm when Capella broke her moorings in the boat harbour. Pen took her out of the marina and conducted a search with her on the day. He was a witness at the Marine Inquiry.


In 1991 Pen had Mermaid, a 40ft launch built by Jorgensons in Waikawa, and has continued cruising in the Marlborough Sounds with his family until recent years.

Pen on board Mermaid in the Sounds recently

…And they keep coming!

Pen’s daughter Jenny de Lisle is also involved in sailing and yachting administration.

She is a member and dinghy sailor at Worser Bay, still owns a Sunburst yacht and continues her love of cruising in the Marlborough Sounds.

In the 1990’s Jenny was involved with the establishment of the George Janis  mid week Women’s keelboat series, and was a member of the first RPNYC Women’s keel boat team to participate in the Women’s keelboat Nationals.

Not only has Jenny been on the organising committees for the P Class Nationals and Optimist Nationals, she was also a Trustee of the Wellington Youth Sailing Trust for seven years with her husband Paul. During that time the Trust managed to raise sufficient funds to replace the E6 yachts.

Currently Jenny is completing her second term as a board member of Yachting NZ.

Jenny’s son and Pen’s grandson, James, is a 12 foot skiff sailor at Worser Bay and was a member of the Wellington Youth Sailing Trust. During his time with WYST James represented RPNYC in many match racing regattas and was part of the team that won the prestigious Governor’s Cup in Balboa, California in 2012.

Tim Coleman, Adam Middleton, and James De Lisle Cross the line to win the Governor’s Cup in the minimum three races in California, 2012.


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