A Brief History of the Javelin Class

Thanks to Robin Elliott for these notes on the early development of the Javelin Class in New Zealand.

For John Spencer’s own recollections of how the class started, read through the Fresh Perspective article. One of the first Javelins if not the first was Gidget built by Jim White in 1958/59.

Original Sail Plan (Oct 1962)
Original Sail Plan (Oct 1962)

The Javelin was designed by John Spencer in 1957-1958, along the lines of his successful Cherub design as a class for those who had out grown the Cherub.

The first Javelin, White Heron was built in 1961 by John Dew of Te Kauwhata although she was not registered until until 26/4/1962

The Javelin evolved from a 14-footer Betty, that John Spencer had built in Rotorua in 1953 as a hard chine International 14 which was refused measurement (for reasons too long to include here )

John Spencer told me he designed the Javelin in 1958 but it didn’t take off until 1961. This is confirmed by the fact the the first lines plan was published in Sea Spray in March 1959. Details of the formation of the Class Association was published in October 1961, and that Percy Cross was building seven of them for Maraetai members. A photo of the finished hull was shown. John Spencer wrote of its development thus far in October 1962 (See scanned article from Sea Spray magazine page 1 and page 2 from 1962)Sea Spray Oct 1962 p2 Sea Spray Oct 1962 p1

The fact that the Class Association was announced in Oct 1961, and given the lead times of the magazine as around 2 months minimum, I would guess that the first Javelins were sailing July/August 1961

Javelins 1-9 were (and possibly no. 10) all built in 1961. Until there were sufficient to make a `class’ there was nowhere to register, hence the registration dates of 1962 and 1963 for these early boats

I would say that the 2000/2001 season (the one we are currently sailing) is the Javelin’s 40th season as a sailing entity. However, much like our own birthdays, it will not have its 40th birthday until July/August/September 2001 when it has completed it’s 40th year. … go on.. write the numbers down on a piece of paper and count them.

1961 was the date they hit the water as a named type of boat, “the Javelin”. In other words, from that time in 1961 they evolved into something that made them more than just a couple of interesting `one offs’. When they were officially recognised is a different thing altogether and has more to do with NZ Provincial yachting politics than any thing else.

Original Construction Details (Oct 1962)
Original Construction Details (Oct 1962)

The original Javelin owners group, with the influential assistance of Sea Spray (namely john Mallitte the editor), announced the Associations existence that winter – 1961. It’s very existence, published as it was nationwide, garnered sufficient enthusiasm to kick-start the class in other centres and grow the class nationally as had been done with the Cherub. They certainly had the people as almost without exception, the driving forces behind the new Association were all top sailors and administrators from the Cherub ranks.

The Javelin never took off as fast as the Cherub had done, possibly because of cost but I think more likely because we were having so much fun with the Cherub, which by 1961 had reached the unimaginable sail number of 450 in just 8 years and was still the fastest growing class in the country. In other words, we hadn’t yet got bored with it. It is interesting to note that the early Javelin owners were almost a who’s who of crack Cherub sailors who had been in the 12 foot class a lot longer than most – Ray Earley, John Spencer, Bruce Wiseman, Barry Heerdegan, Len Anderson, Percy Cross etc etc.

The Javelin Class Association, much like the Cherub class was a yachtie driven organisation. During the early 1950’s, the authorities, the Auckland Yacht & Motor Boat Assn in particular, had openly opposed the creation of new centreboard classes as they interfered with the growth of the `pet’ national classes, the P, Z, IA and X class. They had actively discouraged the Cherubs for example and had it not been for Sea Spray magazine becoming an active John Spencer promoter, the Cherub and in turn the Javelin, could well have disappeared without trace. Certainly they would never have reached the national acceptance levels that they subsequently did. (Sea Spray gave the fledgling 12-foot Q-class skiffs exposure for exactly the same reasons).

Sea Spray allowed Spencer almost as much space as he wanted to provide publicity and `how to’ construction articles. In fact for a time Sea Spray was the official Cherub HQ, keeping the sail number register, and being the central point for all correspondence from the town associations. Elsewhere in the country, to get around the animosity from the various Provincial Yachting Associations (for exactly the same reasons as the AYMBA above) Sea Spray was used as the publicity vehicle to set up `Regional Fleets’ much like the `Chapters’ in the Hells Angels with all registrations and correspondence routed to Sea Spray and printed in the monthly “Cherub Notes”.

Sea Spray also advertised and sold the plans for the latest Spencer mark design – so they were right into it!!.

This relationship between Spencer and Sea Spray editor John Mallitte (which continued right into the 1970’s) also provided the springboard for the Javelin. The Javelin in particular was shunned the Provincial Authorities with very good reason, as it was a direct threat to the Sanders Cup X-class which itself was on very shaky ground having only recently stabilised after its disastrous move to fibreglass. Once again, Sea Spray, by giving column inches to the new Javelin design and reporting subsequent interest from influential Cherub yachties, long before they had even begun to build, kept the idea bubbling away until it became a reality.

Now I had said the first 9 were built in 1961, that’s a bit misleading. Those first 9 were built around the same time in 1961, but whether all were in the water that winter is uncertain. By the end of 1961 around 12-13 had been built. As you all know, getting a hull built is one thing, getting money to finish it off and rig it, and then get a road trailer for it is something else again. It is entirely possible that some of these 1961 boats didn’t hit the water until much later.

Eventually the Provincial Associations acknowledged their existence and took registration fees from the boat owners. I think anyway, to race with some clubs, you had to have your boat registered with the local Provincial Association, but the Javelin Association always controlled the national register of sail numbers.

To confuse us all, some boats were built, and registered with the Javelin Association but often not registered with the Provincial officials until some time later. Others were built but never registered, or failed measurement and then not given a number until later when they had been re-measured. – Can get confusing.

For example Javelin 10 was Timpani built by K. Blunt of Pakuranga. She was built in 1963, varnished with a white bottom but was not officially registered with the AYMBA until 6 August 1964. I assume she was the original Jav 10 but not built until 1963? By 1963 numbers were up in the 20’s.

Robin Elliott – March 2001