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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900

The Otaki

page 264

The Otaki.

Two Famous Ocean Races—Otaki and Crusader.

Old residents in Christchurch, discussing which sailing ship made the fastest passage to Lyttelton would say the New Zealand Shipping Company's Otaki. This is not the case, however, What the old folk have in mind is probably the famous run of the Otaki from Port Chalmers to London in 1877. On this occasion the Otaki raced Home with the Crusader (Captain Llewellyn) and Rangitiki. the Crusader sailed from Lyttelton on March 10, and the Rangitiki from the same port on the following day. the Crusader and the Rangitiki were
the Otaki At The Wellington Wharf.

the Otaki At The Wellington Wharf.

becalmed off Banks Peninsula until the evening of the 12th. the Otaki left Port Chalmers on March 11, in command of Captain Sotham, and was also becalmed for five days before getting a fair start.

the Crusader was reported in the Channel on May 16, and the Otaki on May 17. the Otaki, however, docked in London on the same day as the Crusader. the Otaki made a phenomenally fast run from land to land in 63 days—beating all records—and the Crusader in 64 days.

the Rangitiki made a good run of 80 days, port to port, but on this occasion was quite overrun by the other two ships. Mr. Basil Lubbock, referring to this passage of the Otaki, says: "She made the run to the Horn in 22 days, and reached the Lizard in 63 days. During the passage, after being becalmed on the New Zealand coast, she had only eight hours of head winds."

Another Ocean Race.

the Otaki was a fast sailer, but generally was unfortunate with the weather.On October 31, 1875, she left London with 274 immigrants, in command of Captain McInnes. the Crusader left Gravesend on the same day, three hours later. A fine race ensued, although both ships experienced very light winds until passing the Cape. the Otaki reached Lyttelton at 3 p.m. on February 8, 1876, and the Crusader three hours later. On this occasion the Otaki covered 3009 miles in 12 days when running down her easting. The "Lyttelton Times," referring to this race, said: "the Otaki left Start Point three hours before the Cru-page 265sader, and arrived here three hours before that vessel. It is a very remarkable fact that two vessels should, after a voyage of 16,000 miles, arrive in exactly the same time, and should have been, as they were, in company with each other for a few days and then to have lost sight of each other for so long a time."

The ship Conflict, a very fast ship, was really in this race. She left Belfast on November 4, four days after the Otaki and Crusader, and arrived at Lyttelton on January 29, making the run in the fast time of 83 days.

The long voyage of 121 days to Wellington in 1890 was accounted for by the ship having met with a continuance of light easterly winds. Ten days after sailing she was still in the Channel. She sailed on March 18, crossed the Equator
Captain Devitt.

Captain Devitt.

on April 20, and passed the Cape on her sixtieth day out. Thence she met with a succession of variable winds, chiefly easterly.

the Otaki met with an exceptionally heavy gale on her run out to Lyttelton in 1880-81. All went well until within a week of reaching the New Zealand coast. On December 27, during a heavy gale, a huge sea broke over both quarters, filling the main deck, bursting in doors, and filling the cabin to the height of 5ft of water. Captain Devitt's cabin was wrecked and his charts lost. Everything movable on deck was washed overboard. One boat was smashed and another washed away. Captain Devitt and the chief officer had a narrow escape of losing their lives, and the carpenter was severely injured. During another passage to Lyttelton in 1887 the Otaki, when abreast of Cape Leeuwin, was put before the wind in a severe south-west gale. Heavy seas broke on board and washed away the starboard boat, burst in the deckhouse, and caused other damage. Boisterous weather continued until arrival, and on September 15 Captain Worster had to use oil bags.

the Otaki was built in 1875 by Palmer's Company, Jarrow-on-Tyne. She made 15 voyages out and Home altogether, and, with the exception of three passages outwards, she never exceeded 100 days. Her runs to Auckland (three) were all under the average.

the Otaki was bought by the Germans and renamed Dr. Siegert. She was wrecked in 1896.

Following is the record of the Otaki's passages to New Zealand:—

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Aug. 1 Nov. 4, '77 Devitt 95
July 2 Oct. 2, '83 Worster 91
April 1 July 4, '84 Worster 94
To Wellington.
Sep. 11 Dec. 10, '78 Devitt 90
June 27 Oct. 8, '82 Holbeche 103
July 6 Oct. 17, '85 Worster 102
Mar. 18 July 18, '90 Worster 122
To Lyttelton.
Nov. 1, '75 Feb. 8, '76 McInnis 98
Sep. 22, '80 Jan. 5, '81 Devitt 105
June 4 Sep. 13, '86 Worster 100
June 20 Sep. 30, '87 Worster 90
June 8 Sep. 14, '89 Worster 98
Feb. 24 June 22, '91 Worster 117
To Dunedin.
Oct. 24, '76 Jan. 28, '77 Sotham 96
Sep. 26 Dec. 24, '79 Devitt 89
Land to land 81
July 27 Oct. 31, '81 Holbeche 96
May 26 Aug. 28, '88 Worster 94