Stuart Vaughan's first novel is a story about Jim Standish and his son Ben rediscovering a J - class yacht on a remote river bank in the Bay of Islands. Built in New Zealand Erewhon was to be New Zealand's challenge for the America's Cup in the 1920's. She never made that race and in the late 1960's was wrecked in Northland, lying hidden for many years. The Standish family gets behind bringing her out and reinstating her former glory.
In true Kiwi style they undertake to not only restore Erewhon
but to match race against many of the great J - class names just as she was originally designed. Erewhon
competes against Velsheda, Shamrock, Reliance, Endeavour
and as well as the modern KZ1
. The family forms a syndicate for the racing on the Hauraki Gulf with competitors sailing to Auckland for the match races and to view New Zealand's defence of the America's Cup.A Yacht Called Erewhon
is a skillful blend of reality and fiction that is easy and compelling to read. As an Auckland yachtie it was fun recognising the facts and being carried along by the momentum of the yarn. To others it presents an engaging read and would appeal to a young person interested in sailing. It is traditional story telling communicated with youthful enthusiasm.Erewhon
was built to J - class specifications. Only 10 of this type were ever built and they competed for the America's Cup until the 1940's. They are the preserve of the world's rich. Most are over 120 feet long, spectacular when sailing and always elegant. Requiring a crew of at least 25 they are not normally a family boat but restoring and sailing Erewhon
becomes a family and friend’s project. Money appears to be no object to Dad who owns a Lexus and is general manager of one of New Zealand's largest construction companies. Mum makes endless cups of tea for everybody and eventually becomes race campaign publicity manager. Young Ben serves his apprenticeship under the master boatbuilder in charge of the restoration and graduates to craftsman boatbuilder. The whole family sails the yacht.
Some of the boatbuilding technical details described are incorrect but even to one who has followed several yacht restorations this didn't detract from the story which continues to reveal itself right up to the last page.
Like any self-respecting classic yacht Erewhon
has help from a voice from the past. She has a tapu on her which is removed and like Mercedes, the great - grand daughter of the original owner, is beautiful. Yacht match racing is intricate and complicated but Stuart's descriptions are exciting and detailed. His race commentary is a 'match' - powerful, detailed and involving. A Yacht Called Erewhon
will interest sailors and landlubbers alike.