Why a Stewart 34 and what is it that makes the boats so special?
When the first boat was launched in 1959 the Stewart 34 polarised the Auckland yachting scene with incredible performance and sailing ability. Some 55 years later this is probably the enduring quality that still sets them apart from similar sized boats of much more modern design that should by rights leave a classic design from 1959 in their wake, but very often end up following a Stewart home!
Bob Stewart just got it right, the compromises that designers have to make when give a design brief; beam, length, wetted surface, ballast ratios, heeled waterlines, weight, sailplans, accomodation, budget etc, somehow it all came together elegantly in a Stewart 34. The boats are responsive, fast and powerful as well as performing extremely well as a family cruiser. They sail to windward with the best and in the right breeze have clocked over 20 knots on the plane! In cruising trim they are very forgiving and easy to sail, as well as providing a roomy caravan for the family, showing Bob Stewarts design brief for a fast cruiser racer for the Hauraki gulf was fulfilled extremely well. The boats have a Jeckyl and Hyde nature, with just a mainsail up they handle like an oversized laser around the mooring field, but put up the big kite in a strong breeze and you’ll need all eight crew to hang onto the bolting horse !
The heart and soul of the class is the incredibly competitive one design racing fleet and even in mixed fleet club racing with other boats it’s only the other Stewarts that really count! This is the main reason Stewart sailors are known for their skill, the constant practice against very similar boats which emphasises boat handling rather than the equipment. The quality of the racing is up there with the best in New Zealand, and has been a magnet for the biggest names in Kiwi yachting, with skippers and crew that have done their time on Stewarts going on to forge stellar international careers and become household names. The Stewarts were also the boats used in the Citizen Watch international match racing series which attracted the worlds best sailors to Auckland for the coveted Citizen Cup. The competition ran for 10 consecutive years from 1979 onwards, a remarkable achievment that has not been repeated in any other international sporting event in New Zealand.
The hotly contested Stewart Championship is the premier one design keelboat race series in New Zealand. The level of excitment, the extremely close racing, crewing coordination and helming skill in a windward/leeward championship race makes it incredibly addictive and above all fun, the championship sums up the Stewart 34 community- intense competition on the water and great socialising and camaraderie off the water. (don’t mention the rum!)
The class is about the people as much as the boats, and the association of owners are also a strong “family” who welcomes anyone who buys a Stewart into the fold. New owners should expect a warm and helpful welcome into the class and a huge amount of support to tune the boat, get crew organised and fellow owners doing as much as possible to help them get out on the water.
Perhaps a further testament to the remarkable design skills of Bob Stewart is that we still have owners who purchased or built their boats 30 plus years ago and are still sailing and racing regularly, including Bill Miller who will be 90 next birthday and is still taking trophies home! You can purchase a top boat for under $50,000 (2015) and one that needs tidying up for much less. Both wooden and glass boats are winners with the differences in results almost entirely up to crew work.
The class rules are written to stop “chequebook racing” and to keep the boats affordable and competitive. We use dacron sails and aluminium spars and not high tech laminates and carbon, keeping the ongoing maintenance costs to a minimum and even without the use of so called high tech modern materials the class is still vibrant and evolving with a strong and active association of owners and crew.
The Stewart 34 has special kudos amongst the yachting community, especially the racers and you’re welcome to join in and be part of Auckland’s yachting history and a very bright future sailing and racing the magnificent Stewart 34. For more information on the boats or if you wish to purchase a Stewart, please contact the Secretary who can let you know what boats are currently on the market.