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  • Writer's pictureBill Manning

The Halvorsens and myself

My introduction to the Halvorsen's was through my father HW Manning when he was the President of the New South Wales Dragon (ie sailing) Association in 1953. My father owned Lynne number DKA13. Harold Halvorsen sailed Siboney DKA45. Carl Halvorsen later owned a dragon.

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Dad’s dragon outside our home at 27a Elamang Ave. Kirribilli

However in January 1957 following the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games Graham Mann who sailed Bluebottle a dragon owned by Prince Phillip, came to Sydney and was invited to a function abroad a Fairemile owned by the Halvorsen's.

We boarded the boat at Bobbin Head and as a 15-year old, I steered it for most of the day. Carl and Harold Halvorsen were aboard as were most of the Dragon owners of that year.

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A RAN Fairmile

In April that year Dad, myself, four friends from my school, Barker College, and one from Scots College, hired a 30 foot Halvorsen again from Bobbin Head. Dad stayed with us for the first two days and left us for the following 5 days. We went everywhere in the Pittwater, Hawkesbury River, and Cowan Creek waterway. In fact, we had to spend more on petrol than the whole week cost for the boat hire.

On the first night, we stayed aground at Brookline by the railway line with the sound of steam trains from 50 metres away. Dad taught us a lesson in looking after the boat at low tide and refused to help us float the boat, thus an uncomfortable night. We went as far as Spencer in the Hawkesbury River and spent some time at the Basin.

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Left to right Peter Rutledge, Jack Little, Colin McLean, Bill Andreas and myself

Dad died in September 1957. However, at Easter 1958 we again hired another Halvorsen 30 footer at Bobbin head consisting of Barker boys.

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Left to right David Noble, Barry Crag, myself and Peter House

Finally in 1959 again we hired a 30 foot Halvorsen but this time we went with Bruce McKinnon’s 36 foot Halvorsen ‘Enchantée’.

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Left back row Phil Blazey, Paul Lock, David Prince, Bruce McKinnon Front row Jack Little, Robert Warnford, myself, Peter Nichols and Colin McLean

At Xmas 1960 and 1962 in my university holidays, I worked for Trevor Gowland at Bobbin Head cleaning hire boats and teaching hirers how to drive them. On one occasion a gentleman arrived with what looked like his secretary and hired a boat for two hours. I instructed the man on how the boat worked and how to moor it and saw him off out of the bay. Some 30 minutes the boat arrived back again travelling up and down the bay with the lady friend waving to get attention. I went out to them in the tender and was asked where in the brake to stop the boat. The boat did not proceed with the balance of the hire.

I was then asked by Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen and Trevor Gowland to sail on ‘Anitra V’ and then ‘Norla’ the Halvorsen ocean racers of the 1961/2 eras.

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Anitra V

Next in 1976/77 I was the manager of the Gretel 11 America's Cup Challenge with Gordon Ingate as skipper. The modifications to the boat were completed by Halvorsen Morsen and Gowland at Wyong. I can well remember Trevor taking the Gretel off the truck at Wyong on his own. He was a magnificent boat handler and shipwright.

Trevor had a problem when trucking the boat to Sydney from Wyong. He hooked the power lines across the Pacific Highway. (see below)

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Carl Halvorsen arranged to supply the Gretel 2 syndicate with a “Kong Halvorsen” 36-foot twin-engine tender for the challenge. It was a showpiece for the boat in the USA. We had one problem when an exhaust hose broke in the engine room and it took 2 days to clean and repair.

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The Kong Halvorsen 36 foot tender shown beside Gretel 2

In about 1980 my wife and I hired a 30 foot Halvorsen again from Bobbin Head.

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William and I on a Halvorsen 30 footer about 1980

My relationship with Carl continued when he asked me to assist with the sale of the Halvorsen boat shed at Ryde NSW. It was located on 4 acres of waterfront land below the Ryde bridge, zoned for waterfront industrial. I was aware the Halvorsen's had sold their waterfront land at Neutral Bay to the Royal Australian Navy (then Air Force) in the 1940s. At this time, in 1979, Carl and Harold had an offer from the Navy for about $1.2 million and they were seeking more. I thought I would have to find a buyer who could break the waterfront zoning to achieve an increase in price. I had two contacts who may have been interested, Alan Bond (of Americas Cup fame) and Harry Reid Managing Director of Group Engineering.

I approached Harry Reid who was located in Sydney. On talking to him I discovered the company-owned Riviera Boats located at the Mona Vale which he wanted to relocate. You beauty I had found a potential buyer. Following some negotiations, Harry offered approx $2.4 million. Carl then said could he get that offer in writing. I said really, you have the verbal offer from the Managing Director what do you require it in writing for? Carl replied that Harold was a bit “funny” and he would require a written offer. He got the written offer and took it to the Navy who matched it with $100,000 more. End of story. I reconciled the experience back to the gift Carl had made to the Gretel 2 syndicate of the 36 foot Kong Halvorsen tender.

I had the pleasure of Friday lunching at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron with Carl and Gordon Ingate for the last 10 years (bar the last 2 years) of Carl’s life. He died at 103 years and to this day I still recall his soft dulcet voice.

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