Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, "Home of the America's Cup" Westhaven, Auckland
More than 100 members of Ron Given's family and the sailing fraternity gathered recently at RNZYS, Westhaven to celebrate the life of the creator of the Paper Tiger and one of the most foremost multihull designers from New Zealand in recent memory. John Macfarlane, the noted boating journalist was a very effective MC for the proceedings.
The Paper Tiger family were well represented with class legends Terry Valder, four times NZ National Title winner and NZPTOA life member, Bruce Little, Australian National Title winner in 1973 and NZ National Title winner in 1974, David Peet, winner of the 1970 NZ National Title plus Derek Scott, dual NZ National Title winner, all were in attendance.
Derek Scott's champion PT #3106 Black Betty was outside the entrance of the RNZYS as a feature of the tribute.
Mark Jones, NZPTOA President had kindly arranged to send the Teams Trophy for the Internationals from New Plymouth for display at the function. The cup had been presented by Ron as a perpetual trophy at the 1st Internationals way back in 1975.
Other notable luminaries there, amongst others were John Street, (speaker #1), Ron's boss at A Foster & Co Ltd and patriarch of the NZ marine industry, Peter Montgomery, legendary sailing broadcaster plus America's Cup Hall of fame inductee and Grant Beck, NZ Olympic wndsurfer/boardsailing coach. A lot of New Zealand sailing talent for sure, had come together to honour one of their own.
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Andree Given thanking family and friends - John Macfarlane, MC seated front left
Brian Robinson, former Paper Tiger skipper and team member in the Internationals, twice for NZ and four times for Australia had specially travelled from his home in Perth. He was one of six speakers that covered Ron's extensive six decades long sailing and design career. Brian's brief was to cover the Paper Tiger design and how it became NZ's most successful off the beach craft ever plus where the class is today. A transcript of the speech follows below.
"Ca va Andree et les amis Papier Tigre. I don’t think I have left anyone out.
In 1966 Paper Tiger began in Auckland as an adjunct to the International A Class catamaran that Ron Given was developing in collaboration with two mates, Malcolm Tennant and Ken Fay. This group was known as GTF. Ken Fay set up a boatbuilding business – GTF International Catamarans to build their cold moulded round bilge A Class design. A great boat but could be a beast on and off the water – box rule 18’ x 7 6”’ and 150 sq ft sail area. Expensive and challenging for sailors on and off the water. GTF decided there was a need for a smaller entry level boat – 14’ x 6’ 6” x 100 square ft sail area.
Ron was the design component of the trio and returned to hard chine plywood as per the two earlier trimarans. Construction was over a male mould, no internal frames, flat decks on top of external gunwales. Simple, easy to build and sail, low cost. Ticked all the boxes.
Boat #1 was built by Ron at his Te Atatu home and was finished in December 1967.
National Catamaran Week was held at Browns Bay in January 1968. The GTF boys all competed in the A Class. Paper Tiger #1 was there on the beach as a demo for anyone to sail. Many did.
After the contest there was extreme interest in the new boat, but Ron was yet to draw the plans. These were only completed in July 1968. Meantime Ron had provided offsets to GTF International Catamarans to build a second mould and also to the Torbay club for a third. Fosters had kit packs of all the gear. Availability of all of these components meant a boatbuilding frenzy got underway in Auckland and then around the country.
Just over a year later there were 60 entries for Paper Tiger in the 1969 Auckland Anniversary Regatta.
In Australia, Journalist Ben Thomas wrote in Seacraft Magazine March 1969 “This Cat’s a Tiger” which generated keen interest, especially in Victoria.
Ken Fay in October of that year moved to Melbourne and set up afresh “Paper Tiger Catamarans by Ken Fay” including a separate retail outlet that carried all the gear, just as Fosters had done originally in Auckland. The same explosion of boat numbers as had happened in New Zealand repeated.
There were trans Tasman exchanges each way in the period 1970-1973. Ron was an active participant in this activity and this led to the formalisation of the Internationals featuring Australia and New Zealand and which kicked off at Torbay over Easter 1975.
Ron was keen on a teams component. Thus a 20 boat fleet comprised of two teams of ten selected via each country’s nationals. Ron donated a trophy and in his downbeat modest style his name doesn’t appear on the cup, merely “Presented by The Designer”. Ron was New Zealand team manager in 1975 and his team comfortably won the opening encounter. Courtesy of the NZPTOA we have the cup here tonight. It is on the table at the back of the room. Please take time later to inspect the trophy.
12 months later the 2nd Internationals were sailed in Melbourne. Ron arrived at Beaumaris completely unannounced at the start of the contest to support both teams and the fledgling event.
So it went – annual contests through until 1983 and since then every two out of every three years. The teams format endures and the series has been held now 33 times. The 34th is scheduled for Lake Illawarra, south of Sydney for 2024.
After completion of the first two international series in 1976 Ron’s Paper Tiger was no longer a kitten and was out on the prowl fighting alone with all the other off the beach cats.
Ron, always a forward thinker could concentrate on the future. That said Paper Tiger was embedded in his DNA and he viewed with pride the continuing build of fleet numbers and success of the class from afar.
Paper Tiger #1 was sold way back in 1969 and shipped to Honiara, British Solomon Islands and is now lost. In 1993 Ron and his older brother David built an exact replica and donated this to the Maritime Museum in Auckland.
Ron attended the silver jubilee of the class in Tauranga in 1993 and again in New Plymouth with Andree at the golden jubilee in 2018. The finale was being in Melbourne in February 2019 for “The 50 Years of Paper Tiger in Australia Party” Paper Tiger grew beyond New Zealand and Australia.
There were at least 500 boats built in South Africa plus good numbers in Sweden, Canada, USA and elsewhere. Something in the order of 4000 craft worldwide and representing some 15-20,000 owners over the 55 years to date. Easily New Zealand’s most successful off the beach sailboat ever.
There have been some great yachtsmen who have raced Paper Tigers in their formative years. Two that come to mind are kiwis, Chris Timms, Olympic gold and silver medalist in the Tornado and Grant Dalton, Whitbread/Volvo round the world champion yachtsman.
The standout though is an Aussie from Bendigo, Victoria. Sailed Paper Tigers in period 1992-1997. A champion of the class and winner of both the Aussie nationals and the Internationals in 1995 as a 17 year old. Then followed 10 world championships in the A Class, 3 in F18s, 3 in Tornados plus a silver medal in the class at Beijing in 2008. I speak of Glenn Ashby, wing trimmer extraordinaire for TNZ. Ron thought Ashby was top shelf.
Over the past decade Ron and I talked on the phone every 10-14 days primarily when he was in Kerikeri. Ashby’s name came into just about every conversation. My last of these conversations was in December last year. Ashby and TNZ had just broken the world land speed sailing record. Ron was ecstatic, Land yachts as John Macfarlane will tell you shortly, was another of Ron’s passions that followed on from his Paper Tiger involvement.
Ron was especially proud of the champions that emerged from the Paper Tiger, the huge fleets in the 70s and 80s, witness the 105 competitors for the 1985 Aussie nationals sailed at Rye, Victoria and the enduring Internationals between New Zealand and Australia. However, the thing that gave Ron the most satisfaction was that the craft gave an entry into sailing and racing for thousands from outside of the sport.
Thus, I say on behalf of all the Paper Tiger sailors from down the decades, to Ron we owe you our gratitude. You shaped and changed our lives and much for the better.
Merci beaucoup et au revoir."d8a10c8f 8762 48d7 8303 732bc4ffbe6f wo
Brian Robinson delivering the Paper Tiger component