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Five generations of racers...    

By John Palmer

The Palmer racing legacy started with Chris Palmer's father, John Palmer. He built his first boat the 'Rip Vanwinkle' just after 1918. It had the first outboard on Wellington Harbor NZ, with white pine planks, copper nailed and rooved the outboard being horizontal Twin Cylinder "Lockwood". 

Its top speed 20mph...

In 1934, Herbets boss got him to build another planked and stepped bottom boat which they called 'Baby Taubman'. This had a V8 Hispano Suiza aircaft motor, with twin steering to haul it around the corners. Then Came 'Miss Taubman' Powered by a straight 8 Mercedes from a jerry airship. 

These boats did 65 to 70mph and all had stepped bottoms. Of course the 2nd World War cranked up and Herberts son, Lionel Palmer, (my dad) spent these years in the Royal NZ Airforce.  Upon demobilization, he purchased 2 Rolls Royce Kestrel Motors for 5 pounds each - $10 in our money now and then built a hydro, copying the 1st Siomosur photos, it was a real goer – but alas, the copper nails and roves kept letting go so the hydro was scrapped and the two small Kestrels sold.

In between times, Mum and Dad had us four sons, Peter, Richard, me and my twin brother David and my sister Wendy.

Lionel went and built a plywood Hydro ‘Miss Fantail’ after some disastrous engine misfits, he got a 283 Chev V8 and it went like the preverbal. Actually, in one event with Richard peddling, we beat Air NZ in a Drag. 

Dad built another Hydro and called it the same name Len Southward, his great friend, got him an LT1 Chev V8 many, many success stories and great time that this Hydro achieved. 

Whilst this was happening, Peter and Richard finished a big V bottom (Shockwave) and Len Southward gave them a Rolls Merlin for power –‘what a beast’. I think it’s now a fishing boat.

Peter built a kit boat ‘Ovation’, 454 Chev. It was good, but then I bought my 16’4”Stephens, ‘Ben Hur’ and had great success. Peter went on to race another glass boat, ‘Prophecy’ but was sadly, terribly injured racing in New Plymouth in NZ and died of his injuries early in the 1990’s

Richard had also died of injuries in a 4 wheel drive accident earlier in 1976 aged 25. 

That left me. I first raced my own Hydro in 1972 and from there, my two boys Chris (Outlaw) and Nigell have caught the BUG and we all still race, even Georgie & Grace, Chris’s daughters and Nigell’s son, Bailey are now involved in junior racing, which makes 5 generations.

After trying to own and race a GP Hydro, we came back to earth and realized fibreglass skiffs are the way to go, even if a couple of them have completely flown to pieces due to broken propellers ie Plum Crazy.

We’ve had, and still have Childsplay, Everinghams, Rival and Stephens boats, Injected & Blown Motors, carburetted, 350’s & 400's, 427's, 454's510's with all sorts of combinations.

We've won some races, lots of 2nds, loads of Blow Ups and Demolitions, with lots of care & good management, we hope to have more success - Success being Enjoyment, finishing races and being safe.


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