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Rona was designed by one of the world’s greatest yacht designers, George Lennox Watson. She was constructed in 1892 in Auckland, New Zealand, by master craftsman and designer Robert Logan (Senior), for Wellington merchant and benefactor Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, whose collection of rare books was bequeathed to the nation as the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1918.
She is one of the finest surviving examples of a six-beam cutter (her beam fits into her length six times; i.e., she has very slim lines), she is a gaff rigged racing cutter, and is one of the oldest yachts still sailing in New Zealand. She is the oldest continuously registered ship in New Zealand.
Rona is an excellent example of 19th-century racing yacht design and construction, and is representative of an industry in New Zealand that has continued to exemplify innovation, attention to quality, and refinement into the 21st century. It is no accident that Rona was originally painted black, and that colour still is used on New Zealand's America's Cup yachts. The current strength of the boat-building and sailing industry in New Zealand owes a great deal to the traditions and standards established by the Logan boat-building family.
Rona was beautifully restored to original condition by her last private owner, John Palmer, in what amounted to an amazing labour of love, taking over nine years. The fact that Rona has been able to be maintained as a fully operational sailing vessel for over 110 years is probably largely due to her construction in kauri pine (Agathis australis), which is a fine-grained timber of excellent quality for boat-building.
The Rona Preservation Trust was set up to purchase Rona (this was accomplished in November 2006, with assistance of grants from the Lotteries Foundation, and other benefactors), and to make her accessible to the community through sailing events, maintenance and training days and public open days.
Moored on the Wellington waterfront, she attracts New Zealanders and international visitors. Rona is a precious part of New Zealand’s maritime history and provides a unique opportunity to keep alive past sailing traditions and pass them on to future generations.