The Sailing Connection

The Webb family, and as an extension, North Shore Scaffolding, has had a long involvement with the sailing community. With the America's Cup starting this week, we thought it appropriate to share that story, from Tony Webb building a sailing boat, through to NSS sponsoring New Zealand's America's Cup campaign, to now Managing Director Clifton Webb going to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, competing for New Zealand. Here is their story.
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North Shore Scaffolding RNZYS Youth SchemeTony Webb, co-founder of North Shore Scaffolding, has had a long involvement with sailing, competing in numerous New Zealand inshore and offshore sailing events. Tony started scaffolding while building a boat in the 70's to pay the bills. Selling that boat enabled him to buy the scaffolding from Certified Concrete to start North Shore Scaffolding, and that is how our story as a company began. Read the full story here.

In the mid-late 1980’s the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) wanted to encourage youth into a new form of sailing, called match racing. They sought sponsors to purchase 10 Elliott 5.9 boats. North Shore Scaffolding, through its co-founder Tony Webb, sponsored one of the inaugural boats in order to get this program off the ground. Many of the New Zealand crews that featured in the last 30 plus years on the match racing circuit have come through the RNZYS youth training program and it is credited for much of New Zealand’s success in Americas Cup. At the same time this was happening, the Ponsonby Cruising Club (PCC) put together a Learn-to-Sail program in the class of Optimist dinghies. Tony Webb, a past Vice Commodore of PCC, was asked to help with this initiative. This time Tony was a lot more involved with getting the program off the ground and North Shore Scaffolding not only sponsored one of the Optimist training boats but were also integral in securing further sponsors throughout the construction industry.

North Shore Scaffolding PCC Learn to Sail OptimistIn steps a very young Clifton Webb, the son of Tony & Christine (and now Managing Director of North Shore Scaffolding). 9 years of age at the time and completely clueless to the work that had gone in to making the program happen, he attended the inaugural Learn-to-Sail event at Ponsonby Cruising Club (pictured left). A few years later, Tony & Christines daughter also attended the course, and so now the whole family were involved in sailing.The North Shore Scaffolding boat was the one and only boat the siblings ever sailed at the Learn-to-Sail program. Clifton took to it like a duck to water, and the next step was to move to Murrays Bay Boating Club (as it was known then). This would be Clifton's introduction to the in New Zealand sailing famous Coutts family, who were active there. Within a very short space in time, Clifton befriended two of Russells nephews, Mark and Ben, continuing to race with and against them for years to come.

Russell Coutts thank you note to North Shore Scaffolding for lending him the boat that started his match racing careerIn 1989 a young Russell Coutts was gaining his feet in match racing. A national scholarship regatta had been set up to give a team the opportunity to compete on the international stage. The finals were fast approaching, and it looked like a certain showdown between KZ7 hero, Chris Dickson and Finn Class Olympic Gold Medalist, Russell Coutts. It must seem like controversy is always involved in sailing, as the boats to be used in the finals became a sticking point. Chris Dickson’s father owned one of the top yachts in the fleet, and Chris managed to protest the rules and switch boats. Russell was not happy with this outcome, and needed a better boat. Russell’s father, Allan Coutts, was a construction manager with Mainzeal Construction, which was a client of North Shore Scaffolding. Through the new family connection with the nephews becoming friends, Allan called Tony to ask if his and Christine's boat (which was the championship boat from last season) was available for Russell to use. It was, and now the showdown would be played out in even boats. Russell went on to win the event and the scholarship, which was the beginning of his international match race career. 

To the right pictured the dedication Russell wrote to Tony & Christine, in his book "Course to Victory". It reads "Tony & Cristine, Citizen Trials 1989, That was the start, Russell Coutts".

North Shore Scaffolding MBSC 24 Hour Race


Skip forward a few years and a teenage Clifton Webb was now trying his hand at Laser Class sailing, which at 15 was quite young. Murrays Bay Boating Club, now called Murrays Bay Sailing Club, ran an annual race called the 24hour Race. North Shore Scaffolding entered a boat, allowing Clifton to sail in the race, aged only 15. He entered the race with his friend Alistair Tate, seen in the image to the left, Clifton on the left. You can clearly see who sponsored the boat! 

Clifton Webb competing for New Zealand in the 2000 Sydney Olympics

In 1996 after losing the New Zealand Youth Selection trials on a count-back, Clifton decided to step into the International Finn Class, following in the footsteps of many of his childhood idols, (including Russel Coutts) and pursue an Olympic selection. In March 2000 this dream was realised when he won the selection for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and represented New Zealand in August of that year (pictured right).

In 2004 unfortunately Clifton was denied the opportunity of a second Olympics when he narrowly lost at a European Selection Event to Dean Barker. He went on to coach sailing in Europe and America for a few years, then returned to New Zealand.

Team New Zealand Thanks North Shore Scaffolding 2013The Global Financial Crisis hit the world. Changes were made to the ownership structure of North Shore Scaffolding, and it was a fully-owned family company that Clifton joined upon returning from overseas. In 2012 the Americas Cup was re-emerging after a few years in court, and waiting out the GFC. Team New Zealand was putting together a campaign and the new catamaran boats featured giant wing sails. This meant that they now required scaffolding built around the wing to complete construction. With Team New Zealand low on money, they called North Shore Scaffolding to see if we could help out. We agreed and became a supply sponsor for Team New Zealand. The photo on the left shows a thank you note, written on a picture of the America's Cup. It is made out to North Shore Scaffolding from Grant Dalton / Team NZ.

The picture above reads "To North Shore Scaffolding, Towards San Fran 2013, Grant Dalton", referring to the America's Cup in San Fransisco that year, acknowledging North Shore Scaffolding's small contribution in making it happen.

In 2019 North Shore Scaffolding supplied the scaffolding required to assemble Team New Zealand's new foiling monohulls, (there were some wide-eyed scaffolders seeing the boats for the first time, having to sign confidentiality agreements before entering). The win in 2017 brought the Cup back to New Zealand's shores, and is the reason we are all fortunate to have world class sailing at our doorstep in Auckland this summer.


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Over the coming months, and leading up to August 2021 when North Shore Scaffolding turns 40 years old, we are going to look at some of our company's history. We have dug through the archives and in our article series, we will take a closer look at our people, the development of the scaffolding industry over the years, and various projects North Shore Scaffolding has been involved with that has changed the landscape of Auckland as a whole and forever.

This is the second article in that series, marking the start of America's Cup in Auckland, and looking back at the long history of North Shore Scaffolding and our connection to sailing. Read the first part in the series here and the next part of the series here.

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