Wingssail Home Wingssail Images LogBookPages Map of our travels Index Email Fred & Judy

Sunday, April 30, 2000

April 30, 2000- Warbirds over Wanaka.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

We stepped out of the car and heard a snarl from the sky like a gang of outlaw motorcycles. Diving into the valley was a flight of ancient Russian fighters, Polykarpov I-16s, and their slow turning Russian radial engines sounded like a bunch of Harley Davidson’s thumping in heaven.

I’ve been shooting the New Zealand America’s Cup for six months but that assignment is over, the Louis Vuitton media center is packed up and closed, my AC photos are cataloged and archived, and I am finished.

We are also about finished with New Zealand. Judy and I are scheduled to depart for Tonga on Wings on May 6.

During the one and a half years we’ve been in New Zealand we’ve never been to the South Island. Can we fit in a visit and maybe shoot the Warbirds over Wanaka Airshow while we’re at it?

Well, the boat is pretty much ready to go to sea, and we are, as much as we ever will be, given that no boat and no crew is ever really completely ready to go to sea, and we decided we could go by airplane to the South Island for a visit, if we are quick about it, so here we are.

First stop, Queenstown. We drove into town and took an aerial tram to the top of the mountain and saw the town, the lakes, and we saw the bungie jumping platform where daredevil kids leaped into an abyss.

Looked exciting but we had to get moving.

Then we went to Dunedin, and saw the Scottish architecture, and Bluff, at the end of the Island, and then Milford Sound, where the rain seemed to be a permanent fixture. We hit them all and even took time for a few hikes.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Milford Sound

We learned that New Zealand was a country of mountains, ferns, and sheep. We saw a lot of sheep on the South Island. Finally we turned northward again toward the Lakes District, and headed towards Wanaka, where the air show would commence on Easter weekend, as it does every other year, and which we’ve heard was a superb show of historic military aircraft. But first we had to deal with a bunch of Jaguar cars . On the way to Wanaka we began to get passed by Jaguars. First a red E-Type with the top down. The driver had a green tam on his head and the passenger a pastel scarf which waved in the wind. It was pretty to see but we thought nothing of it.

Then an older MK 150, its spoke wheels and knock-off hubs flashing, roared past us, and there were others. They were like flies, buzzing around us.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

“Kiwis sure must like Jaguars”, we thought, but it wasn’t until we got to the Wanaka Airfield that we found out why we’ve seen so many Jaguars: coinciding with the air show was a Jaguar car show, and there were about 300 of them parked on the grass alongside the historic warbirds. Now I had cars to take pictures of, not just airplanes. What a bonus for me and my Nikon.

The air show was fantastic. I’d snagged pass on account of my AC cred and with my press pass hanging around my neck I was told I’d be able to wander freely among the planes.

“Can I get into the air for the aerial shots?” I asked. In Auckland I just hitched a ride on the photo boat to shoot the sailboat races; don’t they have a photo blimp or something?

Right away I found that I couldn’t get into the air for the aerial shots I wanted. It turns out that the logistics of aerial to aerial photography are exceedingly complex and no photo shoots of that sort are organized for Warbirds over Wanaka that year. OK, never mind, I’ll stick to the grass and get close to airplanes on the ground. You can check out my photos here.

I saw a lot of airplanes and talked to some interesting people. I found that the owners and pilots of these planes are extraordinarily committed people who love these planes and love flying them. They will make a lot of sacrifices to do that, including risking serious crashes. Some have had several. I learned that some of them went to Russia looking for WWII aircraft and found the Polykarpov’s in an old barn and had them shipped back to New Zealand, and now they are the only flying examples of these aircraft. I also learned about Sir Timothy William Wallis who was the inspiration and drive behind this show and who had owned and flown several of these planes and who had survived some spectacular crashes including one a few year before in a Spitfire which ended his flying career. But he still piloted the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow and for that I was thankful; it was fantastic.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

If there was any takeaway from this I have to say that it was my realization that these old fighters are not really big, complex, highly technical machines. They are really just a huge engine, a seat for the pilot, and a wing. OK wheels, control surfaces, but not much more. I was impressed at the simplicity and, well, crudeness of it all. The pilot climbs into a seat bolted to the back of that huge engine and opens the throttle. The engine roars and the propeller starts pulling him ahead. When enough speed is achieved, the wing underneath him lifts them off the ground. Wiggle those controls and they can turn and climb. On land these aircraft are ungainly, bouncing along like waddling ducks, but in the air, wow, they have some grace. But most of all they have power; the engine dominates. You could feel the power of those engines as they flew past. We loved hearing them and watching them.

Before long, however, the air show was over and we had to get back to Auckland and get moving northward. We said goodbye to the South Island, to the Warbirds, and soon, we would be saying good bye to New Zealand.

Click here to see all of the images from our South Island trip, or click any photo above.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Auckland

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 02, 2000

April 2, 2000-New Zealand, A Great Place

After a couple of years in the Pacific, This is the big smoke

If you ever get to Auckland, New Zealand, you owe it to yourself to get to Queen Street at about midnight on a warm Saturday night. The place is jumping, let me tell you. Every mag-wheeled, rear-spoiler'ed, bass-thumpin hot rod, freshly waxed and full of kids, is there. Plus every tight pants teenage'd Lolita, every Jonah Lomu wanna be and every Japanese tourist is there too. The street is jammed and the adults really don't like it. A middle aged tour bus driver told me the rowdies act like they own the place, (the kids, he meant). "This isn't how it was 20 years ago," he said. Good thing, to my way of thinking.

We went to see American Beauty at the Force Cinema tonight, after a full day of sanding the bottom paint off of WINGS and a nice dinner at a quiet cafe with too much good New Zealand wine. The movie was terrific, (the ending we'll leave to you) and the Force Cinema is something else.Six stories of high tech imagination and a big atrium up the middle. You expect to see Luke Skywalker with a light saber on the top catwalk. Strolling back to the car we felt swept up with the life on Queen Street. Midnight! What a place. The bookstores are still open as are Wendy's, Macdonald's and a dozen or so rock clubs with 250 lb. Pacific Islander's for doormen.

The darkest place we went to was the boat yard where WINGS sits exposed on a set of stands. No light here except for five sets of spreader lights from Georgia, the worlds largest sloop, sitting next door, just past Marie Cha III, hauled out for a new bottom, and Morning Glory and Bumble Bee 5, waiting for the next race. Yep, no matter where you look in Auckland these days, it’s a happening place.

But Auckland isn't all of New Zealand. Besides every good piece of boating equipment known to man, every car stereo store, punk clothes store and trendy restaurant, besides arts and culture, great wine and lots of Irish beer, and unbelievable rugby football, besides bangers and mash and Kauri Forests, there is more to New Zealand. There's volcanoes, (still live), and sheep (enough for Africa). There's fiord land and farmland, and Maori carvings with features that'll shock your Mom.

New Zealand

And most of all, there are Kiwis. Not the birds, the wonderful, real, honest to goodness, laid back, neighborly, down home folks we came to know and love in this country. They are great, and they are the best.

We'll be sorry to leave this town and this country, it really has a lot to offer, its great, and we're just coming to kind of know it. But our time is drawing nearer. We'll soon be on our way. But if you have a chance, come on down under. New Zealand is worth seeing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Auckland
NEXT Page (More) , or... GO BACK to Previous Page