In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks changed Napier's inner harbour.
It extended from Greenmeadows to Bay View – an area about 10km long by 6.5km wide. A tidal harbour, it had a depth in the middle of about 5 metres.
This expansive inner harbour became known throughout New Zealand as an ideal location for yachting – a pastime begun by a few in the late 1860s.
This ultimately led to the creation of the Hawke's Bay Sailing Club. The Hawke's Bay Herald said formation of such a club would "give a fillip [boost] to healthy amusement".
As there were only a few yacht owners, the Herald suggested if spare seats on board were allotted to those who "are not so fortunate to own boats of their own" there should be enough interest to form a club. The Hawke's Bay Sailing Club was established in 1881 for the main purpose of holding regattas.
An organisation called the Napier Sailing Club started to receive mention in 1882, but this is likely the Hawke's Bay Sailing Club incorrectly named.
However, by 1891 the Hawke's Bay Sailing Club had folded and the new Napier Sailing Club was created, which still exists today. Their first building was a boat shed erected in 1893 at a location called Fisherman's Bay.
Yachting on the inner harbour became an extremely popular activity for Napierites. In addition to the 26km racing course, many bays could be sailed to from the Spit (Westshore) for picnics.
A big supporter of yachting was Napier Mayor John Vigor Brown (1854–1942), and he had his own private jetty at his Westshore summer house. He took a particular interest in ladies' sailing, and would sponsor prizes and provide afternoon tea after the Ladies' Race Day.
While the inner harbour was said to be one of the best harbours in New Zealand for racing, it silted up because of the shingle from tidal flows and the Tutaekuri River, which then discharged into the inner harbour.
There were also shallow areas and mud flats. The Napier Sailing Club's jetty at Fisherman's Bay was becoming too shallow, so in 1904 they purchased three and three-quarter acres (4.5ha) of land further north, including a house which they converted into a clubhouse.
They shifted their boatshed and jetty to this location. Plans were made to create picnic areas, a tennis court and bathing houses. In time, 10 baches were also built on this land, including one owned by dentist R H Harris, who introduced the anaesthesia nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to the Southern Hemisphere.
Because of the shallowness of the inner harbour, a particular class of yacht called the patiki (flounder, or flat fish in Māori) was well-suited for use on the water.
This type of yacht was developed by Auckland boat builder Arch Logan (1865–1940) around 1900, and was characterised by being flat-hulled, unballasted (not stabilised by weight) and having a centreboard (a retractable keel which pivots out of the hull of a sailboat).
This design meant patiki were extremely fast sailboats which could plane across the water. However, the speed of this class of yacht made them unpopular in many yacht clubs among ballasted yacht owners, and they were banned in many club regattas.
Many of them ended up in Napier. The first to arrive is thought to be the Edith in 1904. Upon seeing how fast she went in winning a race by 19 minutes, John Vigor Brown immediately placed an order for one.
The last big sailing day for the Napier Sailing Club on the inner harbour was January 31, 1931.
Three days later, an uplift of up to 2.5 metres of land during the February 3, 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake meant an end to sailing patiki on the inner harbour, as water rushed out to sea.
An officer on board HMS Veronica, which was berthed at Port Ahuriri when the earthquake occurred, recalled: "There was a loud rushing noise and suddenly the water seemed to rush away from the ship, which bumped violently up and down."
There was none perhaps sadder than John Vigor Brown about the uplift of land, and he wrote that his own wharf "is now high and dry and from 30 to 40 feet from the wharf is just a sandy beach with no water".
The Napier Sailing Club premises were repaired after the earthquake but, with no water in front the jetty and boat sheds, were now useless. The clubrooms, however, attracted a little use. The patiki yachts, not being very robust, were not suitable for the open waters, and were easily damaged.
A small group of the Napier Sailing Club continued sailing at an area known as Scapa Flow, and in 1939 permission was received from the Hawke's Bay Harbour Board to put up a boat shed. In 1951/52, their first clubhouse was built on this land, and the club's premises are still at this location.
The newly raised inner harbour land of about 3000ha had to be drained of the sea water which lay in shallow pools and this took a number of years. The Hawke's Bay Harbour Board, which had responsibility for the inner harbour area pre-earthquake, now found themselves as landowners.
While the inner harbour was the Napier Sailing Club's loss, another group of men were excitedly flying over the raised land in their machines looking at possible sites for an aerodrome.
Today, the Hawke's Bay Airport occupies part of the land where patiki yachts sped along the water watched by hundreds, or yachts with picnic goers headed for the beach at Poraiti, or one of the many bays such as Maraetara.
• Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher, and writer of Hawke's Bay history.