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Our History

Lou Fisher & The Spirit of Adventure

It’s 1970 and Lou Fisher, founder of the Spirit of Adventure Trust is looking for his next big project. With his love for sailing, a deep connection to Kawau Island, dedication to his community and the developing youth, Lou knew his next endeavour would be a different kind.

A successful and a well-known Auckland business man Lou always had many interests and was involved in many organisations. He chaired the appeal trust of the Auckland Surf-Life Saving Association, was a trustee of the Auckland Sheltered Workshop and World Wildlife Fund - the list goes on. Lou’s heart was invested in community, working closely with local organisations especially young New Zealanders. The idea of a tall ship for young people combined his ultimate passions – his love for sailing and the ocean with his desire to better the lives of others.

The idea for the three-masted topsail schooner Spirit of Adventure followed the purchase of Lou’s first big yacht - the vintage 73-ft ketchmatra, an 1899 73 foot ketch that retained much of original charm. Stephen Fisher, then just 10 recalls loading up the boat with his family, friends and his siblings' friends on Sundays for day trips out on the harbour. He says, ‘It was then father first saw the enjoyment, the excitement, whatever it was, that these other kids who had no association with the sea before, were getting from one day out on the harbour. It was a real circus that used to go out, every time the boat went away.’

Inspired by these enjoyable experiences, also by the success of the square-rig renaissance in Britain, especially the sail training vessels Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller, Lou commissioned naval architect John Brooke to design a handsome 37.8 m topsail schooner.

While the big steel-hulled craft slowly took shape at Vos & Brijs shipyard, Lou put together a trust board and started talking about how a youth training ship might best be administered, involving New Zealand’s secondary schools.

The Story in Brief: A chronology

  • 1974

    Spirit of Adventure goes on first voyage in January: Voyage 1, an all-boys’ sailing to Kawau Island and Te Kouma in June. Voyage 11 to Coromandel is the first voyage for girls.

  • 1977

    Appointment of Stephen Fisher as Chairman, following the death of Lou Fisher

  • 1979

    Spirit of Adventure sails on her first voyage to Wellington and the Sounds, beginning the Trust’s commitment to scheduling regular southern voyages.

  • 1984

    Prime Minister David Lange unveils Voyagers Club gift to the ship of carved wooden dolphins.

  • 1985

    Spirit of Adventure sails first voyage for disabled trainees.

  • 1986

    The Trust’s new three-masted barquentine Spirit of New Zealand, built by Thackwray Yachts in Henderson, is launched by Dame Naomi James and for the next eleven years the Trust operates two ships.

  • 1997

    The Trust Board decides to sell Spirit of Adventure for tourism work in Fiji.

  • 1998

    The 2,500th trainee sails on Voyage 270. Trust Board institutes the Topgallant Awards (usually two annually) for long and distinguished service to the Trust, beginning with 11 retrospective awards; the Topsail Award is similarly for an outstanding contribution by a Voyager (former trainee). Spirit Trophy voyages begin, offering 5-day voyages to 14-year- olds.

  • 2000

    Spirit of New Zealand’s charter work during the America’s Cup regattas raises $250,000 towards its youth development programme.

  • 2000

    Spirit of New Zealand takes a starring role in the millennium celebrations, held on 1 January in Gisborne.

  • 2003

    The Trust celebrates its 30th Anniversary and the Spirit participates in Louis Vuitton finals and America’s Cup regatta.

  • 2006

    Commonwealth Games – Olympic swimmer Danyon Loader on board Spirit of New Zealand carries the torch across the Waitemata Harbour

  • 2008

    Spirit of Adventure Trust wins the ‘Sail Training Organisation of the Year’ award, given by Sail Training International.

  • 2010

    Hyundai comes on board as a major funder.

  • 2011

    Commemoration of the 1863 H.M.S. Orpheus disaster – Spirit of New Zealand crosses the Manukau bar into the Manukau harbour.

  • 2012

    Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae comes on board.

  • 2013

    Spirit of New Zealand takes part in the Sydney to Auckland Tall Ships Race and wins the coveted Sail training International Friendship Trophy.

  • 2013

    The Trust celebrates its 40th anniversary.

  • 2015

    Prince Charles on board

  • 2016

    The Dutch Royal King and Queen visited our crew on board.

  • 2016

    Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, Governor General is our Patron of the Spirit of Adventure Trust.

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