One of the most surprising relationships between Man and Boat was Francis Chichester and Gypsy Moth IV. Gypsy Moth IV is mythologized in England. She sits (sat? I think she may have been moved) next to the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, within spitting distance of the Maritime Museum and the Greenwich Meridian. She is a monument to Chichester’s circumnavigation and British maritime accomplishment.
In reality, Chichester had a very fractious relationship with Gypsy Moth IV. She was built for him with the single purpose of racing round the world. She was long, thin, high off the water and light. At the age of 64 and in poor health, Chichester was very concerned that he could handle Gypsy Moth’s 54 feet for the hundreds of days his circumnavigation would take. He braved the longer waterline in the interest of speed.
She should have been a delight but from the start it was a troubled relationship. She was a rocker. Even on her mooring, she would hobbyhorse, presaging perpetual seasickness for Chichester. She was very tippy. During her sea trials, she healed too far over in fairly moderate conditions and had a tendency to broach. Chichester was worried sick that she would capsize.
He had substantial weight added to the keel. So much weight, that it diminished her speed to that of a boat with a much shorter waterline. So he had a boat that was longer than he wanted to handle that went slower than a boat several feet shorter. Not a great start.
During his circumnavigation, it is clear from his autobiography that handling and fixing the multitude of gear failures caused Chichester a huge amount of stress. It was rare that he spoke of Gypsy Moth IV with affection during the first half of his circumnavigation.
In the end, she did the job and with some significant changes to the keel length and rigging at his stop-over in Sydney, he made her easier to sail on the homeward leg, even surviving a capsize in the Southern Pacific.
I still find it surprising that a boat that is generally regarded as a symbol of the highest British sailing accomplishment, a boat that is more famous that Robin Knox-Joshnton’s Suhaili, let alone Ellen Macarthur’s boat, BQ/Castorama was actually a bugger to sail and worried Chichester sick.
PART 3 TOMORROW - TRAGIC AFFAIRS