A classic (Bolero) and Vintrage (Sonny) yacht overtaking us on my friend Phil's Swan 44, Freebird as we headed towards Edgartown, MA. It's a little rough and jittery but it was a goose-bump moment when these two beauties sailed by us.
Two weekends ago I was in Newport for the Boat Show. Speedboat, the 100 ft Maxi and Courageous Ted Turner's 12M were tied up at the dock. Here are a couple of close-up shots of the layout hardware on both boats. Fascinating to see the evolution of these high-end racing boats.
Karen and I were headed down the West Side Hwy on Saturday when we
spotted some very tall masts. Turns out, as some of you know, that HMS
Bounty is in town for the 4th. Anyone know if any other tall ships are
planning to be here? Any plans for a parade of sail or some-such?
I saw Robin Knox-Johnston's famous boat, Suhaili, in the flesh many years ago at the Royal Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. It was proudly displayed, encased in a faux-sea. Since then, it has been on the move. I thought it had been relocated to the sister museum in St Ives, Cornwall but apparently no more.
Blogger, Max Taylor stumbled on her while poking around his local boatyard. It's amazing that this national treasure is up on stands amongst the other boats hauled out for the winter. She is looking a lot nicer than my boat right now so it's good to see that she is being taken care of.
Anyone know what she's doing here?
And make a note in your calendar that April 22nd is the 40th anniversary of the Robin Knox-Johnston's circumnavigation. Please celebrate!
Last week, I had a whistle-stop trip to SF. I was meeting at the incredibly hip offices of IDEO, the awesome innovation and design firm. Their SF office is on the Embarcadero. As we were sitting in a meeting in a conference space overlooking the water, the parade of Tall Ships came by. It was incredibly hard to concentrate on the meeting at hand. Worst of all, the blinds were down so I could make out the silhouette of the ships but not see them in full. Talk about frustration!
At the far end of the spectrum of the relationship between Man and Boat are the tragic affairs. In a perverse way, they are probably the most interesting. One of the most famous examples were the cases Donald Crowhurst and Nigel Tetley’s relationships with their trimarans Teignmouth Electron and Victress in the Golden Globe race of 1968. They were identical boats and considered cutting edge speed machines that theoretically would win the race.
Crowhurst mortgaged his house and bet his business in constructing the boat that he thought would bring him fame and fortune. It was tricked out with the latest in marine technology manufactured by Crowhurst’s own company. To the outside world, his boat was a floating advertisement for Crowhurst’s genius, his business and the future of sailing.
Behind the scenes, it was a different story. The boat was constantly, behind schedule, not built to Crowhurst’s specifications and certainly not ready to cross the start line of the Golden Globe race by the October 31st 1968 cut-off.
Underway, the electronics never worked properly and the boat started to delaminate early in the race. She leaked like a sieve taking on water, very seriously in one pontoon. He knew early on that his boat would fall apart in the Southern Oceans. It was desperate. He just couldn’t do it and his boat as well his own abilities had let him down. Rather than face the shame and financial ruin of abandoning the race, Crowhurst had a different strategy. He stayed in the relative safety of the Atlantic radioing in false positions. These showed him still in the race. His aim was to sail in circles till the other racers returned to the Atlantic and then rejoin the race taking second in the prize for fastest time to complete the race. Well, that was his plan.
Tetley and his wife lived aboard their trimaran, Victress. He was the last to enter the Golden Globe race, practically doing it on a whim, quickly outfitting it for the circumnavigation. The fact that he was able to get her ready that quick was a testament to his Royal Navy training. For most of the race his boat performed well. He started late but gained ground gradually. As racers like Chay Blyth and others abandoned the race, he found himself one of four competitors left and in third place. He knew that he wouldn’t win the prize to cross the line first as either RKJ or Moitessier looked like taking that. It seemed a certainty that Moitessier would also win the prize for fastest race.
Then a bizarre thing happened. In a spiritual epiphany, Moitessier abandoned the race, turned south out of the Atlantic and headed east for the Indian Ocean. There were three boats left: RKJ heading for home and line honors, Crowhurst who was ostensibly in third and Tetley in second place with a certainty of winning the prize for fastest time.
His boat had other ideas. He was in the Atlantic and on the last leg home when like Crowhurst’s, Teley’s trimaran started to delaminate. Thinking that Crowhurst was on his tail he pushed Victress too hard. She took on too much water and started sinking. Tetley was forced to radio for help, abandon his boat, his home and his opportunity of glory 1,200 miles from the finish. Tetley returned quietly home, was awarded a 1,000 GBP consolation prize and was pretty much forgotten.
Crowhurst, meanwhile was faced with a huge dilemma. With only RKJ left in the race, he could definitely claim the prize for fastest circumnavigation but he was horrified by the prospect. He knew that he would never get away with it. If he had come in second in the time race and third overall it was less likely that his logs would be scrutinized by the race committee led by an already suspicious Francis Chichester. Even then it was a big gamble. If he won the speed prize, his records would be pored over and he knew that he would be caught out. Crowhurst was a brilliant mathematician and had done a spectacular feat in calculating plausible false positions for months on end but he knew though that tough scrutiny would uncover his fraud.
In the end, was driven mad by the lie he had created. Had his boat performed he would most likely have completed the race. He would not have won but at least he would have kept his dignity. The shame and desperation was too much for him. His boat was found floating unmanned in the Caribbean. Crowhurst had thrown himself or fallen overboard.
Tetley’s story is less well-know but equally tragic. After the race he took his consolation prize and started to build a boat called Miss Vicky with the intention of completing his circumnavigation. He was never able to raise enough to outfit her for the vessel. On a quiet afternoon in 1972, Tetley went to the end of his garden and hanged himself from a tree. He left no suicide note so one can only speculate why. It seems likely that the deep loneliness of his attempted circumnavigation had been especially tough on him. Followed by the desperation of failures and his sinking, one can guess that this as too much for him.
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.