Trips To Atlantic

I said, ‘It seems all right to me; in fact Sheila and I were saying how attractive the yacht looked. ?

‘Oh well, ’ said Robert, ‘if you are satisfied, that’s all right. ? It appeared that the Tyrrell family, who have been building boats for generations and have strong views of their own, had reversed the doghouse, so that it sloped down aft instead of up. This was a much better design, made the cabin roof stronger, and gave the whole line of the deck a more handsome look. The price we paid for it was countless cracks on the head when stepping too quickly from the cabin up to the cockpit outside.

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I had often puzzled why a famously fast yacht or ship had never had an equally fast sister ship. Now I realised why. Gipsy Moth’s designed length was 38 foot 6 inches overall. When launched she measured 39 feet 7, which is 13 inches longer. I mentioned this to Robert, and he said, ‘If that’s the only difference from the plan, you ought to be grateful. ? implying that no wooden vessel can be built exactly as planned. The yacht suited me. She was staunchly built, and gave me confidence. She seemed so powerful that I felt at first like a small boy astride a tall, strong, broad-backed horse which would not stop. When we left for England on Saturday, four days after the launching, I think that there were several leprechauns still on board. One must have had his feet jammed in the rudder stock. By the time we reached the Solent I could only move the rudder by exerting my full strength with both hands on the tiller, and both feet on the cockpit seat opposite. However, Gipsy Moth III has always had a friendly atmosphere, as if she carried the goodwill of the craftsmen who built her, and I try to avoid strangers coming aboard for fear they might trample the Little People and drive them away.

The rudder stock tube could not be trued up until the yacht was hauled out, so that I had no chance to try out Gipsy Moth’s sailing qualities before she was laid up for the winter. As a result I had only ten weeks from when she was launched in the spring, on 3 April, until the start of the race on 11 June, in which to try her out for sailing qualities, to learn her tricks and foibles, and to improve my handling of her. I need two seasons of solid sailing to get anything like the best out of a boat, and would prefer to have three seasons. I think this might well apply to all yachts; certainly the last race for the America’s Cup was won by a 12-metre which had been raced hard for three seasons.

Gipsy Moth III was a good deal bigger than my Gipsy Moth II, and I soon found that there were drawbacks as a result. She drew 6 foot 5 inches and I went aground several times. With her high freeboard and 55-foot mast, the windage was considerable, and with her 13 tons she was likely to go aground good and hard. When I laid out a kedge anchor by myself to kedge her off the mud it was desperately hard hauling without a winch.

The high freeboard made it more difficult to haul the dinghy on deck by myself, and because of this I lost the dinghy one day. I was sailing out through the Needles, towing it astern, when the painter snapped. There was a short, steep sea and a tide race, and although I sailed up to the dinghy several times, I could not get hold of it with the boathook while controlling the yacht at the same time. In the end I hauled down the sails to try approaching the dinghy under motor. While lowering the mainsail I lost sight of the dinghy, and was never able to locate it again. I spent my first night alone at sea looking for it. I carried out a square search, increasing the length of the sides each time. I had no self-steering device fitted then, the wind was unusually fickle, changing speed and direction every few minutes, and I could not make Gipsy Moth sail herself, though I kept on trimming and retrimming the sails. When I was not exhausted with the effort of handling the heavy gear, sweating with heat under my thick clothes, I was shivering in the cold wind. My 380-square foot mainsail, with its 18-foot boom, was awkward and heavy to handle. While lowering it, one of the runners (movable stays bracing the mast) had to be slacked away, and its big blocks would be flying round, trying to dash my brains out as I gathered in the mainsail for furling. My main halyard carried away one of the main jumper struts at the top of the mast. I had no lifeline or harness, and nearly fell in.

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