After 22 consecutive 10 hour days working on the ‘top secret project’ that’s been keeping me away from Gleda these past few months I really needed a quick re-charge of the batteries. What better way to do it than with a trip to Cornwall to spend some time watching sailing boats.
So for the last two days I’ve been in Falmouth watching the ‘J Class’ yachts racing in the bay.
For those that don’t know the J’s were designed in the 30’s for the Americas Cup. They hadn’t raced in the UK since 1938 and were visiting Falmouth as part of a series of races timed to coincide with the Olympics. For anyone interested in sailing it was an opportunity an opportunity far too good to miss.
Of the 4 only Velsheda can be classed as original, she’s steel hulled whilst the other three are aluminium hulled replicas.
Velsheda was designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in 1933 for Mr W.L. Stephenson, Owner of the Woolworth chain of shops. In her day – around the late 1930’s, she represented the most advanced technical design for spars, rigging, sails, deck gear and ropes. Her masts were Aluminium, made by bending plates and riveting them together. Sails were made from the then new Terylene threads and deck gear included winches for easier handling of sheets. She had a short career though and by 1937 she was laid up in a mud berth on the Hamble and became derelict.
Thankfully this historic yacht was rescued in 1984 by a fellow by the name of Terry Brabant, who refitted her for charter work. Even without an engine she sailed regularly along the UK South Coast on and occasionally ventured to the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Once again though she ended up laid up and moored at Gosport in 1995/6.
In 1996 she was purchased as a bare hull and taken to Southampton Yacht Services, on the River Itchen where a two year comprehensive rebuild was completed to bring her back into immaculate racing condition. She was fitted with the tallest one piece carbon mast in the world and a comprehensive suit of racing sails were produced, developed from wind tunnel testing at Southampton University. She was re-launched in November 1997.
She’s now owned by the Dutch businessman Ronald de Waal. He also owns ‘Bystander’ which could be seen on the pontoons at Port Pendennis. She’s a beauty in her own right and acts as ‘support boat’ to Velsheda. Check her out HERE
Until you see these boats on the water its impossible to grasp just how big they are but here are a few stats for starters:
Displacement: 143 tons, Overall Length 39.4m (129 ft), Beam 6.55m (21ft), Draught 4.57m (15ft), Mast Height 53m (174ft), Sail Area 1738 m2 (18,700 sq ft)
Interestingly Gleda can beat one of those stats, a Tiki 38 is just slightly wider on the beam at 6.7m (22ft) !
Now look at my photo of the start. Look carefully at the spectator fleet and you’ll see some respectable sized cruising boats out there which will help scale things.
The other thing that really can’t be understood without seeing them under full sail is just how utterly gorgeous these boats are. The lines, the sail shape are perfect, just breathtaking. Its impossible to reconcile how such incredible power can be matched with such incredible beauty. There cannot be any other vessels afloat that even come close. This photo is of Ranger beating past St Anthony Head into a SW 3/4
Sadly the spectacle was all but wiped out on day two of our trip due to a persistant sea fog that rolled into the bay. Amazingly the boats raced none the less but all we could see from the shore were tantalising glimpses of these ghosts of the past, frustrating but at the same time eerily atmospheric.
So all in all a very memorable trip and I’m now back for the last 3 week stint on my ‘top secret’ project after which I’m back down to Cornwall for a proper 2 week break. That means it will be August before I start to get Gleda back on track and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m also itching to tell you more about what I’ve been working on but I’m sworn to secrecy right now.
Watch this space, I’ll be back soon!