Sailing overseas 2001 to 2003
In 1977 I was fortunate to be the manager of the Gretel 2 Challenge for the Americas Cup. More about 1977 in a later blog. This gave me the opportunity to return to Newport Rhode Island on several occasions mainly to participate in the New York Yacht Club Cruise. The 2002 cruise was in Maine, a beautiful part of the world. My son William did some sailing in the UK and the US in the early 2000’s.
In 2002 I joined him in Maine aboard a Beneteau 47 ‘Sonnenschien’ and this is what he wrote about the Maine Cruise and a trip to St Malo, France.
New York Yacht Club Cruise 2002
So what is it like sailing the East Coast of America with the New York Yacht
Club? Will Manning joined the 2002 NYYC Annual Cruise in Maine and has
brought back some stories for those who can handle the truth.
Glen Forster had been told by his doctor not to race, and as he was lifted aboard his 5.5 meter class sailing boat the effects of the kymo therapy he had endured were evident. Glen had terminal cancer, but he had one more thing left to do.
Starting the race on port tack, Glen crossed in front of the other experienced competitors, establishing his place as the leading boat. Glen Forster maintained this position till the end, dying 14 days after winning the world 5.5 meter championship.
As I sat at dusk, eyeing the fading green of the Maine foreshore and listening to veteran sailor Gordon Ingate tell this story, I reflected on how important sailing was to Glen. It is this passion, comprised of†companionship and competition that had brought our crew from around the globe to sail.
And so our crew assembled in Camden, Maine on the 10th August to race the 2002 New York Yacht Club Cruise. Fresh from Helsinki, after†gaining a place in†the International 5.5 meter championships in the boat once owned by his friend Glen Forster, Gordon Ingate had chartered 'Sonnenschein' a J 46, for his 21st cruise with the NYYC. But to explain properly I really must start at the beginning: Americas Cup 1977.
When I was just one year old, the 12 Meter, Gretel II travelled to Newport, R.I. to challenge for the Americas Cup, taking with her my father as team manager and Gordon as owner/skipper. As history will tell it was another six years before Australia II returned to our shore with the Cup. However, in 1977 this ‘Dad’s Army’ crew won the support of wealthy Newport Personality and sailing patron Tom (Bubba) Claggett. In doing so they formed friendships that continue
today, spanning three generations. We sailed this year with friends from the 1977 challenge, in memory of Bubba, who passed away before the cruise. Ex-Courageous crew member Dick Enersen, Bubba’s daughter July McLennan and Sonnenshein skipper Gordon Ingate.
Now the term 'tender' is used in Australian yachting circles to refer to a small boat (usually a dinghy or inflatable runabout) used for getting from ship to shore. For the members of the New York Yacht Club, the term 'tender' is used to describe the motor yachts of over 90 foot which carry the non-racing cruise goers by day, and provide a venue for cocktail parties and accommodation in the evening. Our team for the cruise was aboard Sonnenshein and tender, Independence.
Small-peaked skippers caps, double-breasted boat coats (often worn over a polo shirt), trademark reddy-pink trousers and worn-in docksiders were the dress code for members of the NYYC. Impeccably polite and generally very interesting, many members have a family history that intercepts the lives of Americaís most influential characters. Their legacy to the past becomes evident in the condition and content around the summer houses of Maine. As my father put it
“You can see they never have to buy furniture, all this stuff is hundreds of years old and it gets passed down from generation to generation.”
The new boats are designed to look like the old ones, and the old ones are in better condition now than the day they were first launched. There was also no shortage of celebrity racers attending the week’s sailing either including Dennis Connor aboard his new 50 footer also named Stars & Stripes.
The cruise fleet included an impressive collection of pristine classic yachts. Rendezvousing with the fleet of 108 boats was in itself an experience. There was a cruise briefing for all skippers held in a private boatshed followed by cocktails at a summer house which belonged to one of the members. At the designated hour, we headed ashore to join around 600 cruise-goers for drinks on the front lawn, which flowed to the waters edge. The house itself was built on its own island and resembled those described in the famous novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. Cocktails on the first night at the Summer house at Guylkey's Harbour. The still waters and largely untouched forshore of Maine.
Back on board Sonnenschein, the light winds, ‘Maine fog’ and on occasion, the previous nights festivities hindered our race results. One lasting memory involves negotiating our way through the thickest fog imaginable. I was perched on the bow as look-out for other yachts and to guide our path
through literally thousands of lobster pots that cluster often eight foot apart. Fog horns were audible through the soup. First a “beep” from astern could be heard, then from starboard a discordant trio of “honk’s and finally a deep ominous drone that appeared to be closing in on our port. The foredeck crew shared some nervous glances as the 1915
built, 120 foot schooner Mariette emerged no farther that one hundred feet to port under full sail. On board Mariette, a call came out from the bowsprit, which was relayed to the for-mast and back to the helm. Sheets groaned through massive wooden blocks as she passed aft of Sonnenscheiní. Then as quickly as she had appeared, Marriette faded, indistinguishable into white fog.
In addition to Mariette, the 1930’s J-boat Endeavour, classic 12 meters and numerous yawls
and sloops provided a breathtaking backdrop to our racing week. Amongst the more modern yachts, a severe collision left one Farr 40 with a meter wide hole amidships, precariously close to the waterline. The protest committee later placed responsibility for the accident on the owner's wife, who was at the helm. The owner of another Farr 40 Solution displayed some impressive colour co-ordination by painting the yacht, his 120 foot 'tender' Affinity and 25 foot runabout all in white and British racing Green.
Mariette at anchor with her tender Mariette and Endeavour, the two largest yachts in the fleet sailing to the starting line. Matching paintwork. Farr 40í Solution and her tender Affinity.Despite a crew including four Americas Cup veterans,
and countless years of experience behind us, it was notable that we did not perform better in the cruise. As we found ourselves becalmed all too often, more suggestions were voiced and too many sail changes were made. At one point, the spinnaker halyard became caught up the mast. Quickly I was hoisted to fix the problem, along with our No, 1. Genoa for good measure. From my lofty vantage I could hear orders shouted in all directions. ‘William, what the hell are you doing up there? Get down here now!’ shouted Gordon to which I replied that “I would, if someone would let me down!” As the cruise drew to a close, we said some fond goodbyes to new and old friends and prepared to return Sonnenschein to her owner. For the journey home, my father had diligently plotted a course through narrow channels and submerged rocks between Camden and Portsmouth. This was not altogether necessary as Gordon exclaimed, ‘Portsmouth? Jesus Billy, its Port-land! We don’t want to go to bloody Portsmouth!’ Our trip was now cut down to about 60 miles.
So, I appointed myself navigator for the delivery and as we headed out into the morning rain, I switched on the G.P.S and radar and consulted a series of six maps. The experience taught me a valuable lesson about navigation. That it is a lot warmer down at the nav desk than it is on deck steering the boat!
On the 2nd of May a crew from the ‘Royal Southern Yacht Club’ in Hamble, U.K. set off to from the city of St Malo in France to once again wage war on the nautically inclined members of the ‘Yacht Club Dinard’. Your humble Foreign Correspondent, affectionately known as the ‘Hitch-hiking Kangaroo’ dutifully went along for the festivities.
St Malo is A 15th century town located on the North Coast of France, the beautifully restored
walled part of the city was originally constructed to keep the English invaders out. Ironically, it is the same architecture that now draws the Brits back to this picturesque area of France.
Upon arrival (Sat 08:00hrs) our landing party made the twenty minute drive to the Dinard sailing H.Q. for a continental breakfast, briefing and to be allocated to one of six sailing boats for a casual race inside a nearby tidal lock. Upon meeting our hosts, I was surprised to find that many of our English team not only understood, but appeared to be quite fluent in the ‘parle vous France' department. As a young boy growing up in Sydney, French lessons had always seemed purely academic until you find yourself racing a boat with Frenchmen.
Our hosts offered not only their hospitality and homes for us to stay in, but encouraged us to take the helm of their often rather unorthodox yachts. Our allocated boat was called Pollen, no more that 30’ in length with two rudders, two dagger-boards in place of a keel, a retractable bow-sprit and six-hundred litres of water ballast. Sailing Pollen to windward was an interesting experience, as the raising and lowering of the dagger-boards had to be well timed to avoid sending the boat sliding directly downwind. Our Saturday race course took the fleet from the lock, upstream five miles then back to a riverside resteraunt where we diligently sampled the local food and wines in the European Spring Sun. Our fleet, clustered into a tidal lock at the entrance to the river.
The tidal range at the Yacht Club Dinard is around twelve meters. Far beyond the two meter king tides of Sydney Harbour, so tidal locks are nessesary to access most of the marinas and sailable rivers. We managed to cram our entire fleet and some other boats into this small area, to the delight of onlookers. After the day’s sailing, we were treated to a traditional French meal served with plenty of Chablis and Medoc at the Yacht club. Even our English team members were quick to comment on the excellent standard of food and wine in France.
Sunday was spent match racing aboard J 80’s and a new type of sports boat called Speedfeet 18’s. After 10 races, swapping boats each time, we finally emerged victorious to win the regatta. The
trophy was of all things, the ensign flown by the commander of the British Navy in the Falklands War, complete with stains from the battle smoke. Reaching home for the Clubhouse having won
the Royal Southern/Yacht Club Dinard annual match racing regatta aboard a Speedfeet 18.
Sunday evening entertainment continued after the race with a visit to Chateau Malo, owned by Jean-Louis Fabry long time member of the Yacht Club Dinard. The main house was built by a wealthy pirate in the seventeenth century and had been restored into a glorious country residence surrounded by roses which are cultured on a large scale for local florists. Chateau Malo, owned by Jean-Louis Fabry, long time member of the Yacht Club Dinard. By Monday morning, it was time to embark the Channel ferry for the journey home. To my surprise, drinks on the aft deck aboard the ferry Bretagne were interrupted by an offer to join the captain on the bridge. I jumped at the chance, but was overwhelmed when the watch captain happily offered me his cap, and the helm for this shot. Standing 11 stories above the water, I dare say I will never helm a larger boat in my entire life.
Sunday evening was spent on a slow train back to London Waterloo station slipping through the turnstiles at 10:30pm I took the escalators back to city life for another week with smell the sea salt still on my clothes, knowing you can have the best of both worlds.