The yachts , the events, the people

The yachts, the events, the people

Andrew McMeekin

There cannot be many people alive today who witnessed the glamour, splendour and sportsmanship of the yachting scene before 1920; those who did witness the events could never forget the sight of the graceful metre yachts with their enormous cream coloured sails, long overhanging booms and the immaculate turnout of both yachts and crews. I thank Yachting Monthly for photocopies from their archives.

The London Conference met in two sessions, January and June 1906, to draw up a new International Rule for yacht racing. The main object was to encourage building of seaworthy yachts with similar specifications so that no handicap system was needed. The member nations who met in London formed a committee who later met again in Berlin on 18th, 19th and 20th October in order to decide upon instructions to measurers – the men who would ensure that all competing yachts adhered to the new rule.

The German Deutscher Segler Verband had a large number of existing yachts in the old classes, and they voted to delay the acceptance of the new rule until 1st January 1908 in order the give their designers and builders more time to adapt their resources; the remaining national representatives agreed, after lengthy discussion, to adopt the new rule on 1st January 1907. The committee consisted of the following persons, all of whom were respected authorities in the world of yachting: Mr. Augustus Manning (Chairman); Mr. Alfred Benzon (Denmark); Professor Busley (Germany); M. Le Bret (France); Mr W. P. Burton (England) and Mr. Heckstall-Smith (Secretary).

They avoided any margin of error in their draft instructions; each country appointed its own official measurers, and certificates of rating were issued by each country’s national association

The use of hollow metal masts was prohibited – even Lloyd’s found it difficult to devise a scantling for metal masts without having to make new rules for rigging and shrouds; yachtsmen themselves were in favour of outlawing hollow masts – even in wood – so hollow masts were banned in entirety. The committee, obviously accustomed to the cutter rig, at first assumed that all of the metre classes would be cutter rigged, but soon had to change their minds when it was pointed out that the sloop rig was finding favour in the smaller classes. Yachts over 23 metres were discussed and were given the title "A-class". The committee was required to frame special conditions, for the A-class were schooners and yawls only, and were given racing time allowances – a simple scale of 4 seconds per metre of rating per nautical mile.

The question of scantlings was fully dealt with, the classification "R" being adopted by Lloyd’s in Great Britain, Germanischen Lloyd and Bureau Veritas. At the end of their task the committee proceeded to the Imperial Palace at Potsdam, and on 21st October were received by the Kaiser. The Emperor had been following the committee’s proceedings with interest, and he complimented them on their success. Although intended as a ten year rule, the First Rule was not amended and revised until 1919, when the Second Rule was adopted in Europe. This lasted until 1933.

It is a fact that most yachtsmen begin a sailing life in small craft, progressing through stages to larger vessels as they gain in experience. This was not the way that Mrs Turner Farley brought up her daughter when she introduced her to sailing in 1904. Living on the coast of Cornwall, Mrs Turner Farley taught her daughter to sail their 36 ton yawl ‘NEBULA’. Sensing her daughter’s enthusiasm, Mrs Turner-Farley commissioned Herreshof to design and build for her a cutter, the 15-metre yacht ‘SONYA’. With SONYA, the Turner-Farleys competed against yachts such as MOYANA, MAYMON and BRITOMART – and later, the Mylne-designed MA’OONA, then owned by Almeric Paget, MP. It is not known what prompted Miss Turner-Farley to commission Alfred Mylne to design a 6-metre yacht for her – perhaps she had much respect for the designer of her old adversaries in the 15-metre class, but she had made many friends amongst the racing men in the 6-metre class. In any event, Mylne designed the 6-metre, and McAllister of Dumbarton, Scotland, built it. It was named ‘CORRENZIA’, and was launched in May 1909. The new owner had immediate success with the boat in the Solent, then paid a fleeting visit to the River Crouch for 1909 Burnham Week. The competition amongst the 6-metre fleet at Burnham was far greater than the Solent – Burnham had quite a large fleet of sixes by then – yet this young girl from Cornwall won her first East Coast race that year, beating some very experienced skippers (including both my grandfather and my great uncle).My late grandfather often raced against her in his ‘six’, first in GIPTA, then in GYPAETOS at Kiel, Havre and Ostende; it was at Ostende that Miss T. Farley joined 15 other sixes on the starting line and handsomely beat them all. Truly, a great sportswoman.

The Sailing Olympics in 1908 were held off the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and the courses were sailed by yachts in the 6, 7 and 8-metre classes; the 12-metre class races were to be held in the Clyde, in Scotland, as the only entrants for this class were Scottish based yachts. Under the Olympic Rules only two yachts of the same nationality were allowed to complete in each class.In the smallest metre class, the 6-metres, the entrants were: SIBINDI and DORMY (Britain), ZUT (Belgium), GUYONI (France) and FREJA (Sweden). Each class would race three days in succession over a course of 12 miles.

On the first day SIBINDI was first over the starting line, with the other close behind, but after the first buoy DORMY took the lead followed by the rest of the fleet which blanketed SIBINDI. DORMY finished her first round with 2 minutes lead over GUYONI, increasing her lead over the second round to the finishing line. The next day’s race was farcical, with the light wind fluking, and favouring first one boat then another, but DORMY had the best of a 3 mile sprint home, leading GUYONI by 32s. The third day’s conditions were similar, but the winds were even lighter than before, the fleet taking several minutes to leave the starting line. But it was ZUT who took the lead, holding it to the end, in front of GUYONI and DORMY.

Gold medal: DORMY (GB), Designer: G U Laws. Builder: Burnham YB Co. Ltd. Owner: T D McMeekin.

Silver medal: GUYONI (France) Designer: Guedon-Delaney. Builder: Stribeau. Owner: R. Delagrave.

Bronze medal: ZUT (Belg.) Designer: Linton Hope. Builder: Hart, Harden & Co. Owner: R Osterreich.

4th place: SIBINDI (GB), Designer: Alfred Mylne. Builder: F G Maynard, Chiswick. Owner: J W Leuchars.

5th place: FREJA (Swe) Designer: A Andersson. Builder: Hastholms vft. Owner: Royal Swedish YC.
The 7-metre class had only one entrant, Britain’s HEROINE, sailing over. HEROINE (Britain) Designer: J. E. Odgers. Builder: J G Fay, Southampton. Owner: C Rivett-Carnac.

The 8-metre class had five entrants, the British entrants SORAIS and COBWEB taking the initial lead in the first race. They were passed by FRAM (Norway), but places kept changing during the second leg of the course, COBWEB winning from SORAIS, then FRAM, followed by SAGA and VINGA (Sweden). On the second day winds were very light indeed, but the yachts ghosted around the course and by the finish it was COBWEB in front followed by FRAM then SORAIS.

Day 3 again promised light winds, but at the close of the match a breeze sprang up; VINGA took a different course over a flow tide, crossing the line first, 4 minutes ahead of SORAIS, then FRAM, COBWEB and SAGA.

Gold medal: COBWEB (Britain), Designer: W Fife. Builders: Fife, Fairlie. Owner: Blair Cochrane.

Silver medal: VINGA (Sweden) Designer: C. D. Liljegren. Builder: Angholmens bf. Owner: Royal Gothenburg YC.

Bronze medal: SORAIS (Britain). Designer: W Fife. Builder: Fife, Fairlie. Owner: Duchess of Westminster.

4th.: FRAM (Norway). Designer: J. Anker. Builder: Anker & Jensen. Owner: C Wisbech.

5th.: SAGA (Sweden). Designer: K. Ljungberg. Builder: Hastholmens bf. Owner: Royal Swedish YC.
The 12 metre races. Five 12-metre yachts competed at the trials: ALACHIE (Fife), MOUCHETTE and NARGIE (Mylne), HEATHERBELL and HERA (Glen-Coats). HERA and MOUCHETTE were chosen. HERA’s crew were native Scots, the crew of MOUCHETTE were from Liverpool – so no-one could say that as English and Scottish yachts were competing, the 12-metre races were not international! The course was two laps of a 13 mile circuit, total 26 miles. The winds fwere steady and strong. HERA got ahead with MOUCHETTE pressing her hard, and at the end of the first round HERA was only seconds in front. Both yachts then had to make more than 30 short tacks on one leg within very few minutes…. HERA won, also winning the second race by 62 seconds.

Gold medal: HERA. Designer: Glen-Coats. Builder: McAllister, Dumbarton. Owner: T.C. Glen Coats.

Silver medal: MOUCHETTE (Britain). Designer: A Mylne. Builder: McAllister, Dumbarton. Owner: C. MacIver