First time with Kate
How would you fancy six days of sailing on a 1908, America's Cup first rule 12 metre.
It was a few years ago when I first saw Kate. She was upside down and the hull planking was being applied. I then saw her upright and her deck was being installed.
Then, in December 2006, I watched her being launched http://www.bymnews.com/february/images/kate-6.jpg
under the shadow of Brimstone Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on St.Kitts West Indies, for she is not truly a 1908 12 metre, but a faithful replica. On her arrival at Port Zante, I was privileged to go aboard. My son Christopher helped owner/builder Philip Walwyn raise the first flag.
When I learnt that there might be space on board for the St.Maarten - St.Martin 2007 Classic Yacht Regatta, I put in my application and found that, as there were no other applicants with better qualifications, I was accepted.
Wednesday 17 January
06:00. Crew mustered on the beach, with sleeping bags, some clothes and, in my case, three 1-litre bottles of Mount Gay Extra Old rum. There was Anthony – of middle eastern extraction; Bruce – a Jamaican; and myself – an Anguillian (one of my many nationalities). We set out in an inflatable of questionable age (to deter the more larceny minded) powered by a 9hp Mercury outboard.
The rest of the crew consisted of owner/captain Philip Walwyn – a Kittitian; Johnny – a Kittitian, who had helped Philip build Kate and James – out from the UK, who had all spent the night aboard.
07:00 All hands to action. No pleasure cruise this, No electric winches, no electric windlass, Philip is a real out and out purist and it was raw manpower all the way.
First up was the jib. Quite easy in the light morning breeze – more about that later. Then up with the main. Two men on the throat and one on the peak. A bit of sweating up (including mine) and it was done. Skipper was considerate enough to bear into the wind to ease the pressure on the sail to allow a bit more sweating. The staysail was next which was relatively easy to haul up.
After the ends of the halyards were tidied up we settled down on the first reach to Nag’s Head in the South East. St Maarten was to the north but, given the wind direction, it was determined that the best course was around Nag’s Head, in the south eastern peninsula and up the Narrows and along the windward side of St. Kitts, rather than the leeward side, and then through the Statia channel.
By mid morning the light morning breeze had increased and we were creaming along under full main. We should have taken in a reef, but ........
I then did a stint on the helm. Using a tiller – no wimpy wheel here. The wind increased and we were running with the rail under and occasionally the top wire of the safety lines. This also resulted in quite a bit of weather helm. It’s amazing how ‘frozen’ your muscles can become when kept continually tensed with quite a load on them. The sail was just plain enjoyable; sunshine, some fluffy white clouds and a moderate to calm sea.
On arrival, we anchored with a great big CQR and a decent sized Fortress the former being bloody heavy and the later being quite maneuverable. The Peg Leg Bar ended our day with a great meal and my drinking an enjoyable Belgian beer with a name somewhat like “Lette Blond”.
Cracking of dawn was only just about to begin and we were all up and wide awake. Kate was being ‘presented’ that evening at the St. Maarten Yacht Club so the first order was to make sure that Kate was clean and tidy; I should say shipshape and Bristol fashion below. The decks were to receive another ‘oiling’.
There were a few items to be picked up at Island Waterworld, the local chandlery and, as I needed a boarding ladder for my own boat, I offered to go in with the dinghy. By the time we got back, after a nice leisurely breakfast on a dockside café, the deck had been almost all oiled. The rest of the chores were finished, without further delay, and it was time for a beer or two.
The St. Maarten Yacht Club is located just inside the lagoon at the Simpson Bay entrance. This entrance is 50’00” wide and has a lifting road bridge. The bridge opens twice a day and we were anchored just outside the entrance. Since Kate is a virtually exact replica, she does not have an engine. This, normally, requires above average seamanship, and sailing through the entrance is not permitted, so the dinghy “Panic Major” was pressed into bow/stern thruster duty and ‘96 Degrees’ a 25-foot Mako, powered by a 225 hp Yamaha, was lashed amidships, to serve as main propulsion. This was crewed by Pascal and Tuesday, who were very, very helpful throughout our stay. At 5:30pm, Kate joined the end of the queue of megayachts, not quite so megayachts and just yachts and proceeded into the lagoon. Loud prolonged cheers from a huge crowd at the Yacht Club greeted Kate. We were taken a bit by surprise, as the presentation was not meant to be until 9:00pm.
The ‘toe killer’ is a lead for the staysail and is positioned in the precise location to result in a mutilated toe; I wore shoes on deck, except in this picture. The rope coiled around the offending item was placed to minimise the hospital expenses for visitors that evening.
The evening was a great success and significant amounts of Heineken and other beers were consumed. The number and size of the megayachts was amazing. They included another classic, the vintage “gentleman’s” yacht Haida G, perhaps better known by her former name of Rosenkavalier.
This morning the bridge opened especially for Kate at 7:30am. The first race was from Simpson Bay to Marigot Bay, but we knew this regatta was really a learning curve. Kate had only been in the water for about five weeks and the crew hadn’t had a chance to sail that much together. In fact, at this point we had only sailed about 80 miles as a team.
The start was just about perfect and Kate got into her stride and creamed away on a reach for Blowing Rock. The wind was supposed to stay in the north. Murphy’s law came into play and it shifted to the north-east.
As Kate rounded Blowing Rock, she then faced an uphill stride and I understand that beating to windward is not a gaff rigged vessel’s best point of sail. Our concentration was also, initially, disturbed by the camera persons, in a helicopter, and numerous power boats on all three days. In the end we came third on corrected time.
That night the swells picked up and rolled in from the North. Kate was subjected to their full force, so sleep was fitful.
Another pre-dawn start aboard, saw morning aerobics comprised of hauling up the CQR and Fortress. We transferred the anchor rode to the stern, so we were able to sail away under control through the maze of yachts.
Start was good but not as good as the first day. A reach to Blowing Rock, then another to the leeward marker buoy, followed by a beat up to Philipsburg. Again the wind did not favour us and we finished in second place.
BBQ lunch was followed by a decision to move the top of the mast forward at 4:00pm. This entailed removing a chock – easier said than done - in the keelson, erecting a number of pulleys and a lot of winching.Led by Philip, everything went smoothly.
Then the Norse fittings, at the end of the stainless steel rigging to the bow sprit, needed to be shortened. Fortunately we were able to use a vice ashore. Two fittings were removed, the cabling shortened and fittings refitted. Work was halted at dusk, which comes down very quickly in the Caribbean. Then the beers set in.
We had heard that the start was 10:00 am, but that was dashed when it was advised that it would be 9:00am as usual.
The cable to the last Norse fitting still needed to be shortened, so again, this time at 6:30am on a Sunday, we set out to use a vice ashore. No time for breakfast.
A fair start saw us again at the front of the pack. We then had to tack, repeatedly, up the coast of St.Maarten to Pelican Rockand it was on one of these tacks that my deck shoes slipped on the recently oiled deck. The fall
was not too great, but was enough to leave a dark 4” diameter black and blue area on my upper thigh.
The adjustment to the mast appeared to help, but it was not enough. There was a short downwind stretch, then a reach back to Simpson Bay. Kate gained ground on the reach, but despite constant attention to sail trimming we were beaten into third place by about a minute.
Another early start. Another hauling of the anchors. Another sweating up of the main, staysail and jib. The sea was fairly calm. We took in a reef and set off homeward bound.
As we passed along the coast, often less than 200 yards off shore, I was reminded of how beautiful the island of St.Kitts really is and how much I take it for granted.
If you ever have the opportunity to sail on a first rule twelve metre yacht, especially Kate, grab it with both hands. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The rum? The crew and guests finished that after the Saturday race.
The Regatta? I experienced a great adventure, of which I have nothing but wonderful memories, and I guess that goes for my fellow crew members.
1906 Twelve Metre : International Yacht Racing Union's rule
For more information
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
WoodenBoat - July/August 2007
More on Kate
I went sailing the first rule 12 metre Kate again.
Despite the festivities, she won and that, of course, meant more festivities.
We left Basseterre, on St.Kitts, Kate’s home port, for the BVI, with a crew comprised of Captain and Owner Philip, a Kittitian, Steve a North American, Bruce a Jamaican, James an Englishman and yours truly an Anguillian.We were to be later described on entry to the BVI as a ‘motley’ crew, but our Capt’n stood up for us.
It was a light wind, so we sailed under full main, stay sail and jib. It was beautiful the afternoon sun the leeward coast of St. Kitts on a West-North-West heading. Then, in the Channel off Sandy Point, we fell into the Brimstone Hill ‘hole’. This is basically the wind shadow of Mount Liamuigia. After a while of sailing through cross seas, swells coming around the North end of St.Kitts and those running west with our direction along with fluky winds we were in clear air again. Passing south of St. Eustatius our next ‘land’ mark was Saba, which we also left on our starboard side, while the wind strengthened.
At about 1:00am, Friday morning, I was again on the helm when a large cruise ship appeared to be chasing us from the East. Fortunately, it turned to the South along with a smaller cruise ship. Kate was singing along, with Steve reading the speed off the GPS, 11.6 knots. . . . . 11.9 . . . . . . .wow, 12.1 knots . . 11.9 . . . . . . 12.1 knots . . 11.9 . . . . . . 12.1 knots . . then we settled back at around 10 knots. The sky was lit up by the cruise ships for a while but then it was down to the stars. The words ‘I must go down to the sea again to the lonely sea and sky and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by’ came to mind.
About 3:00am I settled in my quarter berth and had 3 hours sleep. Although it seemed that I was listening to the water passing along the outside of the hull and the gear creaking in time to the seas.
Mosquitos were not a problem to us in our visit to the BVI and I must let you into a little secret as to why those of us that live this hard life in the tropics do not suffer much from mosquito bites. The reason is two part: First, we drink rum (and other spirits), which virtually fills our blood vessels, thus we have a strong in-house mosquito repellent. Second, we welcome tourists from northern climes. It seems that soft untanned skins together with an ‘off islands’ diet attract mosquitos in droves leaving us, standing in close proximity, untouched. Please come and visit us. However I digress.
West End yacht club in Tortola was extremely welcoming and very complimentary about Kate and the organisers were kind enough to allow Kate - a single master - to sail in the ‘Sweethearts of the Caribbean’ regatta, for schooners.
We started at the downwind end of the start line from Soper’s Hole, skimmed round the East end of Little Thatch out into Sir Francis Drake Channel and, had a short downwind stretch, neck and neck with Heron and a large schooner Taeoo, then rounded Great Thatch and headed out to the next mark Sandy Cay. With Capt’n Philip at helm, from this point on we led the fleet the whole way.
We were shadowed, or is it dogged, by a young lady photographer, from Yachtshotsbvi, who was standing, strapped in by a hip harness, in a mini inflatable dinghy powered by an outboard, with a throttle extension controlled by one hand, while operating a large expensive camera with the other.
At one point she almost became a fixture, so we jettisoned some ballast and tossed her a cold Hieneken.
I must admit that she did take some excellent pictures. Regrettably, I do not have copies at present.
As we approached Sandy Cay, we were advised that the committee had shortened the course due to lighter than expected winds.
We then became becalmed, very close to rocks at Sandy Cay and, while we actually managed to maintain steerage, it was touch and go and Kate has no engine! The rest of fleet also got becalmed, about 30 minutes after us.
One vessel reported that a whale was entering the sound, although we were not fortunate enough to see it.
The wind picked up and, with the editor of a well known boating magazine at the helm, we sped further away, tacked repeatedly up to the finish line at the mouth of Sopers Hole and won by a large margin.
Snap lost her steering, due to a bolt in her steering gear working loose, as she tacked to cross the finish line, which would have given her first in her class. Sadly, she had to be towed back to mooring.
We retired to the Jolly Roger Inn, where we downed many a libation.
You have to avoid dehydration at all costs!
Here we met 76 year old Roger, a friend of Phillip, who had just completed the single handed race in his boat Diva. I’m not sure where he was placed, but there could be hope for me yet.
This well attended establishment was where we were introduced to “Helicopter Gunships” This is best described as a ‘heady’ - one might say bloodthirsty - game involving a bar stool, four lifters, a ‘pilot’ (an innocent) and a ceiling fan, after the consumption of significant amounts of rums/beers. It is not for the fainthearted.
I will leave it, the rules and the operation to your imagination, but will say that Steve (who will try anything at least once) avoided a scalping by the grace of that editor (who again shall remain nameless) of the well known timber boating magazine, who applied sufficient downward force to avoid complete physical ‘contact’.
The regatta Sponsor was Mount Gay Rum.
Naturally, there was a special bar at the Jolly Roger Inn.
Having discovered that for purchasing three Mount Gay Extra Old’s (BVI measures with mixer) at US$5.00 each you received a red T-shirt with the Mount Gay Rum logo and race title emblazoned upon it, we set upon procuring our uniform for the next day’s race.
We needed eight shirts = 2 dozen rums and, after an hour, of relaxed imbibing, we had our uniforms and then some.
We woke to overhear one crew member advising his wife over his ‘Palm’ dohicky that “the Captain wakes us up at ‘zero still dark hundred hours’ and then whips the crew into a frenzy”.
He was nearly keel-hauled for using an electronic device aboard Kate.
Actually, the Captain tended to wake us by ‘accidentally’ fumbling with empty Heineken beer cans, which somehow fell loudly and repeatedly down the companionway.
Resplendent in our ‘uniform’ for the day – red Mount Gay Rum T-shirts and the coveted red Mount Gay cap (offers to purchase them, the night before at the bar ran to US$50.00) – we welcomed His Excellency the Governor of the BVI - a no mean sailor - with a salute and piped him aboard Kate, to honour us by sailing with us, for the race.
The start was the entrance to Soper’s Hole and a bouy near Little Thatch. We were a little late crossing the line, but, as it turned out, that it made the race much more exciting as we were made to chase most of the fleet.
One by one, Kate overhauled them, despite being a gaff rig and not flying a topsail.
Even downwind, it seemed that the spinnakers and gollywobblers were no match for Kate’s ‘barn door’ of a main sail.
I wish I had a copy of the Yachtshotsbvi picture, showing it in all its glory.
His Excellency helmed for nearly half the race, which we won comfortably.
We even had a celebratory beer a mile from the finishing line.
Snap - having repaired her steering - finished second.
That evening, after the prize giving, we held a surprise dinner, at Pussers Landing, for Captain Philip, whose age shall remain unpublished as it is but a number – a high number, but just a number none the less.
He was presented with a gaff rigged boat (as close a model as we could get to Kate) by Steve and I handed over a serious Pusser’s Rum enamel mug - near the bow in picture - which has a capacity approaching in excess of a quart.
Philip is hiding behind the model
We were then introduced, by our ageing Captain, to a drink called a “Rammer”.
I have to admit this really is only for the more seasoned, or should that be the more serious, drinkers! What’s in it, I hear you ask?
First of all the ingredients must be extremely cold, the glass should be ice cold. Each of the measures should be equivalent to UK ‘trebles’ at the very least!
It is also strongly recommended that, if you are going to drink a Rammer, or several, you should go for the highest quality ingredients available.
Drop a couple of ice cubes into the ice cold glass, add one measure (UK treble) of vodka (Grey Goose was the brand to hand) and one measure (UK treble) of gin, we used Tanqueray.
Stir and drink immediately; repeat, as often as necessary.
What does it taste like?
I’ll leave you to find out, but would add that there were no hangovers.
It was flat calm in Sopers Hole. We ‘motored’, with the dinghy strapped to the side, up and round Cooper Island, until the wind started to pick up, with gentle zephyrs, around 11:00 am. (That’s me at the helm.) We had light airs until late afternoon, when the wind increased. It was due to get to 17 knots at dusk and sure enough there was a “All hands on deck” call and we took in a reef.
I cannot understand why the picture, with the moon and Venus is fuzzy, nor why I began to feel slightly queasy – it could not have been the Rammers!
Anyway, I slept for a couple hours, in my very comfortable port quarter berth, and recovered completely. I then clipped on my harness and took my watch and turn at the helm. In the early hours we were guided by the loom of the lights from St.Maarten and then Saba.
While this is the Caribbean with temperatures in the high 70’s at night, I will tell you that sailing at night necessitates wearing a windbreaker rather than a T-shirt.
Mind you there may be some with thick blood amongst you, but this is good advice for those whose blood has been diluted, over the years, by rum and other concoctions.
Ignore it at your peril.
Normally, the sail from the BVI to St.Kitts is a beat. Fortunately, the forecast from Wind Guru came through. The wind shifted to the north and we were on a reach the whole way.
Mid-morning on Tuesday, we picked up the mooring in Basseterre on the first attempt. I must admit that this was due to the skipper being at the helm. Damn, he is good. I would remind you that Kate does not have an ‘iron genny’.
While Capt’n Philip went ashore to clear Immigration and Customs, we stowed the sails and tidied up Kate.
Then we had a beer.
Here’s to the next sail!
If you get the opportunity to sail on a first rule twelve metre yacht, make every effort to take advantage.
It will give you great and long lasting memories to treasure.
It is, totally, different to sailing on a ‘plastic fantastic’.
Kate is available for charter.
Contact 1906 Twelve Metre : International Yacht Racing Union's rule direct, as I have no financial interest in her.
Kate will be at the Antigua Classic sailing week.
Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
for pics of last regatta and previous ones:
she is sweet....
KATE has now been converted to a yawl.
KATE now has a blue hull.
Will take some pics and post them here.
so she was changed to marconi rig?? yipes. wouldnt a yawl stick interfere with the main with the gaff rig--boom is an overhanging boom---.. so she would have had to have been converted to marconi for that--dang-- she was sooo gorgeous with her original rig. more valuable as an historic treasure also, not?
i really enjoy the look and feel of the gaff riggers as they sail...elegant. marconi changes looks and feel of the sailing. am looking forward to seeing how she was done-- she is a beautiful boat no matter what her rig....lines are sweeeeeet...
KATE is still gaff rigged, on Main mast and mizzen mast.
The 46 foot long boom will be no more. That is a relief.
The smaller mainsail and new mizzen will permit much easier handling and offshore sailing.
Overall we expect the boat to be faster with the new rig.
We now need to get experience sailing her with the new rig.
oh, good.. my heart can stillbeat at the sight--is good-- she is a very lovely elegant lady... am looking forward to seeing her new look!!!!!!
long booms can be a major earth shaker..can knock you right off the boat..i got hit in head at age 7 by the boom on my uncles gaff rigged 36 footer--and went back for more-- man, that boom was a pain!!!! but the feel and motion of the gaff rigged boats is so much different-- smoother --than the motion and action of today's sleek marconi rigged plastic babies....
KATE – The transformation November 2010
Kate has now completed her metamorphosis and emerged as a beautiful yawl.
Gone is her bright ‘Fighting Lady’ yellow paint.
Kate now sports a dark blue hull, masts and booms and gaffs.
Yes, Kate now has two gaffs. One on the main and one on the mizzen.
Kate now lies at a massive mooring in Whitehouse bay St.Kitts.
The 46’0” boom has been shortened, cut back and reconfigured/planed with lots of weight removed.
A mizzen mast was fabricated and along with a 14’0” gaff and a boom, were installed in the location of the former lazarette.
The massive ‘barn door’ mainsail was re-cut and a new mizzen sail commissioned.
It was a concern that Kate might lose some of her good looks, but these have been completely unfounded, as once again, Philip Walwyn, Kate’s captain, owner and builder, has excelled in the design and workmanship on Kate’s transformation.
The next question is does she sail worse, the same or better than before?
First, with the reduced size of the boom (now booms) and gaff (now gaffs) the Olympic super heavyweight lifting strength required in hauling up of the sails is now a pleasant activity. Although there is still a bit of grunt required. Take this from one who knows both, before and after the transformation.
Second, with the additional sail, the mizzen, there are a few more lines to tend, halyards, sheets and topping lifts. The mizzen is self-tacking, so only minor trim is required there.
Third, the reduced size of the mainsail and the addition of the mizzen allows easier handling, and Kate is quite a bit easier to gybe and tack. With the original ‘barn door’ mainsail on the 46’0” boom, gybing tended to be avoided where possible. Gybing required tremendous teamwork. Split second timing, especially in higher winds, was required in releasing the back stay, letting the boom swing across, then pulling in and winching up the other backstay. Gybing is now a delight and less stressful. Winching is now a pleasant and relatively easy task.
As to performance, I have only sailed on Kate once since her transformation. That was yesterday, Sunday the 28th November 2010, her first outing. Kate cut a dashing figure through the water, as usual, in 19 knots of wind. That was with one reef in the mainsail and one reef in the mizzen. Only once or twice did we put the leeward rail underwater. For the most part Kate forged along perfectly with the rail a little above water. For sailing under full sail, Kate will probably ideally be best in 10 to 15 knots of wind. Kate also sails well and responsively under jib and mizzen. I think she is much faster.
Kate is still responsive as she always has been to her tiller. Plus, Kate does seem to be quite a bit more maneuverable.
Yesterday, Kate took part in a local regatta with some ‘modern’ yachts. Kate took line honours in her new outfit of sails.
From what I have experienced, Kate certainly enjoys her newfound wings and so does her captain and crew.
Kate has dispelled all fears and continues to be sheer delight to sail. However, I do miss the ‘Fighting Lady’ yellow.
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