SAILING – Tall ships
After World War II, tall ships were a dying breed, having lost out to steam-powered ships several decades before. It was a retired solicitor from London, Bernard Morgan, who first dreamed up the idea of bringing young cadets and seamen under training together from around the world to participate in a friendly competition. The Portuguese Ambassador to the UK, Pedro Teotónio Pereira, was a big supporter of this original idea and believed that such a race would bring together the youth of the world’s seafaring peoples. These two figures started discussions in 1953 and three years later they saw their vision become a reality. The first Tall Ships’ race was held in 1956. It was a race of 20 of the world’s remaining large sailing ships. The race was from Torquay, Devon to Lisbon, and was meant to be a last farewell to the era of the great sailing ships. Public interest was so intense, however, that race organizers founded the Sail Training International association to direct the planning of future events. Since then Tall Ships’ Races have occurred annually in various parts of the world, with millions of spectators. Today, the race attracts more than a hundred ships, among these some of the largest sailing ships in existence, like the Portuguese Sagres. The 50th Anniversary Tall Ships’ Races took place during July and August 2006 and was started by the patron, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who also started the first race in 1956.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
The smaller boats begin the race first, but are quickly caught by the high fliers.
The Tall Ships races and regattas have become so popular that when the annual event is at a major port the committee is receiving over 100 applications to enter. Needless to say, I would not be able to post them all at the same time, so I propose to rotate these three photographs on a monthly basis.
The Amerigo Vespucci will remain as the lead photograph as this classic Italian Ship-of-the-line was a leader in re-establishing sail to the world. A ship of the line, by the way, is a warship designed and built for that one purpose.
It wouldn’t be polite to have any article on sailing without at least mentioning the J Class offshore racer. Whilst it is not a tall ship (not enough masts) it is certainly a classic and a boat I hold dear to my heart. It was really the precursor of the Americas Cup and design of preference until the committee decided to eliminate the sailing aspect in favour of speed. A sad, sad day.
Pure yacht racing, the helmsman needs to keep one eye on the flag!
Prelude to a disaster.
“Avast ye Muppets, ye pulled the wrong rope again………….”
Clipper – steel hull, narrow beam and fast.
A bit of nostalgia from 1902
A 7-masted schooner built in the USA for the East Coast coal trade in 1902.
Sevenmasted schooner ‘Thomas W. Lawson’.
This was the biggest “pure” sailing ship (i.e., without an auxiliary engine) ever built. She was lost on 1907-12-14 in British waters at Hellweather’s Reef, near the Isles of Scilly, killing sixteen of the eighteen persons on board (fifteen crew and the pilot) and causing the first known major oil spill.
This photograph was taken in 1906 or 1907. See en:Thomas W. Lawson (ship) and/or de:Thomas W. Lawson: The Lawson’s hull was painted in bright colours when launched, but later the hull was painted black. Her topmasts were taken off by 1903. She was not completely re-rigged before 1906.
As the Lawson did not leave America’s East coast before her last voyage, this photograph must have been made there (probably in Boston, North America). Furthermore, for her extraordinary draft when loaded, one might be able to further reduce the possibilities for the location of this scene.
At http://history.vineyard.net/photos/vh10/V105702.HTM, another (and less cropped) print from the same negative is shown which has, according to the webpage, a hand-written note Thomas M. Lawson / Boston Harbor 1911 on its backside. As the city’s skyline is more distinct on that other print, it might be checked whether “Boston” is correct. The date 1911 and the name Thomas M. Lawson definitely are not.
Date between 1906 and 1907 – Courtesy of Wikipedia
When I was at Grammer school in the UK my thoughts on my future progression was to become a Naval Architect, ships and sailing being my main hobby. My aunt warned me that I would need to join the Navy and commit to a nine-year sentence. Consequently, my father had set me up to follow the family line (all expenses paid, plus a tidy sum for personal expenses). So, I went to Sandhurst Military Academy and became a Cadet Officer graduating as a junior cavalry officer. However, my love for sailing remained firmly entrenched in my mind. This will be the subject of a blog at a later date. The reason I raise this now is that my daughter-in-law sent me the photo you see above. My spidy senses made the hair on my neck bristle and I knew that the design was not only foolish but also totally impractical for the purpose. Designed to carry 11,000 tonnes of coal from Europe and drop off at East Coast ports in the USA just wouldn’t work for any more than the 3 major ports along that coastline. The manifest had to be dropped to 7,400 tonnes adding uneconomic to the list of flaws. The rig and sheer size of the boat would make it very difficult to handle in rolling, short seas and winds above 15 – 20 knots, which was proved when she grounded and sank off the Scilly Isles , even with a local Pilot aboard. With rescue attempts underway the loss of life was 15 souls and only two survivors. Cruel sea and/or inexperienced designers?
What we call ‘light airs’…….. and rough seas, thank God for our lighthouses.
The future for Tall Ships
We, that is the old folk like me, have seen the demise of the angels of the seas in the name of speed (or profit if you prefer) and now we are coming full circle due to the abuse of that very decision. Not only are we running out of fuel resources but we are also destroying the planet by polluting our precious atmosphere. We should have seen this coming when we still had some control (or consciousness). I learned from an old man in Africa, “We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children.”
Is this back to the future? In this case, a Cruising liner using sail as an alternative or supplement to the diesel engines.
Various attempts to add sail as an auxiliary propulsion system; in the first two pictures these are rotating sails, and the final picture is an experimental craft that mechanically rotates and adjusts the mast, booms and sails to suit the relevant conditions and skipper’s requirements.
There are a good many of these types of mixed propulsion ships, mainly operating in the leisure industry, but commerce is starting to investigate the benefits of sail v’s fossil fuel on cost per tonne transported.
Viking Polaris on an Antarctic Cruise December 2022 was struck by a rogue wave killing one passenger and injuring 5 others. Even the biggest are not immune to the raw power of water.
The Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race is one of the toughest races in the world and generally attracts around 100 entries. The 69th race in 2013 was a unique experience for the 94 entrants, of which only 84 completed the course due to a “weather bomb” unexpectedly striking the fleet in the Bass Straight. As the fleet left Sydney Habour the organisers issued a late weather warning to expect 60-knot winds and 12-meter swells. For many it raised the specter of 1998 when six sailors lost their lives and 55 sailors had to be rescued from their boats or the water, 5 boats sank and 7 were lost, the worst disaster in the race’s long and proud history. Of the 115 entrants, only 44 completed the course.
Having achieved this remarkable adventure, including 7 knockdowns and 210 days at sea alone, she then set her sights on the Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race. After a few practice runs, crewing for others, she Skippered a youth crew to second place in their Division and was awarded the Jane Tate Trophy for the first female skipper. Named ‘Young Australian of the year’ in 2011 she also received the ‘Order of Australia Medal’. Having been called a hero by the then Prime Minister of Australia, she retorted, “I don’t consider myself a hero, just an ordinary person who had a dream, worked hard at it and proved that anything is really possible”.
Lighthouses around the world –
It is hard to imagine that less than a hundred years ago all these lights were maintained by a crew of two. All automated now of course, except a few lights on the mainland. Every light has its own individual code so it can be identified on charts.
Round the “Rock” was my first experience of ocean racing as cabin boy on Arthur Slater’s Prospect of Whitby. That was before the bug really got him and he had a specifically designed racing yacht called Prospect of Whitby 1 for the Sydney to Hobart race. He kept his 60-foot ketch, renamed her Prospect of Whitby II, retained the skipper, engineer and me so we got to sail her quite a bit and once a year, take her to Tenerife or the Med where the boat and crew kept her and I was flown home all expenses paid until come autumn and it was time to fly back and help bring her home. Quite an honour for a 14 year old and an incredible experience I will never forget, especially RoW in the Bay of Biscay. It was a cold fog, no wind and we were motoring at about 5 knots in the dark, damp mist when I heard the thump, thump, thump of a big diesel engine getting closer. I made sure the radar reflector was up and all navigation lights were on. Our radar showed me a large blob moving quite quickly directly astern and catching us fast. He will see us soon, I told myself. The thumps got louder and I began to dither, what to do? I gave three long blasts on the fog horn and fired up the main searchlight. The engineer’s head appeared out of the hatch first, “What’s up son?” Before I could answer, the skipper shot out of the hatch, pushed me away from the wheel, turned hard to port and wound up the throttle to max and yelled “hold on”. Not a minute later this great black wall of a fully laden oil tanker making about 12 knots passed us with less than 50 meters to spare. The bow wave pushed us further away and as the bridge of the tanker came into view we could clearly see there was no one on watch. Right of way power gives way to sail in all circumstances. Roy, the skipper radioed the incident and gave the details to Maritime monitoring. I got a pat on the back and my very first tot of rum to stop me from shaking.