The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall

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The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall

The June 2009 edition of the NMMC journal Troze is now online and and is packed with gems from the history of yachting.

The article in question is titled The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall and is written by yachtsman and retired clinical psychologist Mike Bender.

Here are some quotations I particularly enjoyed. From the beginnings of yachting:

‘In the reign of Elizabeth I, Richard Ferris decided it would be a atriotic act to show that no Englishman need be afraid of sailing in home waters after the Armada had been defeated in 1588. In 1590, with two companions, he rowed and sailed in a wherry from London to Bristol. He was not molested by the Spaniards but had to take evasive action near Land’s End to avoid a pirate ship.’

That’s a great story, if I ever heard one. Writing of the Corinthian generation of yachtsmen in their small wooden boats in the late 19th Century, Bender concludes:

‘What is interesting in these texts is that they are usually little more than expanded logs and journals, so it must have been the novelty of these passages that made them of such great interest to the contemporary reader, combined with the use of lithographs which invariably show the boat being pitched around in rough seas going round some suitably perpendicular headland. This Romantic imagery obviously appealed to the dreamer in the reader; but there is a self-denying, almost self-flagellating quality, in the self-chosen tussle with the sea in which the sailor engages.’

On women, he writes:

‘There was a long period of resistance before the First World War towards accepting women into yachting and yacht clubs. Sailing by women was feared for giving too much leeway for the dress and freedom of bodily movement required (and hence, being sexually arousing); and as a statement of equality or independence.’

And on the importance of recording the recent past:

‘There is also a certain urgency… If no-one looks for or after them, the historical records of those pre-GRP, pre-GPS endeavours – the accounts, the letters, the contracts, the tools – will soon be lost; and if no-one is interested in taking down the accounts of the sailors who used them, and getting them published in one of the many forms now available, they will take their experiences to the grave, and we will be the poorer thereby.’

This article is well worth reading. Find it here.

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