Tag Archives: racing yacht

1885 classic Mary, ex-Vanity, needs someone to save her!

Boatbuilder Mark Rolt of Bristol Classic Boat Company has written to say that the 1885-built 60ft classic yacht Mary, ex-Vanity, is in urgent need of re-housing and restoration – for otherwise she is certain to be cut up within the next few weeks. The photos above show her in her heyday.

She is one of three similar yachts remaining, the other two of which are Partridge, and Marigold, both of which have been restored and are racing in the Mediterranean. It’s Mark’s firm hope that someone will feel it is time to rescue this astonishing boat from certain destruction.

She was built as Mary at William Black’s in Southampton, Dan Hatcher’s old yard, in 1885 and 1886, for Sir William Romilly, who was later Attorney General, who gave it as a 21st birthday present to his son John Gaspard le Marchant Romilly, (who was usually called Cosmo). She cost 1300 guineas.

Built to Lloyds A1 100 18+ spec, the highest possible at that time, her timber was seasoned for at least 18 years.

She was coppered and was pitch pine below the water and teak above on doubled 4×4 oak frames. She raced very successfully under the Class C category, but the rules were changed in, I think, 1892, at which point she became a cruising yacht.

At present she is in a derelict hauling yard, next door to Mark’s boatyard, where she has been since about 1989, when she was sold at auction by Sotherby’s, and delivered from Canvey Island to Bristol for storage, while the owner decided what to do. He then sold it to my colleague and friend, the late Brian Cumby, who then offered her to Mark.

Mark says that she will need a major rebuild. He’s proposing to sell her for a penny to anyone willing to have us restore her, and reckons that bringing her back to her former glory would cost in the region of £1,250,000-1,500,000.

He believes passionately in preserving boats of this kind and is very, very keen to have the opportunity, not only to restore Mary
but also to train apprentices in the craft of shipwrighting through dismantling and restoring the magnificent old boat. As he says, everyone involved, young and old, can learn old tricks and methods, some of which may have died with the shipwright who performed them.

As Mark says, please forward this post on to any one that you know who may be fired-up by the idea of owning and sailing one of Britain’s first class Victorian yachts, privately or corporately.


Paul Mullings goes racing in New Zealand on board the Logan-built Ethel

New Zealand-based regular reader and contributor Paul Mullings has been sailing, and has quite a story to tell.

The photos, which are used here with permission, come from the excellent waitematawoodys.com.

Here’s what Paul has to say:

‘Every last weekend in January, Auckland celebrates her birthday with a long weekend of events culminating in the Anniversary Regatta, and this year the young town reach the grand age of 175.

‘Auckland’s harbour side location has fostered a love affair with the sea among locals; with more boats per capita than any other city in the world, there are so many yachts dotted around the harbour that the city is nicknamed the ‘City of Sails’.

‘During the Anniversary Weekend regatta local yachties have an annual Friday Mahurangi Night Passage Race, and dthen on arrival take part in the following day’s Mahurangi Regatta – all before racing back to Auckland to take part in the Anniversary Day Regatta itself… phew!

‘The 48 ft cutter-rigged yawl Ethel was built by Logan Brothers in 1897 for Herbert Dawson, who owned and farmed Mercury Island, which lies to the east of the Coromandel peninsula.

‘He used her for carrying supplies to the island and wool and stock to the coast. She was therefore more generous in beam than most yachts of her time, which proved useful when she was later used for racing on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour during the early part of the 20th century.

‘Roll forward one hundred years or so and Ethel lies unloved ashore and in urgent need of massive restoration. Fortunately two friends, Keith Munro and Kevin Ebbitt, both lovers of traditional boats stepped in, and after two years of restoration she was relaunched in October 2013 in a condition that probably was better than that of her original launch. Fortunately, there are enough people with the enthusiasm, skills, dedication and deep pockets to ensure that many of our heritage yachts and launches are restored and continue to ply the waters they were built for.

‘It’s a thrilling thing to sail on a living piece of nautical history, knowing that a century ago she was forging the same furrow across the same piece of water, and to know that the brilliance of the Logan Brothers is as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

Ethel has been restored to reflect her former racing days with wooden spars,blocks and endless miles of rope to service the many halyards and sheets… and definitely no winches!

‘This year’s night race was plagued with light headwinds, which gave us a challenging 22.5-mile beat against a flooding tide. These are not the ideal conditions for Ethel: starting at 1500h we finally crossed the finish line in the dark at 2200h! Oh well there’s always tomorrow…

‘Waking on a boat is always a wonderful thing, but especially when you emerge to a summer vista of brilliant blue sky and a sea dotted with many classic yachts and launches. I looked around and though ‘the clan has gathered’.

‘The regatta course takes in a harbour start with two laps around Te Haupa Island, which keeps the fleet close-in, and that provides  a fantastic spectacle ashore.

‘A mass start calls for cool nerves as skippers jockey for their ideal spot. Conditions were again a little light for our liking, but no one seems to care as we join in what becomes a procession led by the glorious Logan raters.

‘The Saturday night prize giving and dance ashore at Scott’s Landing in a perfect setting with barbecues and the gentle sound of the Prohibition Big Band is another highlight of the weekend, but the night is all too short, however as then had a 0930h start for the Mark Foy race home to Auckland.

‘Unfortunately there was again  rather too little breeze, which  led to us crossing and re-crossing the starting line at least three times, and ended well behind our handicap… Eventually a steady breeze arrived and we had a glorious sail to the finish with all canvas set including spinnaker and mizzen staysail. There were no prizes this time, but spending the weekend in the company of a sprightly one hundred and eighteen year old lady named Ethel was priceless… ‘

Thanks Paul! I’m amazed – all that racing in one weekend must be shattering, if wonderful!