Legendary 12 Metre racing yacht Flica restoration project now online

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Low-speed wind-tunnel testing during the development of
Flica (thanks to the Fairey Collection)

Cockpit view including Fairey and Nicholson (Fairey Collection),
Flica sailing in 1932 (Beken)

Flica with Hugh Goodson at the helm (Goodson collection)

Richard Smith, owner of Flica rang the other day to say that a web page devoted to the legendary 12 Metre is now on line.

Her story began in 1928, when aviation pioneer Sir Richard Fairey and yacht designer Charles Nicholson came together to develop a new 12 Metre, based on an extensive programme of research including tank and wind low-speed wind tunnel testing.

The engineering and scientific element of the project was very advanced for its time, and eventually produced a winning yacht – from 1932, I gather, Flica became the 12 Metre yacht to beat. During 1932 she won 39 flags in 35 races and in 1933 49 flags in 55 races.

The development work continued, Flica’s performance steadily improved and Fairey hoped to challenge for the America’s Cup – but the committee behind the Auld Mug decided the battle that year should be fought between J-Class yachts, not 12 Metres. That decision put paid to Flica’s chances of an America’s Cup win, and Fairey sold the boat to Hugh Goodson, who went on to have a distinguished sailing career racing in both the 12 Metre class and the America’s Cup.

There’s a lot more to know about the stories of Flica, Fairey and Goodson, and I recommend you check out the Flica Project pages at the Americas Cup Masters website. The Flica Project itself aims to re-commission the old boat, and I believe the Flica Project will chart it’s progress, so it should be well worth visiting repeatedly over time.

50 thoughts on “Legendary 12 Metre racing yacht Flica restoration project now online”

  1. I have an interest, if not the budget in these type of yachts as you know Gavin. I particularly appreciate the plans, but I cannot make out if she had the ability to alter trim on the water or not. But what a pedigree!


  2. The original C&N specification dated October 1928 has been amended in Fairey's own handwriting under section on rudder: "trunk tube to be kept short of deck with stuffing box for rudder balance control".

    Could this be the trim tab?


  3. During the late 1960s I crewed for John Clegg the owner and skipper of the 12 meter yacht Flica. Flica was a crewed charter boat in in the West Indies. Our agent was Nicholson. I believe John Clegg sold Flica sometime after 1968. Did John sell Flica to Richard Smith? Does anyone know where John Clegg is now?

    1. I chartered Flicka II when John Clegg was skipper. This was sometime in the 1960’s. He had two in crew from Bequia, Justo Benitez, and Deogracia Gonzales. We boarded in Grenada and sailed to Martinique. I later saw Flicka II again in Lavanga, Italy completely restored. This was in 1994. I had heard that she had been sunk and was in terrible shape. My charter on Flicka started me on a life of loving sailboats and from 1987 till 1997 I lived aboard Carina, a 41′ Hans Christian cutter which my wife and I sailed across the Atlantic and we visited 300 ports in 44 countries in the Med and the Carribbean.

  4. Did Richard Smith buy Flica from John Clegg? John Clegg owned Flica and sailed her as a crewed charter boat in the British West Indies in the late 1960s. Does anyone know where John Clegg is now? I crewed for John.

      1. I am also trying to get in touch with John Clegg, to get permission to print in the Marine Quarterly an article he wrote with Fraser Fraser-Harris about the early days of chartering in the Caribbean. If you have any coordinates for him, I’d be delighted to get them:

          1. Nat Benjamin sent it to us, and I have been looking everywhere to find someone to send a check to, as we are republishing it in the Spring edition of the Marine Quarterly, which has now gone to press. Fraser Fraser-Harris is no longer in this world, I understand, and we were wondering about John Clegg, or the heirs and literary executors of either. Would that by any chance be you?

          2. Well, I am certainly John’s heir. Fraser has several ex-wives and at least two sons. One in Canada and one in the West Indies. I haven’t seen any of them for many many years.Do you want me to do some research?

          3. I have been looking for John’s original draft of that article without success. However, I have just re-read it in our copy of NQ with enormous pleasure. Tucked inside I found a handwritten note addressed to John from Joe Gribbins (editor of N.Q.) saying how wonderful he found the piece and thanking him for such a fine contribution. I hope the re-publishing of it brings similar appreciation.

  5. I purchased Flica II (minus cellos) from John Clegg in 1973.

    John and Sally had returned to U.K. leaving boat with a very accomplished Kiwi sailor (Alan Jouning (?) – at GYS (Grenada).

    – I chartered her in Caribbean & Greece

    – Circumstances required me to leave Greece "prematurely".

    – Skipper hired to take Flica II (from Spetsis) to Malta.

    – Boat turned up in Gibralter – then went missing.

    – Months later, a scribbled note from Bequia reached me, advising that Flica II was at anchor in Admiralty Bay – in sad shape. Down below "everything is smashed" and of course – she had a stump for a mast.

    – What was left of FIica II was sold for a song (ie. the beautiful mahogany on steel hull).

    – To my great relief I understand* she was put back in commission and sailed to Hamburg(?) to be raced (once again) in summers in the Med.

    – Years later I sat in a pub in Southampton (U.K.) and was alerted by a friend to a conversation going on nearby. A stranger (who had been aboard) was describing the fate of Flica II to another stranger.

    – Shortly after after leaving Gibralter, a novice female guest of one of the many crew was put on the helm (alone) in a blow, (at night). As she had never heard of, let alone seen a Chinese gybe, she was ill-equipped to respond to the usual signs. With no new windward running backstay set up to take the load – the fate of the mast was sealed. They carried on – jury-rigged.

    Many more years later, having tracked her down (by phone) regarding the demise of someone else who had been on this voyage, thinking she was talking to the skipper, further troubling details were revealed. "Remember – you blamed me", she said. I was unable to convince her I was the owner. Too many years had passed.

    (*Another startling coincidence found my son – in Europe – at a party with some Deutsch crew from Flica II. When the former announced that he had sailed in Flica II (age – 2) it was greeted with disbelief. He called me. I asked him to ask these guys to check for a hidden repair in an inaccessible interior part of the hull (Flica II had fallen off the travel lift at GYS – not included in survey !). They got on their Blackberrys and the repair (previously unknown to any of them) was confirmed.)

    Would love to hear what's happened (to Flica II) since.

    1. Hi I’ve just seen your article. If it’s the same boat I worked on Flica 11 at Mylor Harbour when it had a full refit . Wooden hull and steel keel . I spent weeks under there sanding it in the traditional way and revarnishing the whole boat . We stripped absolutely everything back and then revarnished the whole boat with 10 to twelve layers .
      I have numerous pictures on my external hard drive if the whole years refit and supporting boat that was purchased to pull it in and out at harbours etc !
      I love that boat . It had a piece of me in time and hard Labour and loved every minute of it !
      If you would like to get in touch my name is Stuart and i live in Newquay Cornwall near Falmouth and Mylor harbour where it came out the water .
      My email address is stuartelliottdecorators@yahoo.co.uk 07970068484
      If you’d like me to send you a copy of the pictures of the whole refit I’d gladly send you a hard file full . I think you’d love to see what we did with her !
      All the best StUart

  6. MY understanding is/was that Flica II was built in 1939 (by Fife of course) as a trial-horse (only) to race against, in preparation for an Americas Cup challenge. Both were experiments with a new composite construction: mahogany planks (for lightness) on steel frames (for strength). I seem to recall (i) her papers confirmed the year of construction (ii) she was registered at Portland, Dorset, England.)

    1. hello, i have just been talking to my 91 year old father who sailed Flika II to Cobh from Southampton in 1946 i believe to take to its new owner. Just in case you are interested.

      1. Hello Nicky! what is your grandfather’s name? In1946 I was a young child but I am interested to know if I recognise his name.Others may also be interested.

  7. I crewed for John and Sally Clegg on FLICA II in 1968 and 1969. Keith "Rusty" Hayes was the mate. At age 19 their impact on my life was huge in matters of sailing and life in general. At age 61 now I still make a version of John's Steak Foyale that we served on each charter. Greatest memories are surviving a white squall off Barbados that blew the mainsail to pieces, and short-tacking this former 12-Meter through the cuts at Tobago Cays and the entrance to the inner lagoon at Marigot on St. Lucia.

    1. my family chartered Flica II in 1969 for 3 weeks to sail the Lesser Antillies. I remember at 9 years old, getting to “steer” the boat through the Gros Piton and Petit Piton into the bay. I remember the sound of steel drums at night. FANTASTIC TRIP, great memories.

    2. I recall John and Sally in Bequia around 1970 when I was building Bequia Slip and running Windward Island Tours. I also recall Rusty Hayes the Aussie. Where is he now. All great people. I am in California, in the canyons rather than the waves Tim Burgess

  8. I crewed for john clegg 1965-66 with tom campbell-goodwin and had many happy charters .She was built by fifes of fairlee to beat the us 12 yacht ‘vim’ but the war intervened(americas cup was still j class in those days)- I have a couple of pictures of her on the screw-lift at gps in grenada-was repaired by les mashford who stayed on at gps for a while-mashford bros did the conversion for john.lovely boat known in windward isles as the ‘dancing yacht’ by the locals

    1. John and Sally live in France, and I have their contact details. I remember Flica well when I was working at GYS in 1966, and later at PSV where we partied hard. (And buried deep have some photos). Any idea where Tom T-C is now, would like to say hello.

  9. I have just purchased a lovely photo of Flica 2 sailing @ Cowes regatta in 1960. does anyone know who were the crew then?

    1. Yes I was in the crew when Tony Boyden owned her in 1960 and we sailed out of the RSrnYC on the Hamble. There were seven 12’s that year, Flica 11, Sceptre, Evaine, Vanity 1, Vanity 5, Kaylena and Norsaga (owned by Lord Craigmyle) We went on to do Torbay week and finished a spinnaker run at the Royal Dart YC. Other crew were 3 Harlequins rugby players, Paul Anderson, John ?? and Dick Page. Also John Hollingsworth and two more whose names I forget. We also had John Livingstone on board plus Angus Primrose and the Herbulot (spinnaker maker) girls from Paris.
      Oddly enough my ex.wife trained at Guys Hosp with Sally so we used to meet her and John Clegg years later when they owned that lovely boat. I also have a Beken photo
      from 1960. What fun it all was.

      1. I am the archivist for Poole Yacht Club and we still have the wheel from the 12 m Kaylena. She was scuppered off the Isle of Wight in the late 1960’s after being used as a sail training vessel.
        Do you have any further history of Kaylena..??
        Any history would be appreciated.
        PS some fun reading here, I sailed out to the Caribbean in the 1960’s and at that time it was a fun place.

        1. Hello Dick,
          Sorry cannot help you any more with history of Kaylena but I’ve been trying to remember the owner’s name. There was, interestingly one more 12 metre on the Hamble in this days, Stiarna owned by Mr Marcou but never raced. However he did have an IOD on a mooring on the river and would sail over to Cowes to race with his paid hand all in whites just like the 30’s.
          You mention the Caribbean, I was in Antigua on vacation in 2006 to have a look at Nelson’s dockyard etc and while there looked up Don Street (who still owned Iolaire) asking for information about a very old friend of mine, Bobby Vaughan-Jones who had sailed from Hamble in the lovely yacht Vanda with his German girlfriend Heidi, in early 60’s.
          I learned that he may have gone to Martinique but that Vanda went down in a storm in mid-Atlantic under different owners.
          Sally, you may remember Bobby?
          This is an interesting blog! BTW there still seems to be some confusion between the first and much earlier Flica and the 1938 or so Flica 11.
          Regards, Patrick

          1. Yes,I remember Bob Vaughan Jones,Vanda and Heidi very well but did not know what had happened to them after we left the Windies for the first time in the 1973. There was no sign of them when we returned in 1981.
            You are right about the confusion. Flica ll was Fyfe built in 1939. She caused a great stir when she joined the charter fleet as the 12th boat in the early 60’s . John had Laurent Giles draw up the plans for the conversion from 12metre to to a ketch and Mashfords did the work.She was a joy to sail and the two of us could just about manage her. However, on charter we needed one or two extra pairs of hands to in order to show off, keep up with the maintenance and entertain the guests. Some of these hands have re-appeared on this blog.

  10. I was given a model of the Flica whilst staying with relations in Polruan ( the other side of the Fowey estuary) this was in 1947 I was eight years old I still have a Photo of myself with the model.I also have the hull which is 610 mm long she has been dismasted and the sails are long gone I want to rebuild the model as a project but need to obtain as much dimensional detail as may be available.
    any help from any source would appreciated.

  11. Hi, I have an old pic of flica somewhere, but am also interested because I think Reg Dyer owned one of the Troy Class yachts, No7 Sapphire, sometime around 1936, and believed to have bought it from Lord Russel of Liverpool, who sailed her at torpoint for a time?? would like to confirm some or all of this story,thanks

  12. I knew Flica II and John and Sally when I had “Windward Island Tours” and was building the original Bequia Marina on the northside of Admiralty Bay. I have some photos of her in chartering trim. I will long remember the duel between Flica and Spirit of Cutty Sark during the St Vincent race week. I will scan the photos and post then when I can locate them.

  13. Reading all the above has been a fascinating trip down memory lane! John Clegg and I met at the wedding of an old flame in Antigua in 1967. . John Curry & Mickey MacDonald were on board as crew when I arrived and had travelled down as crew from the US. John & I married 12 days after we met (on December 10th) and spent the first 4 years of our married life on board Flica ll chartering her in the Caribbean.. It was a wonderful life and we were often the only boat in the Tobago Cays. Crew came and went and I remember you all with varying degrees of affection. Contrary to predictions J.& I remained happily wed until his death here in France in October 2009. However, I was always aware that Flica ll had first place in his heart! John was what is now known as bi-polar and as a result of this we were a obliged to sell her. in a hurry and for very little in 1972 . We next saw her by chance in Piraeus in about 1975 or 76. We were shocked to see her so filthy and neglected. Later we heard that she had been abandoned somewhere in Connecticut.No-one seemed to know what had happened or who owned her. She was an expensive mistress to are for and maintain.We knew only too well.
    In 1981 when we we had just finished a major refit on a 71ft ketch in Maine we decided to stop off in Newport on the way south- to watch part of the America’s Cup races of course!. We only had one day to spare so anchored out. At 1am we were woken up by a gentle nudging on the hull. Guess who had dragged her anchor and came to say “Hello”? It was an incredible coincidence,.She seemed to be loved and in good hands but we had no time for a sail as we had a fixed date with our boss in Antigua. That was the last time we saw her. Yes there was a Flica l launched in 1928(?) and a Flica ll launched in 1938. I know next to nothing about the first one.. . .. .

    1. How wonderful to read your news Sally. So sorry to hear about John’s passing.
      I am living in Toronto, Canada and own a lovely C & C 35 which is a lot less
      financially draining than a 12 metre! Would love to have an e-chat with you.
      Take care, Patrick.

        1. Hi Sally,
          Wonderful to be in touch again. I think they should distinguish between Flica and Flica 2
          to avoid confusion! In my last note I gave the wrong name for one of the on-board
          advisers in 1960. Of course it was the great John Illingworth (founder of the Sydney-Hobart race just after the war who won it on time and got line honours with Myth of Malham!)
          He was a splendid character and so approachable by young crew members. We also had the two Livingstone brothers who later challenged for the Americas Cup, with, I think, Kurrewa.
          I was interested to read that Flica 2 was built with steel frames and wood planks, as I remember sanding fairing and anti-fouling a part of that lovely hull. All the crew had to work at weekends in the shed at Port Hamble pre-Easter to prepare for Spring launch. In those days there were just mud berths in the river two of which were occupied by Endeavour, between Warsash and Moodys and Velsheda at Bursledon. We used to take a dinghy ride and board Endeavour and marvel at the size of her down below, complete with full size bathtub.With the J boats in mind I visited
          Cowes in July 2012 just to see those magnificent yachts passing the Squadron line.
          Also at Port Hamble was a green steel sloop or cutter named Beyond that was reputed to have pitch-poled two or three times rounding Cape Horn but made it home safely.
          I have been in touch with Sam Llewellyn to order a copy of MQ with John’s article and I look forward to reading that.We are due to launch our boats at Mimico Cruising Club last weekend
          in April but the harbour is still frozen solid (-23ºC windchill today) so may have to get an icebreaker in as we launch 250 boats in a day. I imagine this is read by many so it would be nice for a more personal “catch-up” please mail me at patob11@gmail.com if you are interested.
          Meanwhile best wishes and take care, Patrick

      1. What a nice surprise Patrick! I replied earlier but it was not posted for some technical reason. Chat away!

  14. Sally I am sorry sorry to here that John is no longer with us. It was always a pleasure to see you sailing in the Windwards when I was skippering Circe in the early 70s and you had Flica on charter. It all brings back some great memories. Are you still living in France?

    1. Yes, I am still living in South West France. A ong way from the sea and with little contact with old sailing chums but still have the occasional chat like the one on this blog. And you? What became of CIRCE?

      1. Sally, Circe was lost on a reef during a hurricane in the early ’90’s, in the Windward Islands somewhere. She was owned by a German couple who had returned to Germany and left the boat on a mooring. She was salvaged but the owners did not have the financial capacity to repair her, so she was written off. I only discovered this a year or so ago whilst trying to track down Mike Beale who was skippering the Fife ketch Eilean in the early ’70’s, by someone at Nicholson’s in Antigua. Si and I had been trying to find out what happened to her for many years. I had crewed for season for my brother Simon in the 71/72 season and sailed back to Europe on Eilean from Antigua. I remember Flica, and just remember John, who I thought was running Ring Anderson then. Circe was a wonderful sailboat, quite basic for charter work by today’s standards, but a joy to sail. A sad loss. Mike still has his 40 footer on a mooring in Antigua, and flies down from the USA to sail from time to time, but I never got his contact details. R

  15. Sally, Circe was lost on a reef during a hurricane in the early ’90’s, somewhere in the Windwards. She had been bought by a German couple who had left return to Germany. She was hauled out but was beyond the financial capacity of the owners to repair, and was written off. I finally discovered this after speaking with someone at Nicholsons in Antigua, when trying to track down Mike Beale who skippered the Fife ketch Eilean in the early ’70’s. I was crewing for brother Simon for a season on Circe 71/72. I sailed back to Europe on Eilean at the end of the 72 Caribbean season. Many great memories, including of Flica, and just a vague one of John, who I think was running Ring Anderson then. Apparently Mike still has his Nicholson 40 on a mooring in Antigua and is living in the USA, not sure where. Eilean has been completely rebuilt by the Panerai watch company and is now part of the classic yacht circuit, after languishing for twenty odd years in the mangroves in English Harbour. Circe was wonderful sailboat – a sad loss.

  16. From Andy Copeland.
    Flica holds a special place in my heart. John and Sally were good friends and when John was unable to run Flica for the 1971 season he asked me to take over. Liza and i had a wonderful time that year, Flica being an absolute joy to sail. I believe john sold her after that and went on to run other people’s yachts for them.
    We visited john and Sally at their home in France about 15 years ago. Sadly john died shortly after that visit.
    Liza and I have lived in Vancouver since 1973, although we have been away sailing the world in our 38′ sailboat. John Curry, who crewed John in Flica, also lives here and we see a lot of him.
    Sally, would love to get back in touch.

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