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Shining a Light on Cork’s Morning Clouds

9th March 2022
The first and very attractive custom-built Morning Cloud of 1971 vintage, now known as Opposition, heads the lists for the newly-introduced Classics Division in Volvo Cork Week 2022
The first and very attractive custom-built Morning Cloud of 1971 vintage, now known as Opposition, heads the lists for the newly-introduced Classics Division in Volvo Cork Week 2022.

It’s good news that a proper Classics Division is going to be included in Volvo Cork Week in July, and it’s even better news that one of the first to step up to the plate is Opposition, the gold standard classic 40ft S & S design which Ted Heath raced to outstanding all-round success in 1971. For although Ted Heath owned five Morning Clouds in all - with the first being the little S&S34 which won the 1969 Sydney-Hobart Race – we need to know which is which, and the 51-year-old boat now known as Opposition was arguably the sweetest of them all, as Olin Stephens took this high-profile opportunity to show what an attractive boat the new International Offshore Rule could create.

But unfortunately, the international offshore scene was expanding at an unhealthy pace, and the backroom number-crunchers in yacht design offices were soon finding that by producing rather extreme and deeply heavy boats with unattractively pinched sterns, you could get a very favourable rating. The third Morning Cloud (mistakenly used to illustrate Opposition in a recent press release) was built expressly for the 1973 Admiral’s Cup, and proved to be quite an extreme example of this less healthy hull type.

The 44ft Morning Cloud III of 1974 was a race winner, but her pinched stern - distorted to fit in with exploitation of the IOR rule -created a much less attractive boat than her predecessorThe 44ft Morning Cloud III of 1974 was a race winner, but her pinched stern - distorted to fit in with exploitation of the IOR rule -created a much less attractive boat than her predecessor

Of course the 44ft Morning Cloud III was a race-winner under the rule of the time, but as a boat she compared very unfavourably with the Morning Cloud II of 1971. And the life of Morning Cloud III was short and tragic. In 1974 in line with Heath’s policy of being seen at other regattas, late in the season she was taken to the Thames Estuary for his participation in Burnham Week. In hurrying back from that with a delivery crew, she was caught out in an extreme westerly gale in the English Channel with wind over tide conditions while trying to reach the shelter of the Solent.

When two crew were lost overboard in a knockdown, the boat suffered structural damage and eventually, the remaining crew had to take to the liferaft and Morning Cloud III was wrecked on the Sussex coast. It was a grim moment when the retrieved remains of the boat were later brought ashore at the port of Shoreham.

The remains of Morning Cloud III are brought ashore at Shoreham in Sussex in September 1974 after two crew had been drowned during what should have been a routine delivery trip from the Thames Estuary back to the Solent.The remains of Morning Cloud III are brought ashore at Shoreham in Sussex in September 1974 after two crew had been drowned during what should have been a routine delivery trip from the Thames Estuary back to the Solent.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Cork Week 2022

Following the cancellation of the 2020 event, the dates for the 2022 edition of Cork Week in Cork Harbour is: 11 –15 July 2022

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