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West Cork’s Famous Gaff–Cutter Lady Min is Being Saved for Future Generations

31st January 2018
The modern appearance of Lady Min’s hull makes it all the more remarkable that she was designed and built in Schull in 1902 The modern appearance of Lady Min’s hull makes it all the more remarkable that she was designed and built in Schull in 1902 Photo: courtesy Dermot O’Donoghue

When the 30–ft gaff–cutter Lady Min was newly-launched in Schull in 1902, she was something of a sensation writes W M Nixon. Designed by local sailing enthusiast Maurice O’Keeffe and built to his requirements by local shipwrights under his own direction such that Lloyds Register lists him as both designer and builder, she had a hull which was seen by traditionalist as being of the fast but fragile skimming dish type.

Thus while everyone acknowledged the Lady Min’s undoubted speed, nobody thought that she would last very long. Yet although many of the supposedly more rugged boat types which were her contemporaries have long since disappeared, the Lady Min still survives 116 years later.

lady min2Lady Min under a cutter rig in race-winning style in the 1950s. Photo courtesy Dermot O’Donoghue

Admittedly her condition has had its ups and downs during those long years. But there’s something special about the Lady Min which has seen key owners at certain times lavishing the care and attention which has been needed to keep this remarkable and much-loved boat in existence. And now, after many years during which Lady Min has been preserved under cover, Simon O’Keeffe of Schull – a grandson of the original designer and builder – has commissioned noted Ballydehob boat-builder Tiernan Roe to do all the necessary work required to keep Lady Min as a viable proposition.

Tiernan has been pleasantly surprised by the good condition of much of the original timber. He attributes this to the fact that Canadian Red Pine – a notably long-grained wood – was used for the planking, while the keel and backbone is of hyper-tough hickory.

There’s special satisfaction in West Cork that a cruiser-racer with unusually close and long links to the area is being saved for future generations. Anyone with memories or memorabilia about the Lady Min is invited to contact make contact with [email protected] 

lady min3Work in progress on Lady Min this month. While the hull shape is notably fast, it design means that during its 116 years it has had to accommodate exceptional loads from the ballast keel. Photo Facebook/Kevin O’Farrell Team

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