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Displaying items by tag: Willie Lee

A very pleasant nostalgia-laden party in The Oar pub in Crosshaven on Friday night honoured shipwright Willie Lee, who was retiring after fifty years with Crosshaven Boatyard writes W M Nixon. In addition to colleagues past and present, the attendance included former boatyard MD Wally Morrissey, and satisfied customers such as Darryl Hughes, who is delighted with the work Willie has done on his classic 1937 ketch Maybird, and managed to get us some photos of this historic event

They had much to remember and celebrate, and some very famous boats to recall. One of the best, though she no longer sails the seas, was Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth V, a very special ketch on which Willie worked in 1970.

After his epic round the world voyage with the temperamental Gipsy Moth IV in 1968 - a boat which was a “committee product” if ever there was one - Chichester recalled that he had been happiest with boats designed by Robert Clark and built in Ireland, so he decided to reactivate both connections. By this time, Robert Clark was doing work for Denis Doyle of Cork, whose many interests included Crosshaven Boatyard, so all the signs pointed there.

gipsy mothV2The Robert Clark-designed Gipsy Moth V shortly after her launching in Crosshaven in 1970. Photo: W M Nixon

The upshot of this was that in 1969-70, the special ketch Gipsy Moth V was built in the yard to Robert Clark’s design. Chichester was well pleased with her, as she was good-mannered and fast, enabling him to establish his objective of setting a record time for sailing between West Africa and South America.

He kept the Crosshaven-built boat until his death, when she was bought by another long-distance solo sailor who was grabbing some much-needed sleep when approaching Sydney in Australia during a round the world race, and an unfortunate change of wind caused Gipsy Moth V to alter course and come ashore in a rock cleft to become a total wreck, a much-regretted loss.

currach stbrendan3The Crosshaven-built 36ft sailing currach St Brendan succeeded in the east-west Atlantic crossing in 1976-77

Meanwhile, Willie Lee and his colleagues beck in Crosshaven were to complete many other boat-building projects, the most unusual being the giant sailing currach St Brendan for explorer/adventurer Tim Severin. As this special craft was skinned with oxhide, a corner of Crosshaven smelled like a tannery – “stank” might be the better word – for some time. But in 1976-77, the St Brendan achieved the Transatlantic voyage by the northern route to prove that Ireland’s pioneering voyaging saints would have had the boats and capacity to do it as the legends would have it, and the vessel is now happily preserved in the Craggaunowen Heritage Park in south County Clare.

willie lee party4A time for memories, a time to honour traditional skills. Willie Lee’s retirement party in The Oar pub in Crosshaven. Photo: Darryl Hughes

For the Irish sailing community, the most important boat on which Willie Lee worked was the wonderful Moonduster in 1981, the Frers 51 which Denis Doyle himself owned until his death in 2001, when she was sold away from Cork. For those twenty marvellous years, Moonduster was Ireland’s flagship, a great credit to everyone involved with her, both the builders and those who sailed her - all of whom will wish Willie Lee the very best in his well-earned retirement.

Moonduster racing5The marvellous Moonduster – Willie Lee was one of those who built her in 1980-81

Published in Boatyards

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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