This brand new yacht is one man's singular vision and exquisitely built in traditional style
This is Integrity, a beautiful 43ft wooden gentleman’s cutter that I had the immense pleasure of sailing in Plymouth Sound last week. Looks like a lovely slice of history, doesn’t she?
Wrong. This is a brand new yacht, launched only this spring. Integrity is something unique. She’s not a restoration. She’s not a replica. She’s what you might call a revival design, an amalgamation of ideas from circa 1880s incorporated into one man’s ideal.
She was drawn by boatbuilder Will Stirling, starting with a pencil and rubber, lofted in the traditional manner and built by him in a farm shed near the banks of the River Tamar in a way that would have been completely familiar over a century ago: oak frames, copper and bronze fastenings, cotton and marine glue.
Will built her over an 18-month period with two or three other boatbuilders, doing everything themselves. They cast the lead keel themselves. Will made items such as the yacht’s mainsheet buffer and two-speed windlass himself. For the latter he made a bronze pattern for the top and cast the warping drum.
The yacht is a beauty, with a huge bowsprit and a sheerline that sweeps up sweetly at the stern. She is also a curious artefact. This is one man’s singular interpretation of the ideal traditional yacht, a new thing of exquisite craftsmanship that defies exact categorisation.
The detail is fabulous. The deck planks have been quarter sawn, tapered and swept so that there are the same number at the bow and stern, an unusual and aesthetically pleasing technique with blithe disregard for labour and expense. The interior joinery, with fielded panels of oak darkened with crushed walnuts and beeswax gives it a spare and antiquarian look, like a National Trust cottage.
We had a great sail under full rig of main, topsail, jib, staysail and jib top, and as we romped out past the breakwater Integrity surged out into the increasing swell, steady and confident. Barely a drop of water landed on deck.
We even managed to short tack back up the Tamar to her mooring at Weir Quay, though that proved somewhat harder work. Workout might be a better word.
This is one of the most interesting yachts I have sailed – or seen – in years, and the appeal of Integrity is as much about the talent and cleverness of her young designer and builder as the yacht herself. Will decided to learn boatbuilding out of the blue 12 years ago, having no background in sailing or boats whatsoever. The name of his company, Stirling & Son, sounds like father-to-son boatbuilding heredity, but Will says it simply sounded right; his son is only 4.
I think if he can make a market and create a niche for his extraordinary boats, owning a Will Stirling boat could become a special thing, like buying a fully functional collector’s item or work of art. Will and Integrity make quite a story, and one we’ll feature in full in a future issue.