A day out aboard the great gaff cutter Lulworth at The Superyacht Cup in Palma was one to remember reports David Glenn
This is the immaculately restored Lulworth, a 180-ton gaff cutter sitting on 14.9 knots – shall we call it 15 – during the New Zealand Millennium Cup race which brought The Superyacht Cup Ulysse Nardin to a close on Tuesday.
Days like this, particularly in the Mediterranean, are a rarity, so this particular Big Tuesday was a thrilling finale to a regatta which, as far as the racing was concerned, simply got better and better. The grins were particularly broad back on the dock.
I sailed Lulworth a year ago in Italy shortly after she was re-launched and I was concerned at the time about the crew’s ability to sail this complex, powerful yacht in anything more than light to moderate wind conditions. What a difference a year makes! Last Tuesday it was great to see the same crew, give or take a few, handling the yacht in more than 20 knots of true wind in close quarters, fully powered up thundering across the start line at 14 knots.
Other crews, waiting for their start clapped and cheered us on – quite an emotional moment for all concerned, particularly Johan van den Bruele Lulworth’s owner whose fascination for classics has produced one of the finest restorations in living memory.
“I am not experienced enough to handle her in the pre-starts,” admitted Johan who handed over to the extremely capable Jean Guillem, who used to skipper Tuiga and maxis like Emmeraude and Mylene. With our excellent navigator Marco Maggiani monitoring our distance and time to the line to an absolute tee, Jean swung the mighty cutter through tack and gybe avoiding spectators and competitors alike until we eventually lined up for our final run.
There were plenty of white knuckles on the bulwarks as we completed the pre-start and we went on to sail a fantastic race with a surprisingly fast opening beat and then a run during which the working topsail went up followed by the 900 square metre (that’s 9,700 square feet in old money!) mps or multi-purpose sail. That sail is set on a 22m long (72ft) long sitka spruce pole which sat there with quite a frightening looking bend in it.
When the time came to gybe Gerald Read and his cohorts Harold Stanstead and Daniel Dawson rallied the crew in a great display of sail handling, rounding the mark inside and then ahead of much larger modern yachts – breathtaking stuff!
If that wasn’t fun enough the reach to the finish under ‘plain sail’ was a leg to remember. Lulworth took off like a lightweight 50-footer, her immense spread of sail hauling her through the water at a steady 14 knots plus, her bow wave exploding to leeward in a sheet of spray. Interestingly solid water only managed to get onto her decks on a couple of occasions. It was the ride of the week and when we topped out at 14.9 knots I asked project director Guiseppe Longo whether that had been her fastest speed to date. “We’ve had 17 knots on the clock,” grinned Guiseppe. It doesn’t bear thinking about!