Route du Rhum skipper Lia Ditton explains the reasons why she intends to chop her Open 40 yacht in half 30/11/06
Another band of rain has swept over the remaining Rhum boats and burst its guts. It has rained several times a day here in Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe, for the past few and my spinnakers are still out waiting to dry.
‘Are you really going to cut the boat?’ My neighbour here asks, incredulous, emerging from the main hatch. Guillaume Voizard was the skipper of the Class 40 Le Comptoir Immobilier, now up for sale. ‘Ah Oui! Le Bateau sera une sculpture en deux pieces,’ I explained ‘- un travail conceptuel sur l’idee de la demi coque.’ I have been astounded by the number of people asking to go inside the cabin to read some of the diary- ‘le journal de l’experience de course,’ on the walls.
In Cape Town and on the brink of purchasing a 30ft glassfibre Royal Cape One Design for entry in what was then known as the Europe One New Man Star [later the Faraday Mill OSTAR], I realised that communications beyond VHF were going to be unaffordable. For the voyage up to England, I wanted to make a log of the experience that was publicly accessible and for the log to be presented in such a way that would be considered art. Frequently using text as part of my sculptures and installations and having during an Indian Ocean crossing drawn hieroglyphics on the inside skin of an upturned glassfibre dinghy on the back of the boat, [used as privacy for our al fresco toilet] writing all over the cabin came naturally to mind. After the race, my intention was to slice the boat longitudinally and display it as my fine art degree show work.
As expected, the financial directors at Pindar, the company which on the basis of my intention to race single-handed instead purchased Derek Hatfield’s Open 40 ‘Spirit of Canada,’ baulked at the idea. ‘Cut our investment in half?!’ You must be joking! Their reaction fuelled my desire. It became apparent that the concept was set to attract controversy, provoking questions and emotion and scratching at the very back bone of what is art.
Boats are salvaged; rebuilt on occasion from bulkhead and stringers alone. They are passed from generation to generation. They carry cargo and passengers and embody adventure and exploration. How do you feel about the idea of a boat, rich in history, which has circumnavigated the globe by singlehander, being cut in two under the banner of art?
Take another perspective and the boat is to be immortalised, saved from becoming obsolete in the face of a booming Class 40, gathering mould in the corner of a boat yard of race boats old. In art halls and open spaces, gallery gardens and town halls, she will instead be enjoyed by a huge audience; admiring her slender lines and observing the reinforcements added for ocean racing, fascinated by the engineering in separating port from starboard.
Most days during the recent Route du Rhum race, I wrote something on the cabin wall or scrawled a sentence on the rooftop. I shared a sentiment inside my head. Our eye cannot help but read and over the course of the race, I couldn’t help personally re-reading and re-reading these lines! It exasperated me at times – there was no escape from the interior of my own mind! But those are the poetics of the space, the cubic feet in which the ocean racer lives and breathes, eats and sleeps; racked with fear and dread, yet exhilarated simultaneously by the sonic hum of the vessel propelled forward by wind and waves.
The hulls of the boat will be supported by wood, like a half hull model, but walk round the back of the facade and a staircase will lead up to a walkway at the same height as the cabin interior. Initially the two halves of the boat will be viewable together in New York, then London, before the hulls will begin separate voyages to Amsterdam, Brazil, Portugal?