Gipsy Moth IV

Gipsy Moth IV

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Gipsy Moth IV is a 54 ft (16.5 m) yawl
A yawl is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mast located well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom, specifically aft of the rudder post. A yawl (from Dutch Jol) is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an...

 that Sir Francis Chichester
Francis Chichester
Sir Francis Charles Chichester KBE , aviator and sailor, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for becoming the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day overall.-Early life:Chichester was born in Barnstaple,...

 commissioned specifically to sail single-handed around the globe, racing against the times set by the clipper ships of the 19th century.

Background and design

After being nursed back to health from a suspected lung abscess by his wife, Chichester became inspired while writing his book Along the Clipper Way, which charts the voyage taken by 19th century wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 clippers returning from Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. The clippers took an average of 123 days to make their passage, so Chichester set himself the target of making the passage in 100 days.

In 1962 Chichester commissioned Gosport
Gosport is a town, district and borough situated on the south coast of England, within the county of Hampshire. It has approximately 80,000 permanent residents with a further 5,000-10,000 during the summer months...

-based ship yard Camper and Nicholsons
Camper and Nicholsons
Camper and Nicholsons are the oldest leisure marine company in the world, producing and managing yachts for the world's richest people.As Camper and Nicholsons was founded at Gosport, Hampshire before organised seawater yachting had even started, John Nicholson of the founding family once overheard...

 to build the fourth boat in his series, all named Gipsy Moth. The name originated from the de Havilland Gipsy Moth aircraft in which Chichester completed pioneering work in aerial navigation techniques.

The maximum speed of a yacht is directly related to its wetted length: Gipsy Moth IV is 53 feet (16.2 m) overall, whereas a clipper ship such as the Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is a clipper ship. Built in 1869, she served as a merchant vessel , and then as a training ship until being put on public display in 1954...

is 212 feet (64.6 m). Designed by John Illingworth and Angus Primrose, the boat incorporated the maximum amount of sail for the minimum amount of rigging, whilst employing tiller
A tiller or till is a lever attached to a rudder post or rudder stock of a boat that provides leverage for the helmsman to turn the rudder...

 based self-steering using design principles established by Blondie Hasler that could enable steerage from the skipper's bunk, essential for solo sailing for a voyage of this length.

1967 voyage

Launched in March 1967, she is 38 ft 6 in (11.8 m) on the waterline and 53 ft (16 m) overall, with a hull constructed of cold-moulded Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

The name mahogany is used when referring to numerous varieties of dark-colored hardwood. It is a native American word originally used for the wood of the species Swietenia mahagoni, known as West Indian or Cuban mahogany....

. Ketch rigged, she has a sail area of 854 sq ft (79.4 m²), extendable with a spinnaker to over 1500 sq ft (139.4 m²).

Gipsy Moth IV set out from Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 on 27 August 1966 with 64-year-old Sir Francis at the helm. This was not uneventful, and Chichester later recalled three moments where he noted that the trip was almost over. The first was when part of the frame holding the wind vane self-steering failed, when still 2300 miles (3,701.5 km) from Sydney. Not wanting to put in to Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle is a city in Western Australia, located at the mouth of the Swan River. Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829...

, Chichester spent three days balancing sails and experimenting with shock-cord lines on the tiller, once again getting the boat to hold a course to enable her to cover 160 miles (257.5 km) a day.

An exhausted Chichester entered Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

 harbour for a stop over 107 days later. He enlisted the help of America's Cup
America's Cup
The America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America's Cup match races between two yachts. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America's Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging...

 designer Warwick Hood, who added a piece to the boat's keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...

 to provide Gipsy Moth IV with better directional stability to stop her broaching
Broach (sailing)
A sailboat broaches when its heading suddenly changes towards the wind due to wind/sail interactions for which the rudder cannot compensate. This causes the boat to roll dangerously and if not controlled may lead to a capsize...

, but the modification did nothing to improve her stability.

One day out on the return trip via Cape Horn
Cape Horn
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island...

, the boat was rolled in a 140-degree capsize
Capsizing is an act of tipping over a boat or ship to disable it. The act of reversing a capsized vessel is called righting.If a capsized vessel has sufficient flotation to prevent sinking, it may recover on its own if the stability is such that it is not stable inverted...

. Chichester calculated the angle by measuring the mark on the cabin roof made by a wine bottle. He commented in his diary and in a later interview with Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine that he knew she would self-right as she was designed to, but was concerned by the incident as this was a light storm and he still had to pass Cape Horn, where the third and most significant event of the voyage would occur:

"The waves were tremendous. They varied each time, but all were like great sloping walls towering behind you. The kind I liked least was like a great bank of gray-green earth 50' (15 m) high and very steep. Image yourself at the bottom of one. My cockpit was filled five times and once it took more than 15 minutes to drain. My wind-reading machine stopped recording at 60 knots. My self-steering could not cope with the buffeting....I had a feeling of helplessness."

Just as he thought all hope was lost and he was alone, on exiting the cockpit one day he was followed by the British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 400 staff. It operates five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica....

 vessel HMS Protector
HMS Protector (A146)
HMS Protector was an Antarctic patrol vessel of the Royal Navy.She was laid down as a fast net layer by Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow in August 1935, launched in August 1936 and commissioned on 30 December 1936. She served in the South Atlantic and in the Norwegian Campaign during World War II...

, and later the same day a Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 plane broke through the clouds. On 28 May 1967 having logged 28500 miles (45,866.2 km) in just 274 days (226 days actual sailing time), the voyage claimed the following records:
  • Fastest voyage around the world by any small vessel
  • Longest non stop passage that had been made by a small sailing vessel (15,000 miles)
  • More than twice the distance of the previous longest passage by a singlehander
  • Twice broke the record for a singlehander's week's run by more than 100 miles (160.9 km)
  • Established a record for singlehanded speed by sailing 1400 miles (2,253.1 km) in 8 days

In his book The Circumnavigators Don Holm describes Gipsy Moth IV as "perhaps one of the worst racing yachts ever built", while Chichester commented:

Now that I have finished, I don't know what will become of Gipsy Moth IV. I only own the stern while my cousin owns two thirds. My part, I would sell any day. It would be better if about a third were sawn off. The boat was too big for me. Gipsy Moth IV has no sentimental value for me at all. She is cantankerous and difficult and needs a crew of three - a man to navigate, an elephant to move the tiller and a 3'6" (1.1 m) chimpanzee with arms 8' (2.4 m) long to get about below and work some of the gear.


After the death of Chichester at the age of 71 on 26 August 1972, Gipsy Moth IV was put on permanent display at Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in a land-locked purpose-built dry dock next to the Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is a clipper ship. Built in 1869, she served as a merchant vessel , and then as a training ship until being put on public display in 1954...

The yacht was open to the public for many years, but eventually due to general deterioration from allowing visitors to walk across her decks, was permanently closed to visitors, remaining on display at Greenwich.


Gipsy Moth IV remained undisturbed but gently deteriorating until, in 2003, Paul Gelder, editor of the London-based sailing magazine, Yachting Monthly, launched a campaign to restore the yacht and sail her around the world in 2006 on the 40th anniversary of Chichester's epic voyage, and the 100th birthday of the magazine. He enlisted the support of The Blue Water Round the World Rally, a club-style cruising rally that the magazine had been covering since 1995.

In 2004, in a joint proposal with Yachting Monthly and Gipsy Moth IV's owners The Maritime Trust, the yacht was purchased by the United Kingdom Sailing Academy for the sum of £1 and a Gin and tonic
Gin and tonic
A gin and tonic is a highball cocktail made with gin and tonic water poured over ice. It is usually garnished with a slice or wedge of lime, or lemon. The amount of gin varies according to taste...

 (Sir Francis' favourite tipple). She was taken by road to Camper and Nicholson's yard in Gosport, Portsmouth Harbour, where she had been built and launched in 1966, for restoration. Although C&N did the work at cost price, the restoration cost over £300,000.

Second voyage

Gipsy Moth IV set sail from Plymouth Sound on the first leg of the 2005-07 Blue Water Round the World Rally on 25 September 2005. She had a mixture of experienced crew and teams of disadvantaged youth on board, including:
  • Skipper: Richard Bagget
  • First mate: Dewi Thomas
  • Crew Leader: Paul Gelder (Editor of Yachting Monthly)
  • Crew: Matthew Pakes (Isle of Wight), Peter Heggie (Plymouth), Elaine Cadwell (Scotland)

The first leg took just over two weeks to reach Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, the official starting point for the Blue Water Round the World Rally. After crossing the Bay of Biscay to make landfall in Bayona, Spain, where Paul Gelder left to return to the UK, there was a crew change at Villahamora, Portugal, and Tom Buggy joined the yacht as Crew Leader for the rest of the leg. Yachting Monthly's Dick Durham sailed the next leg and crew leader to the Canary Islands, where James Jermain took over as Mate to Richard Baggett for the Atlantic crossing to Antigua. The yacht went through the Panama Canal in February 2006 and headed for the Galapagos islands and the Marquesas.

On April 29, 2006, after a navigational blunder, Gipsy Moth ran aground on a coral reef at Rangiroa
Rangiroa or Te Kokōta , is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus, and one of the largest in the world . It is part of the Palliser group. The nearest atoll is Tikehau, located only 12 km to the West...

, an atoll in the Tuomotus, known as The Dangerous Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. She was just 200 miles (321.9 km) from her next landfall, Tahiti. The yacht was seriously damaged. After six days, a major salvage operation was undertaken with Smit, the Dutch big ship experts who were called in by the UKSA, with local help from Tahiti and Rangiroa. After a day-and-a-half spent patching up the holes in the hull with sheets of plywood, the yacht was successfully towed off the reef into deep water on a makeshift 'sledge'. She was towed to Tahiti and put on a cargo ship to be taken to New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. In Auckland
The Auckland metropolitan area , in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country with residents, percent of the country's population. Auckland also has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world...

, Grant Dalton's America's Cup team donated help and premises at their HQ in Viaduct Harbour, and the yacht underwent a second restoration. After two weeks or so she was sailing again on 23 June 2006.

Her return leg was via Cairns and Darwin, in Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Phuket, Sri Lanka, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. She docked in Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 for a crew change, with skipper John Jeffrey joined by British teenagers: Grant McCabe (Plymouth), Kerry Prideaux (Lynton, Devon), Glen Austin (Isle of Wight) - the last of 90 disadvantaged young people who had crewed the yacht on her 28264 miles (45,486.4 km) voyage round the world. She was accompanied into Plymouth by a flotilla of small craft, Gipsy Moth IV docked at West Hoe Pier on 28 May 2007, as she did exactly 40 years ago. She was welcomed home by Giles Chichester
Giles Chichester
Giles Chichester is a British Conservative Party politician, and a Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar. He was elected as a temporary Vice President of the European Parliament on 6 July 2011 to replace Silvana Koch-Mehrin who had resigned over plagiarism...

, son of Sir Francis.

After the voyage, a comprehensive new book covering the entire Gipsy Moth IV project was written by project founder Paul Gelder, with forewords by The Princess Royal
Anne, Princess Royal
Princess Anne, Princess Royal , is the only daughter of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

, Ellen MacArthur
Ellen MacArthur
Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur, DBE is an English sailor, up until 2009, from Whatstandwell near Matlock in Derbyshire, now based in West Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. She is best known as a solo long-distance yachtswoman. On 7 February 2005 she broke the world record for the fastest solo...

 and Giles Chichester
Giles Chichester
Giles Chichester is a British Conservative Party politician, and a Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar. He was elected as a temporary Vice President of the European Parliament on 6 July 2011 to replace Silvana Koch-Mehrin who had resigned over plagiarism...

. Numerous colour photographs show in graphic detail the restoration, the shipwreck in French Polynesia and the salvage operation and rebuilding of the ketch in New Zealand.

The Present

For some time Gipsy Moth IV laid in Lymington Marina, stored at the end of a line of yachts for sale in the boat yard. Her asking price was £250,000. Related news article.

In November 2010, she was sold to new British owners and will remain in Cowes on display to the public. Related news article.

Gipsy Moth IV will be sailing at classic regattas in the summer of 2011, including Suffolk Yacht Harbour Classic Regatta (18–19 June), JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race (25 June), Panerai British Classic Week (16–23 July) and Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week (6–13 August).
Related news article.

External links