The amazing history of Pen Duick II

The amazing history of Pen Duick II

History of Pen Duick II

Tue, 3rd May 2016
Matthew Barraud

Posted by Matthew on 3rd May 2016.

The Transat bakerly boats are off!

Yesterday afternoon a group of sailors set out on a 3500 mile journey across the North Atlantic, singlehanded! The voyage will be dominated by low pressure systems sweeping across the Atlantic that produce headwinds and mountainous seas.

As soon as the boats arrived we learnt the story of the mighty Pen Duick II and Loïck Peyron. As with Helen Mary R, Pen Duick II has a fantastic story to tell.

In 1962 a French sailor called Eric Tabarly started sailing Pen Duick II; he was a tough sailor and an officer in the French Navy, who was extremely passionate about sailing and utterly determined to win the Singlehanded Transatlantic Race, called the OSTAR at the time. The original race in 1962 was an all-British idea, conceived by Blondie Hasler and organised by our very own, Royal Western Yacht Club here in Plymouth.

Sir Francis Chichester had won the first race in 1960 when only 5 people entered and was the favourite to win again in 1964 with Gypsy Moth III. Tabarly, an unknown, teamed up with Gilles Costantini to design a 44ft purpose-built, light displacement ketch. She was built simply in plywood and her rig was designed for power combined with good helm balance and ease of sail handling. However, no one had raced singlehanded in such a big boat before and most experts gave him little chance of finishing.

This was the second Transat race and a date in 1964 was set. What would come from this race, would be the launch pad for one the most influential figures in the history of single-handed sailing and the development of sailing as a sport in France and revolutionary offshore race boat design!

Tabarly made an impression on the world at an early stage. His determination to win was evident from the moment he launched a huge spinnaker soon after the start, something that everyone thought you couldn’t do without a boat load of crew to do! He rapidly opened up a huge lead on the rest of the fleet. Pen Duick II crossed the finishing line first in a record time of 27 days 3 hours; almost 3 days ahead of the pre-race favourite, Sir Francis Chichester!

These first few intrepid sailors raced with very basic gear, navigating with sextant’s, sight tables, and a lot of maths! There were no autopilots, no roller furling, and no computer weather forecast models!

This latest incarnation of the Transat has seen a return of Pen Duick II to the race line. Loïck Peyron is sailing the race again, as homage to Eric Tabarly. He, like Tabarly, will be sailing and navigating as they did back in 1964.

Which brings me nicely back to Helen Mary R, our very own boat full of history! She has sailed over 100,000miles since she was built for the Rona Sailing Project in 1986 and taken an amazing 5000+ young people aboard to teach them the lessons of the sea!

We’ll be watching Loïck closely and following his amazing journey whilst we work to get Helen Mary R sailing again. We’re hoping the Crowdfunder campaign (this Cornwdfunder is now closed) and in being part of this prestigious event will bring in much needed funds to help #RaiseTheRig!

Please have a look at our campaign and if you can pledge to support our work; or more valuably perhaps share the campaign with your contacts and friends.

Fair Winds


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