The tall wooden mast of Cetewayo stood out from all the others at Mercury Marina on the River Hamble. David Murrin was already on board preparing the boat. We were to sea trial some new sails and tweak the rigging in readiness for the forthcoming classic yacht racing this summer on the Solent.
Classic Boat magazine had sent me to take some photos of David which I took throughout the day; it quickly become apparent how occupied he was with the boat. No sooner had I arrived than he was off to sort out the collection of the new sails. Soon crewmembers arrived with two huge spinnaker poles and these were fixed into their new deck chocks which had been moved further inboard to allow a clear deck space.
Over the next two hours I lost count of the number of hanks of rope coming up from below onto the deck. There were also rigging blocks and track carriages, many of which were covered in hand sewn leatherwork for protection.
All of the rope is of the same hemp colour, varying slightly in diameter and fleck. With so much similar rope around careful management was needed to prevent the cockpit becoming a mass of mingled ropes. On each side are placed canvas stowage bags with compartments to keep each sheet separate and easy to grab in an instant. No problem for the experienced crew, but it would be interesting to see how this works in low light or at night.
Coffee was ordered for the eight us and drunk during a crew briefing. The sea trial would involve trying out each of the sails (many were new) from the extensive wardrobe. Out on the Solent we had some light winds and the deck crew Adam and Sam were tasked with hoisting and setting the sails one by one starting with the code 0, until by late afternoon we had flown and set all three spinnakers, grabbing a sandwich in between.
Fine adjustments were being made to the running backstays and reference points marked to the finest millimetre with great precision. We only had one breakage when a block broke free from its deck fitting. In the light wind it was a relaxed sail and it was great to feel this fantastic vessel heel over and glide along. She felt good and solid and I could imagine in a bit of a breeze her weight and narrow beam would give a real thrill/be thrilling.
Cetewayo has been owned by David Murrin (Commodore of the British Classic Yacht Club) for 27 years. He discovered her abandoned in Pembroke Dock and since then has lovingly restored the yacht to her immaculate condition. She was designed in 1954 by Laurent Giles and built between 1955-7 by Morris & Lorrimar on the Clyde.
LOA is 48ft
Displacement 18 tonnes
Beam a narrow 10.6ft.
The hull is teak with a mahogany superstructure.