The oldest C&N yacht sails again
In October 1996 ClassicBoat magazine celebrated their 100th issue by selecting the 100 best classic yachts. In his contribution, Ian Dear picked Germaine, a near wreck with an exceptional pedigree: a gaff yawl built in 1882 by Ben Nicholson. William Kirk left not much of her at the time except for a forlorn hull on a Gosport parking lot, and a lovely period photograph.
By François Chevalier - English translation: Patrick Bigand
|©François Chevalier - Sail plan of Germaine, drawn from period pictures based on period|
|Germaine cruising during the 19th century – Patrick Bigand Collection|
Germaine had been found by Camper and Nicholsons somewhere on an Essex mud berth and brought to Gosport to be restored in preparation for their bicentennial in 1982, as a symbol of their first century of existence. Unfortunately the boatyard did not make it to 200 years, the land was sold to a marina developer, and Germaine was left on the premises, without spars or ballast.
|©François Chevalier - Germaine’s sections are typical of the « plank on edge » designs that were popular in England at the time|
At the time when ClassicBoat issue 100 appeared, Patrick Bigand lived in Oxford, and reading Ian Dear’s story he felt Germaine, at 42 ft. LOD, would be an ideal flagship for his collection of small sailing and rowing classics. He could already picture her moored in front of his house in Douarnenez.
|A wealthy yachtsman, F.W Leybourne Popham owned many yachts. Germaine was among the smallest in his fleet|
Through Ian Dear, he got in touch with Mark Bowden, head of Marina Development, and bought Germaine for a symbolic pound. Germaine was soon moved to Lowestfot to be restored by the International Boatbuilding Training College, and Patrick contacted me to ask for my help preparing a full set of plans, since none was available any more as the C&N archives has been destroyed in a fire.
|©François Chevalier - Sawn oak frames, pitch-pine planking, teak topsides, weight is not a factor for this type of construction|
I went to Lowestoft and took all necessary measurements on the hull and collapsed deck. I then drew the lines, and followed with all structural, deck and sail plans.
Work started, and went slowly: progress was tied to classes programs and schedules. Furthermore if not judged perfect, a job had to be redone.
|©François Chevalier - The master section, a classic design|
Meanwhile Patrick got a new assignment in Portland Oregon, left Europe for several years, and eventually came back to France in late 2002. The IBTC saw changes in owners and management, and Germaine at times was not the highest priority. Nevertheless Germaine slowly regained her former glory.
|©François Chevalier - Mahogany interior, the companionway located well forward of the cockpit allows for a roomy owner’s cabin. The galley and head are forward, as was customary at the time|
|©François Chevalier - Detail of the companionway. Access remains easy, even when the boat is heeling|
|©François Chevalier - Detail of the skylight|
|©François Chevalier - Detail of the forward hatch|
At last, on May 28 2013, Germaine was launched again on lake Lothing, with Eleonore Salter, great great grandniece of F.W Leybourne Popham, her first owner, in attendance.
|The launch on May 28 2013 in Lowestoft|
Nadia and Patrick Bigand placed a silver coin under the mainmast, and champagne was brought to celebrate Germaine’s rebirth, and the 453 students who contributed to it.
During the celebration, a worried Patrick called me; Germaine was way too high on the water!
I had to remind him that she is an 1882 design: at the time a sizeable part of the ballast was inside. Three additional tons of lead soon restored her proper trim.
After some final finishing and rigging work, the elegant yawl left the North Sea shores for her new homeport of Douarnenez, which she reached on September 15th 2013 at the end of a 450 nautical miles maiden voyage.
Germaine Main data
Designer and builder: Ben Nicholson
Launched: June 21th, 1882
First owner: F. W. Leybourne-Popham
Refit designer: François Chevalier
Builder: IBTC (International Boat building Training College), Lowestoft
LOD: 12,83 m
LWL: 10,20 m
Beam: 2,90 m
Displacement: 18 tons
Ballast: 5 tons lead under the keel + 3 tons inside the boat
Draft: 2, 05 m
Rig: yawl gaff rig
Sail area: 135 m2 (windward)
Air draft with topmast: 16,60 m
Engine: diesel Vetus 42 cv inboard, with hydraulic transmission
Materail: pitchpin, teak, oak frames
Mats and spars: Oregon pine