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Welcome to Chipping Norton Yacht Club

March 2014 meeting

Robert Miller told us about Elsa Hammond, an Oxford graduate now doing her PhD at Bristol. She is planning a record-breaking row across the Pacific – 2400 miles, from California to Hawaii, in aid of Plastics in Oceans; and is looking to borrow an EPIRB, a PLB, a hand held GPS and water containers. If anyone can help he asks them please to mail her at or make contact via her website.

Roger Backhaus (as Membership Secretary) gave us an update on member numbers. We have 63 – low compared with our initial year’s 120 or so – but of these about half had never attended any of our events, so it was no surprise that numbers had settled down to the level they had. We continue this year, as we did last, to have a good turnout at our monthly meetings, and function fine at this level. Additional members are nevertheless to be encouraged.

On funding, Roger (wearing his Treasurer hat) told us that that expenditure this year will be lower than last. In our first year we had professional website costs (the website is now managed by Barnaby), we were hiring AV kit (now provided by Hugh) and we had one-off burgee/logo design costs. We have plenty in the coffers for our 2014 programme.

Visiting speaker Bob Comlay then presented his personal and gripping talk “Travels with Tilman”.

Tilman was a gentleman adventurer, born into comfortable financial circumstances in the reign of Queen Victoria. He served in both World Wars, conquered Himalayan peaks, and in his latter years (when “too old to climb”) took up sailing. Sailing, in his terms, meant taking heavy and already elderly gaff-rigged Pilot Cutters into the Arctic, with an assortment of crew picked up from advertising in The Times. Tilman’s signature advertisement read:

“Hands wanted for long voyage in small boat.
No pay, no prospects, not much pleasure”

 (Some in our audience seemed to find this amusing. Can’t think why.)

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Bob Comlay was then a student. He applied to crew, was selected, and went on to sail with Tilman on two arctic voyages; he saw and did things few youngsters would get a chance to see or do, or dare to do, and as a result took 5 years to complete his 3 year degree course.

Bob showed us wonderful pictures of Greenland, of fjords, icebergs, growlers, fog, and cod-drying racks. The skipper and crew (including himself) were captured on film (yes, film) in woollen hats and sports jackets. For those of us who appreciate the aesthetic and engineering of old boats and rigs the many pictures of pilot cutter Sea Breeze, on deck and under sail, were equally fascinating. We admired the massive mainsheet buffers, the boom reefing ratchet gear, the cut of the sails, the jury tiller brought into service after ice had broken the original, the sistered gaff ….

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Memorable also were the pictures of Sea Breeze “being watered” (harvesting potable water from ice); Sea Breeze tethered to icebergs; and the provisioning manifest for one of the voyages, including as it did nearly 100 tins of corned beef, 2lb of curry powder, several cases of whiskey, rum and gin, and a dozen loo rolls.


Bob said it was a testament to Kodak that the colour film of the 70’s had worked so well and lasted so well. I wouldn’t disagree, but more importantly Bob is an extremely accomplished photographer, and that is what really counts (go to his site to see some examples)!

Bob runs a website dedicated to the topic of this talk.

Paul Heiney’s “Dash for the Horn”

Paul Heiney, well known sailor, broadcaster and author, was the draw to our February meeting. Over 50 CNYC members came along to hear him, to talk boats and boating, and enjoy a good meal. It was a very convivial evening and we have had lots of positive feedback. All in all a very good start to our 2014 programme.

The Cotswold Club did us proud and many remarked on the quality of the food; and on the very professional AV support we now give to presenters – thanks to Hugh Woodsend.

Duncan, our Commodore, heralded an initiative to share members’ contact details. He explained that we are working out how best to do this, as we review and revise the website, and will be mailing each member individually with details and to ask whether they would like to participate, as he very much hoped they will. Duncan also thanked Barnaby Scott for the excellent work he has been doing, largely behind the scenes, on the website.

Next meeting is on 26th March: Bob Comlay on Travels with Tilman

Here is an account of Paul’s talk:

Paul Heiney delivered a colourful, and wonderfully laid back, account of his voyage across the southern Atlantic and round Cape Horn. He was laid back as only an extremely experienced sailor, and an experienced presenter, can be.

Paul did much of the 18,000-mile voyage single-handed, and claimed that the outward leg towards South America “could have been sailed in a Mirror”. This may have slightly over-stated the ease of those long hours in the Atlantic swells, but we got the message. He told us it doesn’t much matter what boat you have for such a trip, and did very few modifications to his boat Wild Song – a Chuck Paine designed Victoria 38. Paul crossed paths with others sailors, far from home, in very modest craft – including a Westerly Centaur.

Scoring the places he stopped at on a ten-point scale (some places would have scored a lot better if their marina charges had been less outrageous) Paul talked us through the voyage, through the Roaring Forties, down to the Horn and back. I for one confess that I had not realised that Cape Horn is actually an island – so one can, as Paul did, sail round it and return across the same ocean.

Adventures included running out of diesel, a shredded mainsail, and, at one critical point with no electric power either, getting help by calling Falmouth coastguard, who in turn alerted the Azores coastguard. They rang back almost immediately. Paul told them he was OK for the night, but a boat was sent out the next morning to give him a short tow to safety.

Paul neither dramatized his account nor regaled us with the problems he faced on this voyage. Boredom, he said, was perhaps the most difficult thing to deal with. Luckily he loves cooking (or is it food?) and part of his solution is to cook labour-intensive dishes. Fresh bread, and the peeling of potatoes are, apparently, ideal balm for a bored soul.

Paul is of the view that a journey is not emotionally complete until one has returned to its starting point. His port of return was not, alas, his port of departure; but as luck would have it he had called at a supermarket to stock up on the way out, and realised, back at the same supermarket there, after the trip, that his 18,000-mile voyage was now properly ended, in a supermarket aisle.

All in all a fascinating and engrossing account. Questions from the floor were many, varied, and telling. I am happy to report that no-one from our audience asked him whether, in the context of keeping an adequate watch as a single-hander crossing an ocean (always a controversial point), he always put in somewhere for the night. He mentioned he had been asked that vexing question, at some other yacht club gathering.

The Year Ahead

We have a rich and varied programme for 2014 – there will be talks by well-known external speakers, as before, plus more this year from our own members. Another quiz, a summer BBQ, and a brewery tour are also being planned.

We start the year with a talk by Paul Heiney, on 26th February, whose book The Last Man Across the Atlantic will be known to many of you. Members – if you want to come along please book your place here. Non-members – why not consider joining!

Membership Renewal Time

Membership renewals are now due for 2014. Please see “Notices to Members” in the Members Area for details.

Trevor hands the con to Duncan

CNYC held its first AGM on Wednesday 28th. January at the Cotswold Club.

Trevor and Jo, who had worked so tirelessly to establish the club during 2013, had stepped down, and Duncan Wheatley thanked them and the other officers, on behalf of us all, for getting us off the pontoon so very successfully.

Trevor said he’d stressed that he wanted no fuss on his departure but we could not let them go without some form of ceremony.

There were a number of other changes on the bridge, and the following were voted in to form the new Committee:

  • Commodore – Duncan Wheatley
  • Vice-Commodore and Secretary – Chris Adams
  • Rear-Commodore (Treasurer and Membership Secretary) – Roger Backhaus
  • Rear-Commodore (Website) – Barnaby Scott
  • Rear-Commodore (Speakers and Presentations) – Hugh Woodsend

The business part of the meeting over, we moved on to hear presentations from four club members, three talking about their exploits on the water last year (in one case the last decade and a bit) and one telling us about his ambitious plans for the next boat.

We also heard from Frances who is having a bit of a clear-out now she and James are retiring from active sailing. She mentioned in particular a 100 channel, 10-100 watts, KENWOOD TS-50S HF Transceiver (operating on ham & marine frequencies), with matching KENWOOD AT-50 Automatic Antenna Tuner, modem and other bits and pieces. If you are interested do take a look here and get in touch with James or her!

Talk 1

Holly Jones’ talked us through her adventurous voyage along the Norwegian seaboard to the land of the midnight sun, above the Arctic Circle. She shared pictures of craggy fjords, tranquil villages, dried cod, and, of course, that sun at midnight.

For those that missed it, here are some of the evocative photographs she shared with us, and a plan of the route she took.

The talk was entitled “Seventy at Seventy” for reasons a gentleman with any manners could not begin to guess at.

We very much look forward to her next talk, after she returns from a Pacific trip later this year.

Holly told us she has been given a new camera, and promised us lots and lots of photos!

Talk 2

Next up was Barnaby Scott, a local furniture designer and maker who is also a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. He sails Scottish waters in and around estuaries and creeks, many of which are shallow and dry out, so has particular requirements that no stock boat quite meets.

His current and very pretty strip-epoxy pocket gaff yawl (a Willow Bay Shilling) looks a picture parked on the sand, but at 17 feet on deck she has her limitations, especially in terms of accommodation. Barnaby’s checklist for the right boat led him to a 30 foot sharpie design by Iain Oughtred, the Haiku, which is a modern interpretation of Ralph Munroe’s legendary Long Island inspired sharpie, Egret. One Haiku has been built in the UK so far.

When it comes to building a boat Barnaby has several weapons up his sleeve: an ability to create a detailed 3D computer model of the design (which he’s already done), and some state-of-the-art computer-controlled wood machining kit (a “CNC” machine)….

As well us showing us a few pictures of the planned boat, Barnaby fired up the software model and took us, virtually, through the build, and then inside the boat – quite fascinating. We were delighted to have helped him make the public commitment he now has, to this fascinating project. There’s no going back now, Barnaby.

Talk 3

Phil Levermore left Plymouth in 2000 and sailed his Scanmar 345 “Scandal” to practically every location you think of in the Mediterranean over the next 14 (yes, that’s 14!) years.
He was first, during 2013, to make use of CNYC Crewing Service, and had the honour of having our newly-elected Commodore, Duncan, as crew as a result.

Last year’s sailing excitements included hard-drinking Russians in neighbouring marina berths, the failing of the elderly Volvo Penta, and the insatiable appetite of one of his crew members – whose orders the waiter assumed were for the whole table, rather than for just one hungry crewman….

Talk 4

Chris Adams has told us before about the joys of sailing Scottish waters. The midges (“not as big as you think”, he insists); the storms (“hardly ever”, he claims); the rain (“only sometimes”); the rocks (“they just add to the fun”); the racing tides (they “just help you along”). He is quite an enthusiast for these waters (!) and has been heard to say “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” a quote variously attributed to Ranulph Fiennes (properly Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE); Alfred Wainright and Billy Connolly….

In this talk he took us through his end-of-season Western Isle cruise – northwards up the Sound of Mull, stopping at deserted anchorages on Coll, back south’ards around the outside of Mull, inside Colonsay, returning south down the channel between Islay and Jura. It sounded wonderful!

Most memorable, for those of us who choose to sail in the more popular waters of the South Coast, in the Med., or in the Netherlands, is the isolation. Chris showed us photo after photo of an empty bay or beach, occasionally crowded out with a single yacht (his Hallberg-Rassy 342), and occasionally not even by that….