Klang II - 1924 English Yawl - click for home page (Photo Credit: Peter Barlow)

From THE AGE, Australian Newspaper, Friday, June 23, 1967

Sailing to the Cup - from THE AGE, Friday, June 23, 1967Sailing to the Cup

[from Murray Davis, our former yachting writer who will report for us on preparations and racing for the America's Cup. Davis has gone to America the hard way - by sailing the Atlantic.]

New York - It is almost a year since we started out from Britain in the old 21-ton yawl Klang II to sail to Rhode Island to watch Australia's challenge for the great symbol of sailing, the America's Cup.

Much water has flowed beneath the keel since then. Kate is now 7, Paul 6, and my wife, Barbara, and I are fitter and slimmer than we have been for years.

Our dog, Bosun, is going brown around the edges. He lies around a lot as a nine-year-old should - waiting with twitching eyebrows for something exciting to happen, when he becomes uncomfortably bouncy.

When we set out on our voyage, it was more with the idea of enjoying our family in a experience together, before schooling demanded a more settled existence than watching a yacht race. We did not know if the idea would work and we were prepared to stop at any time if the experiment failed.

Kate and Paul play aboard Klang II as the yacht sails through the Caribbean.
Kate and Paul play aboard Klang II as the yacht sails through the Caribbean.

The Australian yacht Dame Pattie is scheduled to arrive in New York on Sunday and we will be there to welcome her. When she has been fitted out we will sail to Rhode Island to watch Jock Sturrock and her crew prepare for the challenge.

We have order a new Australian ensign and are tying to bring Klang II's paintwork to a respectable standard so that we can cheer long and hard from her deck without self-consciousness.

Our voyage had one unplanned turn. A storm on the edge of Biscay turned Klang II back into Plymouth and, as the fair-weather cycle had obviously cracked with the lateness of the year, Barbara and the children remained in Britain while I sailed Klang to Trinidad with four young Australians - David Ward of Epping, Sydney ; Geoff and Susan Burrows of Melbourne ; and Bob White, of Woolsthorpe, Victoria. None had any experience of sailing, yet they complete the 6000-mile voyage with a happy enthusiasm.

In Corunna, Spain, we bought petrol which had water in it and this stopped our engine. A storm off the Portuguese coast put more water into the engine and after four despairing days trying to repair it in Lisbon we sailed to Las Palmas, Barbados and Trinidad without any power other than the wind.

As we neared the end of our 30-day Atlantic crossing we saw late in the night, streaming steadily across the sky, a UFO (unidentified flying object). It was huge, glowed and had a flaming tail - and it left us all quiet , strangely reluctant to talk about what we had seen.

In Trinidad Barbara and the children rejoined Klang II for the voyage north through the Caribbean, Bahamas and up the remarkable intra-coastal water-way to New York.

We put a small diesel engine in Klang II in Trinidad and watched Carnival, the highlight of the year for the Southern Caribbean, from the deck as the yacht swung to her anchor in the crater harbor of Georgetown, Grenada.

In this 18th-century setting of quays and schooners the Grenadians paraded in costumes depicting a primitive return to the rituals of the African tribes their ancestors had left as slaves.

The Caribbean provides, for those who love boats, some of the most wonderful sailing in the world. The wind blows strong and cool from north-east to south-east for six months of the year. The water is clear and blue. It tumbles out from the bow with a sparkle and breaks invitingly on the white coral beaches.

Many times we caught fish - tuna, kingfish, barracuda, dolphin (not porpoises). Bosun leapt into the cockpit to fight with the first, taken on a simple spoon lure off the island of Carriacou, in the Granadines. He leapt on top of the doghouse (the covered area for the helmsman) to contemplate the third.

There are quite a number of yachts plying these waters, carrying guests that have fled the northern winter on cruises among the islands. These yachts and the trading schooners are in some places the only means of getting from one island to another.

St. Lucia celebrated its independent Statehood while Klang II underwent a paint on the slip in Castries. Barbara made their "courtesy" flag, which shows the Pitons, two marvelous cone-shaped upcrops on the southern point of the island, black against a background of white, yellow and blue.

Less carefree

The St. Lucians are not as gay as the people to the south and there is a diminishing carefree acceptance of life among the islanders the nearer you get to the United States.

In Castries we changed Klang II's rather battered white topsides to black. It enhanced her considerably and we became known as "the people from the black yacht." In Castries the children made firm friends with children from the British yachts Suzanne and Bineta. These families were on their way to the Bahamas to settle and carried many precious household possessions aboard.

We entered the American Virgin Islands at Charlotte Amalie, on the island of St. Thomas, at the start of the bicentennial celebrations. The magnificent Danish square-rigger Danmark rode at anchor in the beautiful harbor. The Americans bought the islands from the Danes, and they have become a tourist resort. Our own "special" Dane, Captain Chris Loehr, who had sailed the tiny yacht Lento single-handed from his country, rowed over to greet us.

We celebrated his birthday and the bicentenary also.

Klang II had not been underway from St. Thomas more than 12 hours when she developed a severe leak through her rudder post. I lay flat on my stomach hammering caulking into the leak as Klang II sailed fast along the coast of Puerto Rico for Great Inagua. Reluctantly we headed into San Juan listing sickeningly in the ground swell. We stayed 24 hours for repairs and altered our plans for a stop at the out-of-the-way island of Mayaguana.

This is an outpost of the Bahamas where the Americans have a huge airfield and tracking equipment for their space probes. It was to Mayaguana that the first astronaut was brought after his splash-down.

The airfield, with its control tower and buildings, strikes a strange, out-of-the-world note among the low rolling land of Mayaguana, one of the most primitive and least developed of the Bahamas. The Americans keep it in 24-hour readiness for the acceptance of 500 personnel. They gave us dinner in their empty "moon" city. In a way their talk prepared us for our sail under the lee of the launching pads of Cape Kennedy a few weeks later.

Sailing through the Bahamas, where the water is shallow and reputed to be the clearest in the world, is thrilling as the boat seems more suspended than floating above the bottom. Navigation is by eye, the depth gauged by the color of the water, which shades from deep purple through amethyst and emerald to palest jade and turquoise.

"White" water is too shallow, as we found when Klang II (draught 5 ft. 9 in.) ground to a halt on coral sand. The warm air and warm water sweetly entice the most reluctant swimmers and Kate, Paul and Bosun were often swimming before the anchor chain had stopped rattling out. Nassau was just recovering from the Easter visit of thousands of young American students who flood south from the cold to the Bahamas and Florida fro their brief holiday. We left it on one of its rare dull, blustery days, a strong easterly wind bowling Klang II along at seven knots on the final 170-mile leg to America.

It was a night requiring constant vigilance, a dark sky above and a shallow bottom below. Our vigilance cracked during confusion over a red light, later identified as the aircraft beacon on Bimini. Our reefed-down mainsail, which we had carefully nursed on the point of jibing for 15 hours, crashed over in a wild jibe, causing the backstay to rip up nine feet of deck.

After our fine run the mishap annoyed us and we determinedly carried on, sailing on the other tack, allowing ourselves a drive of 15 miles as we headed out across the Gulf Stream for Fort Lauderdale. This very new city has been described as the small-boat capital of the world. It was some 500 miles of inland waterways. Many of the houses have a water frontage and everyone seems to own a boat or have access to one. the Australian Leila Williard King, who ran a pearling fleet out of Darwin before World War II, and her husband, retired scientist Dr. Williard King, gave us a fine welcome of America.

The intra-coastal waterway is a system of canals which link rivers, estuaries and bays for 1400 miles, allowing boats of about six-feet draft to travel with a buffer of land between them and the Atlantic Ocean.

It passed through some beautiful countryside and, with an extended schedule of not having to be in New York until the end of June, we chose to stop at places that took our fancy.

Fish Business

In the deep-South town of Georgetown we unshipped the rudder and replaced it, permanently repairing our Puerto Rico leak.  Here we kept Klang II along Huck's Fish Market, where Kate learnt the retail fish business and Paul learnt to clean and catch it, while I was pressed into talking about Australian-U.S. relations at a Rotary luncheon.

We learned a lot about the Southern way of life - and they learned a lot about us, mainly from Kate and Paul. "Miz Caines believes in Adam and Eve," Kate said. "So we told her about evolution." We had time to see integration working and to appreciate the quite atmosphere of old houses in wide, tree-lined streets and gracious Southern hospitality.

As for "learning" as such, Barbara has continued to give the children lessons from the Victorian Correspondence School. While Kate has achieved seven out of eight "gold starts," we despair sometimes about Paul's attitude to learning - although he draws four-masted sailing ships complete with top-gallants.

During our slow journey north we have met other boats. The couple on board the little American trimaran Dart had taken a year off, in much the same we had, to cruise the Caribbean. A metallurgist, who patented a process for titanium into steel, Andy believed the "away from it all," although sometimes very hard and difficult, existence had freed his mind to the point where he was hopeful of developing several new processes that would help mankind's development.

Sailing up deep-throated Chesapeake Bay we stopped at Smith Island, where fishermen catch and farm crabs. The crabs leave their shells to double their size almost immediately, and the process continues with decreasing rapidity until full maturity. Immediately after shedding their shells they are soft - and soft crabs are a delicacy which brings high prices in city restaurants.

Our last stop before New York was Annapolis to watch 100 boats start in the Annapolis to Rhode Island ocean race - it was a preview of the intense yachting scene we expect to be part of in the coming weeks as the world watches Dame Pattie's attempt to wrest the America's Cup from the New York Yacht Club.

Re: the Dame Pattie (named after the popular wife of an Australian PM)

  1. 1967 - Intrepid Takes a Bow, Downing Dame Pattie, 4-0
    Considered by many to be the greatest 12-meter ever built, the Olin Stephens-designed Intrepid took on Australia's Dame Pattie. With the exception of a brief moment in the second race, however, the determined crew from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron could only watch Intrepid's stern as Bus Mosbacher sailed her to his second successful Cup defense.
  2.  ......but the NYYC disallowed the protest on a technicality, prompting a British writer to comment, "Britannia rules the waves, but America waives the rules."

    Those were relatively minor incidents, however, compared to the furor that arose with Sir Frank Packer's second challenge in 1967. America's Intrepid and Australia's Dame Pattie collided shortly after the start of the second race. Dame Pattie crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified because of the collision and Intrepid was declared the winner.

    The NYYC was immediately flooded with telegrams, phone calls, and letters, most of them from Americans who felt the ruling was unfair. A furious member of the Australian Parliament even demanded that the country withdraw its ambassador to the U. S. in protest.

    Intrepid proceeded to win the next two races for a sweep, but the disqualification still rankled with Australians and seemed to spur a determination to win the cup.


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Last Modified: May 27, 2010