Gipsy Moth IV

Gipsy Moth IV is a 54 ft ketch that Sir Francis Chichester commissioned specifically to sail single-handed around the globe, racing against the times set by the clipper ships of the 19th century.

Background and design

After being nursed back to health from a suspected lung abscess by his wife, Chichester became inspired while writing his book "Along the Clipper Way," which charts the voyage taken by 19th century wool clippers returning from Australia. The clippers took an average of 123 days to make their passage, so Chichester set himself the target of making the passage in 100 days.

In 1962 Chichester commissioned Gosport-based ship yard Camper and Nicholsons to build the fourth boat in his series, all named "Gipsy Moth." The name originated from the de Havilland Gipsy Moth aircraft in which Chichester completed pioneering work in aerial navigation techniques.

The maximum speed of a yacht is directly related to its wetted length: "Gipsy Moth IV" is 53 feet overall, whereas a clipper ship such as the "Cutty Sark" is 212 feet. Designed by John Illingworth and Angus Primrose, the boat incorporated the maximum amount of sail for the minimum amount of rigging, whilst employing tiller based self-steering using design principles established by Blondie Hasler that could enable steerage from the skipper's bunk, essential for solo sailing for a voyage of this length.

1966 voyage

Launched in March 1966, she is 38 ft 6 in (11.8 m) on the waterline and 53 ft (16 m) overall, with a hull constructed of cold-moulded Honduras mahogany. Ketch rigged, she has a sail area of 854 sq ft (79.4 m²), extendable with a spinnaker to over convert|1500|sqft|m2|-1|abbr=on.

"Gipsy Moth IV" set out from Plymouth on 27 August 1966 with 64-year-old Sir Francis at the helm. This was not uneventful, and Chichester later recalled three moments where he noted that the trip was almost over. The first was when part of the frame holding the wind vane self-steering failed, when still 2,300 miles (3,680 km) from Sydney. Not wanting to put in to Fremantle, Western Australia, Chichester spent three days balancing sails and experimenting with shock-cord lines on the tiller, once again getting the boat to hold a course to enable her to cover 160 miles (256 km) a day. [ 30th Anniversary ] ]

An exhausted Chichester entered Sydney harbour for a stop over 107 days later. He enlisted the help of America's Cup designer Warwick Hood, who added a piece to the boat's keel to provide "Gypsy Moth IV" with better directional stability to stop her broaching, but the modification did nothing to improve her stability.

One day out on the return trip via Cape Horn, the boat was rolled in a 140-degree capsize. Chichester calculated the angle by measuring the mark on the cabin roof made by a wine bottle. He commented in his diary and in a later interview with "Time" magazine that he knew she would self-right as she was designed to, but was concerned by the incident as this was a light storm and he still had to pass Cape Horn, where the third and most significant event of the voyage would occur:

"The waves were tremendous. They varied each time, but all were like great sloping walls towering behind you. The kind I liked least was like a great bank of gray-green earth 50' (15 m) high and very steep. Image yourself at the bottom of one. My cockpit was filled five times and once it took more than 15 minutes to drain. My wind-reading machine stopped recording at 60 knots. My self-steering could not cope with the buffeting....I had a feeling of helplessness."
Just as he thought all hope was lost and he was alone, on exiting the cockpit one day he was followed by the British Antarctic Survey vessel HMS "Protector", and latter the same day a Royal Air Force plane broke through the clouds. On 28 May 1967 having logged convert|28500|mi|km|-2 in just 274 days (226 days actual sailing time), the voyage claimed the following records:
*Fastest voyage around the world by any small vessel
*Longest non stop passage that had been made by a small sailing vessel (15,000 miles)
*More than twice the distance of the previous longest passage by a singlehander
*Twice broke the record for a singlehander's weeks run by more than convert|100|mi|km|-1
*Established a record for singlehanded speed by sailing convert|1400|mi|km|-2 in 8 days

In his book "The Circumnavigators" Don Holm describes "Gipsy Moth IV" as "perhaps one of the worst racing yachts ever built", [ [ The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm - Chapter 28 ] ] while Chichester commented:

Now that I have finished, I don't know what will become of "Gipsy Moth IV". I only own the stern while my cousin owns two thirds. My part, I would sell any day. It would be better if about a third were sawn off. The boat was too big for me. "Gipsy Moth IV" has no sentimental value for me at all. She is cantankerous and difficult and needs a crew of three - a man to navigate, an elephant to move the tiller and a 3'6" (1.1 m) chimpanzee with arms 8' (2.4 m) long to get about below and work some of the gear.


The boat never sailed again, and after the death of Chichester at the age of 71 on 26 August 1972, "Gipsy Moth IV" was put on permanent display at Greenwich, England in a land-locked purpose-built dry dock next to the "Cutty Sark." The yacht was open to the public for many years, but eventually due to general deterioration from allowing visitors to walk across her decks, was permanently closed to visitors, remaining on display at Greenwich.


"Gipsy Moth IV" remained undisturbed but gently deteriorating until in 2003. Paul Gelder, editor of the London-based sailing magazine, "Yachting Monthly", launched a campaign to restore the yacht and sail her around the world in 2006 on the 40th anniversary of Chichester's epic voyage, and the 100th birthday of the magazine. He enlisted the support of The Blue Water Round the World Rally, a club-style cruising rally that the magazine had been covering since 1995.

In 2004, in a joint proposal with "Yachting Monthly" and "Gipsy Moth IV's" owners The Maritime Trust, the yacht was purchased by the United Kingdom Sailing Academy for the sum of £1 and a Gin and tonic (Sir Francis' favourite tipple). She was taken by road to Camper and Nicholson's yard in Gosport, Portsmouth Harbour, where she had been built and launched in 1966, for restoration. Although C&N did the work at cost price, [ The Gipsy Moth Project ] ] the restoration cost over £300,000. [ Gipsy Moth IV (Sir Francis Chichester) A National Maritime Heritage Treasure ] ]

econd voyage

"Gipsy Moth IV" set sail from Plymouth Sound on the first leg of the 2005-07 Blue Water Round the World Rally on 25 September 2005. She had a mixture of experienced crew and teams of disadvantaged youth on board, including:
*Skipper: Richard Bagget
*First mate: Dewi Thomas
*Crew Leader: Paul Gelder (Editor of "Yachting Monthly")
*Crew: Matthew Pakes (Isle of Wight), Peter Heggie (Plymouth), Elaine Cadwell (Scotland)

The first leg took just over two weeks to reach Gibraltar, the official starting point for the Blue Water Round the World Rally. After crossing The Bay of Biscay to make landfall in Bayonna, Spain, where Paul Gelder left to return to the UK, there was a crew change at Villahamora, Portugal, and Tom Buggy join the yacht as Crew Leader for the rest of the leg. Yachting Monthly's Dick Durham sailed the next leg and crew leader to the Canary Islands, where James Jermain took over as Mate to Richard Baggett for the Atlantic crossing to Antigua. The yacht went through the Panama Canal in February 2006 and headed for the Galapagos islands and the Marquesas.

On April 29, 2006, after a navigational blunder, Gipsy Moth ran aground on a coral reef at Rangiroa, an atoll in the Tuomotus,known as The Dangerous Archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. She was just 200 miles from her next landfall, Tahiti. The yacht was seriously damaged. After six days, a major salvage operation was undertaken with Smit, the Dutch big ship experts who were called in by the UKSA, with local help from Tahiti and Rangiroa. After a day-and-a-half spent patching up the holes in the hull with sheets of plywood, the yacht was successfully towed off the reef into deep water on a makeshift 'sledge'. She was towed to Tahiti and put on a cargo ship to be taken to New Zealand.In Auckland, Grant Dalton's America's Cup team donated help and premises at their HQ in Viaduct Harbour, and the yacht underwent a second restoration. After two weeks or so she was sailing again on 23 June, 2006.

Her return leg was via Cairns and Darwin, in Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Phuket, Sri Lanka, The Red Sea, Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. She docked in Gibraltar for a crew change, with skipper John Jeffrey joined by British teenagers: Grant McCabe (Plymouth), Kerry Prideaux (Lynton, Devon), Glen Austin (Isle of Wight) - the last of 90 disadvantaged young people who had crewed the yacht on her 28,264-mile voyage round the world. She was accompanied into Plymouth by a flotilla of small craft, "Gipsy Moth IV" docked at West Hoe Pier on 28 May 2007, as she did exactly 40 years ago. She was welcomed home by Giles Chichester, son of Sir Francis.

After the voyage, a comprehensive new book covering the entire Gipsy Moth IV project was written by project founder Paul Gelder, with forewords by Princess Anne, Ellen MacArthur and Giles Chichester. Numerous colour photographs show in graphic detail the restoration, the shipwreck in French Polynesia and the salvage operation and rebuilding of the ketch in New Zealand. [ [ BBC NEWS | UK | Gipsy Moth ends repeat world trip ] ]

Further reading

*cite book|author=Francis Chichester|id=ISBN 0-340-40667-4 |title=Gipsy Moth Circles the World|publisher=Hodder & Stoughton Ltd|year=1967
*cite book|author=Paul Gelder|id=ISBN 978-0-470-72443-9 |title=Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again|publisher=Wyley Nautical|year=2007


External links

* [ Official restoration project site]
* [ Official project launch partner]
* [ Gipsy Moth Circles the World, Reviewed] at The Open Critic

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