Moonbeam IV: pure pleasure
The weather was perfect for Moonbeam IV as the first regatta of the Voiles d’Antibes got underway on Thursday 1st of June 2006. It had snowed overnight in the Alps, but now the bay was bathed in sunlight and the south-easterly wind was blowing at 15 knots. On board, 20 pairs of hands were busy hoisting the heavy sails. Not an easy task. We could have done with 5 extra people, but once the heaving and hoisting was done, the manoeuvres could at last begin. Thanks to her narrow, 32-metre hull, Moonbeam IV is easy to turn and, despite her 70 tons, she soon picks up speed. So much so that the yacht was soon gliding between Marina-Baie-des-Anges and Antibes at a rate of 9 knots.
Power and hard work
This year, Moonbeam IV is in great competitive shape. She wintered in Tunisia, where the copper coating that protected her hull but slowed her down on the water was removed. The 10 tons of lead added inside the bottom of the hull gives her 50% more ballast, bringing her water line down by 12 cm. “It’s just not the same boat,” explains her skipper Philippe Lechevalier enthusiastically. Now, even when things get rough, all 500m² of sail area can be kept out. On Thursday 1st of June, Moonbeam IV sped full sail ahead through the turquoise sea, with the snow-capped Alps as a backdrop. With a 30 degree list, the leeward deck was constantly swept by spray, but there was no time to enjoy the thrills as the crew was busy working the lines, which were as tight as violin strings. Every turn required all hands on deck. As for the jibes, it took 7 people on the mainsheet to pass the 15-metre boom.
Race against time
All this hard work and its associated thrills lasted a good two hours. During this first Voiles d’Antibes regatta, Moonbeam IV came in a few minutes ahead of Bona Fide, but was ranked second overall as she was handicapped by her slow start. Her launch in 1914 also began with a false start when the First World War broke out shortly after she left William Fife’s Fairlie shipyards in Scotland. It was not until 1920 that this 105 foot Gaff Cutter could participate in her first regattas, winning the first post-war King’s Cup that very year. She repeated that particular exploit in 1923, beating the famous Brittania and Terpsichore, later renamed Lulworth. Since then, Moonbeam IV has changed hands several times before reaching her latest owners in 1995. In 1998 they launched major, high-quality restoration work before returning to the Mediterranean regatta circuit with a charter offering.
For the past year, she has been skippered by Philippe Lechevalier, with the help of first mate Cyrille, hostess Clara and deckhands Frédéric and Florian, a dynamic crew that offers its passengers, or crew members, a unique experience, as unique as Moonbeam IV herself.
– NG –