On board Lulworth

Lulworth - copyright lulworth_1.jpg



As the rain falls on the Voiles d’Antibes, it’s time to reminisce about Lulworth’s extraordinary past.  On Thursday June 5th 2008, as the rain fell outside, I took shelter in the roomy saloon below deck and flicked through the pages of a hefty book dedicated to the restoration of this Big Class Gaff Cutter. Settling comfortably into the surroundings of light wood and soft leather, I devoured the incredible saga of this 46.30 metre long giant.  Commissioned by a certain Mr. Lee to compete with the renowned Britania, she was launched in 1920 at the White Brothers yard in Southampton. Today, the story goes on and Lulworth continues to write yachting history, this time in the hands of her current owner Johan van den Bruele.

Glorious past

In 1920, her original name was Terpsichore, and she only took on her current identity when sold to Herbert Weld in 1924. The modifications made by naval architect Charles Nicholson then took Lulworth to six glorious years of victory and she became the stuff of legends.  During that time, she won 47 races, took second place 46 times and third place 21 times. Her most outstanding year was 1926, when she took home 13 out of the 29 races she ran.  An even more remarkable feat when you look at the stiff competition she faced, as shown on the famous Beckens photograph taken at Cowes, where Lulworth, the only one of the Big Five that remains today, is seen taking on the formidable Britania, Shamrock, Westward and White Heather. For this reason, when restoration work began in 2001, once everything that could be saved and repaired had been, she was then fitted out in accordance with the plans and photos dating from her most glorious year, 1926.


Lulworth’s restoration took 5 years and is not a rebuild but a work of incredible detail. After collecting original documents, photographs and plans, project manager Giuseppe Longo put together a team composed of 16 different nationalities.  Since there is nobody around today who knows how to rig a Gaff Cutter of this size, specialists from all over the world were meticulously consulted.  Each stage was a challenge in itself, not the least of which was replacing the 37.2 metres of North American white pine on the deck with Burmese teak. The result of all this painstaking work is an incredible visual, ethical and sporting success. By 2007, victory was already on the cards, including her memorable triumph at the liaison race between Cannes and Saint Tropez in October.   In the same year, all these efforts were also rewarded when Lulworth received the prestigious best restoration award at the World Superyacht Awards in Venice.

The story goes on

It’s the start of the season, and when I first set foot on board the last surviving member of the “Big Five”, I discover a huge sailing yacht that’s ready for a fight.   With my heart beating, I wander around the deck, feeling a little lost beneath the domineering 55-metre mast. The crew are all hard at work, and when we are finally given leave to set sail, it is actually a relief, and a spectacular sight.  Slowly but surely, Lulworth pulls away from the dock and sails out of the Port of Antibes. It takes thirty minutes of manoeuvres to hoist over 1000 m² of sails.  We glide slowly over to the starting zone. Unfortunately there is little wind to be had on day one of the regatta, and our 188 tons rarely exceeded 7 knots.  As the first drops of rain begin to fall, Lulworth’s owner invites me below deck to discover this superb interior that unveils the yacht’s glorious past.  Thanks to the talent and generous efforts of Johan van den Bruele and his crew, time no longer stands still for Lulworth, and the story goes from strength to strength. Tech Specs of Lulworth.

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