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Reading the lists of winners of the Sydney Hobart I am amazed to find yacht names of obvious Norwegian heritage: Christina, Solveig, Anitra, Peer Gynt and Freya. And even more astonished to find designers and sailors called Lars, Trygve and Magnus with the family name of Halvorsen.

I guess Australian sailors are less surprised. The Halvorsen story about the immigrant family from outside of Arendal, Norway, leaving bankruptcy behind and becoming a major part of leisure boating, both by motor and wind in New South Wales, is well known in Australia. Among the better sources for this amazing family history is the book “Wooden boats, Iron men. The Halvorsen story, by Randi Svensen, Halstead press, 2004.

5,5 with King Olav

The Halvorsen family made a long list of good looking, fast and very sturdy small double-enders, besides World Champion 5,5’s (one of the brothers became World Champion in one of them, and the Crown Prince of Norway, the late King Olav, sailed a Halvorsen-build 5,5 in World Championships at least twice), and a Dragon …

The Halvorsen’s participated in the Sydney to Hobart race most years from 1946 to 1965 and became Line Honours winner or overall winners at least seven times besides becoming number two or three years they did not made the line or overall first. Anitra for instance won in 1957 and became second in 46, 58 and 1959. And Peer Gynt won the Trans-Tasman race to Auckland (a race of 1,512 nautical miles) in 1948 and 1949, and became third in Sydney to Hobart in 1947. In 49 the yacht was sold to San Francisco where it won the Winter Point Score on San Francisco Bay. (Point is – Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen was magnificent sailors, but other sailors did it well in Halvorsen designs too.)

Freya – 3 time Sydney Hobar winner
The most famous of the Halvorsen double-enders is Freya. She became the overall winner in 1963, 64 and 65. She was thirty-eight feet nine inches long, with a beam of 11 feet. She was planked in Douglas fir with glued spline, upon glued Queensland maple laminated frames. Her deck was fiberglassed plywood, and her spar was a deck stepped aluminium mast. Her rudder tapered to a feather-edge. Australian National Maritime Museum is supposedly holding the line-drawings and specifications of Freya.

Tell me all about it if you know something more.

Randi Svensen quotes Magnus Halvorsen about Freya:

“Her long deadwood gave her the underwater body of a contemporary 50-55 footer. She had that feeling of a much bigger boat at sea. With her large vertical rudder there was perfect control. She responded to the helm at all times. Never did she broach to! Today’s sailors would find that unbelievable. She carried a shy spinnaker longer than any competing yacht. Indeed, a spinnaker could be carried until it was aback, without rounding up. Freya could also carry full sail to windward in 30 knots of wind.”

8+ knots consistent

The conditions of the Sydney Hobart varies from hurricane force winds to no wind at all – but still Freya used 3 days, 10 hours in 1965, 3 days, 5 hours in 64 and 3 days, 6 hours on handicap in 1963. Which is astonishing consistent on a 628 nautical mile long race in all sorts of conditions – and even more amazing, her mean speed was more than 8 knots. The Halvorsens must have pressed Freya above her theoretical speed at all times and in all conditions.

Freyas speed would have made her high up on modern list. She would have won in 2004, 2003, 1993, 1988, 1984, 1981, 1978, 1977, 1976, 1974, 1970, 1968, 1967, and 1966. The last two years the winners have been doing the Sydney Hobart in less than two days. But Freya would still be doing better than most yachts given the same speed as during her three consecutive winning years.

Amazing! What a double ender! And remember all of the Halvorsen race contenders was built both for cruising and racing. The Halvorsen thought of  comfort, security and speed. Both Halvorsen brothers disliked modern racing hulls and the very idea of using men as ballast.

The first photo is of Anitra on the Sydney to Hobart race in 1959.

The second is Freya showing her “shy spinnaker.”

The third is Freya going hard windward.

The Kaskelot takes you topside

In 1945 the double-ender “Rani” finished first and got both the line honour and won the over-all in the very first Sydney-Hobart race. She was the second smallest of the nine participating yachts.

Rani was a short-overhang, double-ended, light-displacement 35-footer (not unlike a well known Kaskelot “Salt”, I’m just mentioned it) – designed by A.C. Barber in Sydney and built by the Steel Brothers of lake Macquarie in New South Wales.

Dear fellow double-ender admirers, if anyone have more knowledge and a more detailed description of Rani – feel free to submit a comment. The photo used here is the only one I can get my hands on.


The following is copied from Knockdown, The Harrowing True Account Of A Yacht Race Turned Deadly
By Martin Dugard, Pocket Books.

The following paragraph ran in an Australian yachting magazine in October 1945: “Yacht race to Tasmania: It is expected that an ocean yacht race may take place from Sydney to Hobart, probably starting on December 26, 1945. Yachtsmen desirous of competing should contact Vice-President Mr. P Luke, 62 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, for information. Entries close December 1, 1945.”
Their boats were heavy cruising yachts with deep keels instead of true ocean racers, but nine skippers sailed that first Syd-Hob. One of the nine starters was a fifty-two-footer named, in a moment of midwar patriotism, the Winston Churchill. Huon-pine planking, copper nails, cloth sails. Hauled up from the water two days before to let the hull dry, then a hull polish of Johnson’s floor wax to help her slip through the water faster. Built in 1942 by Tasman shipwright Percy Coverdale, Winston Churchill was considered the finest yacht in all Australia. Legend has it that her namesake even gave his blessing to her moniker on a postwar trip to Australia.
Overlooked in the prerace hoopla was Rani, a thirty-four-footer skippered by John Illingworth of the Royal Navy. Rani was also made of Huon-pine planks, pounded into the frame with copper nails. Her sails were hand-stitched cotton. All ropes were Indian hemp. The mast was Oregon pine, the rigging was cast iron, and the bilge pump was a pair of sailors clutching a tin bucket and frying pan. The crew wore Royal Australian Navy gear, mostly cotton impregnated with wax.
Illingworth was taking the Syd-Hob challenge seriously, having spent the months beforehand visiting Australia’s south coast and speaking with fishermen about the winds and currents of the Bass Strait. He also developed friendships at Sydney’s local weather bureau to learn more about weather patterns over Eastern Australia and Tasmania.
But all that knowledge went missing. The Bass Strait didn’t take kindly to the event, heaving a gale at the fleet. Boats were scattered. Rani went missing. In an era before radios were aboard racing boats, there was no way to inquire about her location or the condition of the crew. All that was clear was that she had left Sydney with the standard issue of navigational aids: paper charts, coastal guides, a compass fosteering, and a sextant for determining position. The CYCA gave her up as lost. It had been a major blunder allowing such a small boat to race across the Bass Strait.
But five days after the storm began, Rani suddenly sailed up the Derwent River into Hobart. This greatly amazed the CYCA welcoming committee at the dock for two reasons: first, Rani had been given up; and second, no one else had yet finished. Little Rani had won the first Syd-Hob in six days, fourteen hours, and twenty-two minutes. It’s still the slowest winning finish in race history, but henceforth, the first boat across the finish line would receive the Illingworth Trophy. Rani also won on handicap that year, the first of only four boats in Syd-Hob history to do so. Winston Churchill finished third.

The race
The 628 nautical mile course is often described as the most gruelling long ocean race in the world, a challenge to everyone who takes part.

From the start in Sydney Harbour, the fleet sails out into the Tasman Sea, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait, down the east coast of Tasmania. At Tasman Island the fleet turns right into Storm Bay for the final sail up the Derwent River to the city of Hobart.

It is my plan to continue to make a list of double-enders that either are famous or should be. I am currently researching the Halvorsen brothers who build and sailed a long list of double-enders in Sydney-Hobart races. I want do a story on Suhali, maybe the Tumlare, Colin Archer and so on. Please feel free to give me hints on double-enders I should know about.

The Kaskelot takes you topside

13.December of1577,429 years ago, Sir Francis Drake set out on a three-year-long journey around the world.

At that time the Pacific was controlled by the Spanish and it was forbidden to all but Spanish ships. But Queen Elizabeth I commissioned Drake to undertake a top-secret mission to sail around the southern tip of South America and explore the Pacific Coast of the Americas.Drake left for the voyage on this day in 1577.

Sir Drake set sail from Plymouth, England, as captain of the Pelican, with four other ships and more than 150 men. Two of the ships were abandoned along the way, and the third returned to England after a storm in the Straits of Magellan. Drake was left with only one ship, which he renamed the Golden Hind.

Sir Drake sailed all the way up the coasts of South and North America, surprising the Spanish along the way. They’d never seen a hostile ship in their waters before. He captured ports and ships, plundered gold and silver, Spanish coins, precious stones and pearls. He sailed as far north as Vancouver hoping to find the Northwest Passage, and then turned west and crossed the Pacific.

He eventually returned to England in 1580 via the Cape of Good Hope, making him the first Englishman to sail around the world. You can read more about Sir drake and his 3 year long journey here.

The Kaskelot takes you topside

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