It’s 380 miles from Dartmouth, England, to Vlissingen, Holland, by the coastal route. It’s a routine enough passage for many British sailors cruising in Holland, or for Dutch and German sailors cruising the UK. But it’s also long enough to be filled with drama, as Uli Killer found when he sailed his new acquisition Andrillot ‘up-Channel’ home to Germany.
“We had all the time strong winds,” he says. “The forecast was always for 10 knots, and we always had more than 20 knots. It was a hard job on the tiller sometimes with the boat going downwind and big waves following. The boat was always wanting to slide across the waves, not go straight through. We sailed through the inner passage at Portland Bill, and the water was like a whirlpool. Suddenly out of nowhere there was a big thunderstorm, with lightning strikes. It was fantastic, very dramatic. Next day, passing the Needles just before the Isle of Wight, it was wind against tide. There was such a strong current, the water was churning and was so choppy, then some waves came over the stern.”
Even the planned stop at Lymington to meet the previous owner didn’t quite go to plan, as Uli and his son Moritz were awoken in the middle of the night by another yacht crashing into them.
“You can’t imagine the noise it makes when something crashes into you at night,” says Uli. “You wake up so suddenly and imagine the whole boat is destroyed.”
It turned out the roller furling foil had been snapped in two, along with some damage to the bowsprit and hull. It took a shipwright in nearby Cowes nearly a week to fix the roller furling alone, at a cost of nearly £2,500. A few days later, a military speedboat suddenly appeared and ordered them to alter course immediately. Minutes later, there was an explosion and a big cloud of black smoke, then several more explosions. It turned out they had strayed onto a military firing range. “It was quite scary,” says Uli. In the end, it took two weeks (including a week in Cowes for repairs) to sail the boat to Holland, averaging about 50-60 miles per day. Yet, despite the drama of the trip, Uli was euphoric about his new boat.
A WOODEN HUT IN THE MOUNTAINS
“The boat felt really safe. Several times, we made 7-8 knots. It’s amazing such a small boat going so fast – more than the theoretical hull speed. With the white cliffs near Eastbourne to one side, it was really beautiful. And when you go into harbour, people are interested in the boat and want to talk to you – we met such nice people all the way. In the evenings, it was so cosy and nice to snuggle in there and have supper. The wooden interior is nothing like sitting in a plastic hull – it’s more like a wooden hut in the mountains.”
Not only that but – in a clear echo of the previous owners, whose father and son owned the boat for 39 years and regularly sailed together – the trip had a lasting impact on his relationship with his son.
“Sailing with my son was something not to miss,” says Uli. “At the start, he was annoyed by the waves pitching us up and down but by the end he was enjoying it. I don’t think he realises it now, but in a couple of years he will look back and realise how important this trip was.”
It’s the kind of sailing that Andrillot was built for and which has not only made her rightly famous in her own right, but given birth to an entire class of world-girdling small cruising yachts: the legendary and ever-popular Vertues. The story of the class has already been told in these pages (CB92 & 385): how in 1935 Guernsey solicitor Dick Kinnersley commissioned Laurent Giles to design a boat that would “spin on a sixpence”, could be sailed by a couple or singlehanded, and had a big enough sail area not to require an engine. How that boat was sailed by Humphrey Barton from Lymington to Concarneau and back, covering 855 miles in 23 days and earning the 1937 RCC Founder’s Cup. And how her exploits inspired dozens more to be built to the same design – though all fitted with bermudan rather than gaff rigs and sporting various different coachroof profiles.
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