Some years ago, an experienced yacht owner came to me with a different approach to campaigning a racing yacht. He suggested buying and restoring yacht small enough to fit into a large shipping container. The yacht can then be easily and reasonably inexpensively moved around Europe, and kept in the ‘box’ even in the south of France heat.
I was sent off to look at Jap, a Cork Harbour one design (CHOD) designed by Fife in 1896 and built locally in the Cork area. An initial batch of six were built and over the next few years the class numbers increased to around 10. (image A & B)
Following my visit the yacht was brought to Hamble for Fairlie to restore. An interesting set observations such as the severely distorted shear line led us to having to remove all the deck beams at once and using a couple of Spanish windlasses adjust the beam back to the design – it looks as though sometime in the past someone had removed all the deck beams at once letting the hull change shape and just re-beamed her without paying attention to the shear. (image C)
The forward part of the beam shelf was rotten on both sides, so new pieces were laminated in and tied in the remaining part of the shelf. Once the beam was correct in all places new deck beams and carlings were fitted. (image G &L)
Sadly it was necessary to replace the sternpost and knee, these were too rotten to take fastenings. After lifting the ballast keel away we let fly the after end of the lower planking and bolted a new stern post and knee to the original wood keel, which although suffering from minor cracks was fit to reuse. (Images D,E,F)
At the other end of the yacht the lower stem was usable, but a new upper stem was required. Once the backbone was sorted out then the frames and floors were inspected and replaced only if absolutely necessary. (images H &I)
With the floors and frames now fit for purpose new timbers were steamed into place and clamped off (images M&N) Sadly all the planking needed to be was renewed (Images O&P). The hull was then caulked , with splines fitted to the topsides and white lead putty blow the waterline (image Q) Although not built with the infamous Fife dragon Jap had a dragon carved into her bow (image R)
With the hull complete and painted the rig was fitted whilst the yacht was on her trailer (image S) Back in 1896 all the spar fittings would have been forged iron, perhaps inappropriate for a low maintenance racing yacht, so using our unique archive we designed new fittings in the style of Fife and cast these from bronze. The yacht was then launched, leaving the antifouling until later, so that the exact W/L could be determined (Image T)
Ratsey and Lapthorne were the chosen sailmaker, who built an excellent set of dyed Dacron sails most of which are still being used many seasons later. The yacht is sailed with no sheet winches in the old fashioned way, although there is one winch, together with some clutches, by the mast for the halyards.
Images U & V show the happy owner in his black cap, relaxed with the tiller over his shoulder
The yacht, with her bowsprit rigged, fits into a high cube container on a trailer, which is used to wheel the yacht in and out of the container. The container is fitted out with spar rack on both sides, sail bins, tool locker etc. The yacht, which is a close fit to the sides of the container is held in place by inflating four airbags. (Image W)
After a regatta the yacht is hauled back into the container and a couple of buckets of seawater poured into the bilge and a few buckets of water placed around the container, which results in a nice humid atmosphere with the doors sealed. Jap has stayed for quite a few seasons in the south of France with no appreciable drying out of the hull.
Under two owners now, the yacht has proved herself very competitive under I.R.C. or C.I.M. rating and is now offered for sale by Sandeman yachts (www.sandemanyachtcompany.co.uk )
The restoring owner, who had owned many larger yachts, once said to me that Jap, his smallest (9 metres LOD) gave him the greatest pleasure has he didn’t need any professional crew to go racing, just his friends.