Gipsy Moth IV returns in triumph


Gipsy Moth IV returned to Plymouth yesterday (Monday 28 May) in style. A welcoming fleet of over 100 yachts escorted her past Penlee Point and into The Sound. She completed her second circumnavigation exactly 40 years after Sir Francis Chichester’s triumphant return. He had sailed single-handed via the Southern Ocean, at the age of 67, stopping just once in Sydney, Australia, and became an overnight national hero. Contemporary pictures of Gipsy Moth’s return then – rust streaked and canvas battered by storms, contrasted with the her appearance this time; glossy topsides and neatly set sails as her crew of six, including three under 18, tacked her northwards under jib and double reefed main.
I was privileged to be watching her return from the decks of the 90ft ketch, Halcyon, built in 1929 and also with a distinguished history. Originally a private yacht, she became the floating navigation classroom for the Warsash School of Navigation for 32 years, and will be familiar to generations of merchant navy deck officers. She has just completed a major refit and is again in private hands but available for adventure charter in British and Scandinavian waters.
Large crowds line the Hoe, Plymouth’s seafront, to cheer her in while a Beetles tribute band played songs which would have been popular while Chichester made his historic voyage. The event enjoyed bright sunshine in contrast to the cloud and rain suffered by most of the rest of the Country.
One of the most remarkable things about Gipsy Moth’s return has been the number of people who travelled to Plymouth, having been there for Gipsy Moth’s first home coming, and who admit the sight of the frail figure of Sir Francis, stepping ashore on the West Hoe steps, inspired them to pursue a career at sea or take up sailing. It was a live changing moment for so many people.
One can only hope that her second circumnavigation, which has given so many young and disadvantaged people a real taste of adventure, will have a similar legacy.