Australia is abuzz with the return of GMIV forty years on
While Britain slept, hundreds of sailors on the other side of the globe
welcomed Gipsy Moth IV back to Sydney Harbour, Australia, on a glorious
sunny Sunday afternoon for the first time since Sir Francis Chichester
sailed her there 39 years ago, solo and non-stop from Plymouth.
The iconic 53ft ketch is halfway through her second circumnavigation which
celebrates the 40th anniversary of Chichester’s epic voyage (in 1966-67)
as well as the 100th birthday of Yachting Monthly magazine, which launched
the campaign to save the yacht from rotting away in dry dock at Greenwich.
Monday morning’s page three banner headline in The Sydney Morning Herald
was: ‘Gipsy Moth’s back, minus a crusty old salt!’ Among those aboard as she sailed past the famous Opera House and under the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge were Lead Skipper Richard Baggett from UK Sailing Academy in Cowes, young crew members James Blake, son of Sir Peter Blake, and Elaine Caldwell, 23, from the Isle of Skye who was on the first leg from Plymouth to Bayona, as well as Paul Gelder, Editor of Yachting Monthly and founder of the Save Gipsy Moth Project.
On her passage through Sydney heads and down the harbour, Gipsy Moth was
joined by a flotilla of escort vessels, from Sydney-Hobart race boats, to
classic gaffers from the city’s Maritime Museum, weekend sailors, water
taxis, ferries, and a vintage steam tug. Overhead, helicopters and two
Gipsy Moth biplanes buzzed the yacht as part of a spectacular welcome
Later GMIV berthed at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, where in 1966 a newspaperman snapped Chichester stepping pigeon-toed off GMIV and into the helping hands of his son Giles. Chichester hated the picture as it made him look frail: ‘The first dry land since Plymouth,’ he later wrote, ‘and I am not as old and helpless as some pictures suggested.’
The Australian press are already calling the second circumnavigation an
‘against-all-odds voyage’, following the yacht’s second major £200,000
refit after she ran on a reef in the South Pacific, near Tahiti in April.
The stricken vessel was successfully salvaged in a £100,000 operation and
shipped to Auckland, New Zealand, for major repairs. Despite a race against the clock to get her ready for the passage to Sydney she was shipped there to arrive in time for a week of festivities.
These include a dinner tonight (Monday) at the Sydney Royal Yacht
Squadron, plus a fund-raising black tie gala dinner with Princess Anne on
Wednesday, which is part of the annual Australian Yachting Awards.
The Princess is in Australia as part of a Pacific region tour and stopped
off in Auckland to thank the workers in New Zealand who repaired GMIV. She
is due to go sailing on the yacht on Thursday, before officially declaring
open RYA Australia at a ceremony at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
in Rushcutters Bay, next to the Opera House.
‘Sydney certainly gave us a welcome to remember,’ said Paul Gelder. ‘The
enthusiasm from local sailors has given the project a massive boost.
People said we couldn’t do it, but Gipsy Moth is back in the water, where
she belongs, and inspiring a new generation of youngsters.’
On Friday the yacht heads off on the next leg of her 22-month voyage, up
the east coast of Australia to Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin and later
Indonesia. She will be linking up with the Blue Water Rally yachts once more to continue her circumnavigation and is due to arrive back on Plymouth on May 28, 2007, 40 years to the day that Chichester sailed home to a hero’s welcome.
To follow her voyage see www.gipsymoth.org