FAST­NET MUTINY

WHEN THE PUBS OF GLAN­DORE STRUCK UP THEIR SIREN CALL TO THE BE­LEA­GUERED CREW OF CLAS­SIC YACHT IOLAIRE, THE FAST­NET RACE WAS PUT ON HOLD

Yachting World - - Front Page -

This month’s Great Sea­man­ship fea­tures two sailors I have known for many years. The ac­count is taken from Charles J Doane’s book en­ti­tled The Sea is Not Full. My chum Char­lie is one of the best sea writ­ers of our time, leav­en­ing his tales of mishap and mis­ad­ven­ture with care­fully bal­anced philo­soph­i­cal ob­ser­va­tions. This chap­ter is taken from the sec­tion on ship­mates, where I was de­lighted to find in­sight into the leg­endary Don­ald M Street Ju­nior – Don to his friends. I first met Don in the West Indies in 1984 and we have crossed tacks many times since, but have never sailed to­gether. Read­ing this per­fectly weighted story of a uniquely po­lite mutiny puts us aboard Don’s en­gine­less Iolaire, vet­eran of many a Fast­net Race and too many At­lantic cross­ings to count. It also in­tro­duces us to a re­mark­able crew, hand-picked for a dis­par­ity of con­tri­bu­tions. Best of all, it takes us to sea with the old storm war­rior him­self, a priv­i­lege not given to many. Hav­ing worked with Don Street a num­ber of times, I wasn’t too sur­prised when he called me in the sum­mer of 2005 and asked if I wanted to go sail­ing with him.

“Iolaire will be 100 this year!” he an­nounced. “I’m turn­ing 75. I’m go­ing to cel­e­brate by do­ing the Fast­net Race again! You want to come along?”

The story of Don and Iolaire is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of his abil­ity to get up and go again af­ter suf­fer­ing a set­back. He ac­quired the boat in 1957 from H R ‘Bobby’ Som­er­set, a found­ing mem­ber of the Royal Ocean Rac­ing Club (RORC), but af­ter just one year in the char­ter trade she was wrecked on a beach in St Thomas when her an­chor shackle broke in a mean on­shore swell. Her in­sur­ers de­clared her a to­tal loss, paid off the claim, and Don im­me­di­ately bought back the wreck for just $100. He then gut­ted the old girl right there on the beach, some­how got her patched up and floated her off. Within 14 weeks she was out on char­ter again – with many new planks, sev­eral new frames, a new rud­der, and a whole new in­te­rior. This in an age when there were no real yard fa­cil­i­ties for yachts any­where in the West Indies.

I was struck by how di­shev­elled the boat seemed, a trait she shared with her owner. Her hull seemed firm and fair, her decks well laid, but all the gear was old and tar­nished, ec­cen­tri­cally mis­matched, and in some cases en­tirely dys­func­tional. Wan­der­ing her decks was like pe­rus­ing the aisles of a marine sal­vage jum­ble. Like­wise Don’s wardrobe – a torn pair of cor­duroy trousers, the frayed re­mains of an Ox­ford dress shirt, and an old Navy pea-coat that was miss­ing two but­tons – ap­peared to have been pil­fered from a Sal­va­tion Army dump­ster.

I soon learned that as dis­so­lute as they ap­peared, both Don and his boat were highly or­gan­ised, with de­tailed in­struc­tions on ev­ery as­pect: when to eat, when to sleep, how to change watch, who would serve what food when, how to wash pots and pans, how to use the head, where to stow your gear and boots, and so forth, ad in­fini­tum.

Most im­por­tant of all were the di­rec­tions on sail and line han­dling, which were il­lus­trated with de­tailed di­a­grams of all the of­fi­cially sanc­tioned knots to be used. The most im­por­tant of th­ese was the tow­boat hitch, used to tie off the head­sail sheets on the an­tique pri­mary winches which had no reg­u­lar fixed cleats be­side them.

Though su­per­fi­cially Don and Iolaire seemed de­crepit, they were both in fact in­her­ently ro­bust. As Don ob­served: “My doc­tor tells me ev­ery­thing I do is un­healthy. But I’m in per­fect health, so he says I shouldn’t change a thing.”

Be­cause of his rep­u­ta­tion, the RORC had de­cided to al­low Don to race Iolaire in a spe­cial ‘demon­stra­tion class’. She had pre­vi­ously raced in the Fast­net un­der Don’s com­mand in 1975 and 1995, and once un­der Bobby Som­er­set in 1953, but could no longer meet the mod­ern, more strin­gent race qual­i­fi­ca­tions. So the club in­stead was al­low­ing her to sail as an un­of­fi­cial en­trant, start­ing alone ten min­utes be­fore the rest of the fleet.

Though we were not rated and could not pos­si­bly win any­thing, Don was none­the­less tak­ing the race quite se­ri­ously. As soon as he fin­ished stuff­ing us full of food, he

Iolaire start of the 2005 Fast­net Race Don Street at the helm of in the So­lent soon af­ter the

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