Sail­ing a yacht taken as a Sec­ond World War prize in the So­lent

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

There is no doubt that Over­lord cer­tainly has the ‘row away’ wow fac­tor. I think the beauty of our sport comes as much from the craft we use as from the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween wind and wa­ter that we en­joy.

I cer­tainly felt this beauty while helm­ing the 58ft Over­lord close hauled in a south­west­erly Force 2-3 un­der No1 jib and full main.

Feel­ing the gen­tle pres­sure on the tiller as each gust en­cour­aged the 20-tonne yacht to pick up the pace was mag­i­cal. The tiller felt rock solid if a lit­tle dead, with no vibration or feed­back un­til you needed a slight course change to get back on track. A lit­tle body weight was re­quired to en­cour­age the rud­der to ac­cel­er­ate the flow across it and the whole struc­ture came alive as the yacht bore away, the sails tak­ing their op­ti­mum shape be­fore lean­ing into the swell. As the gor­geous over­hangs touched the bow wave, a gen­tle ac­cel­er­a­tion could be per­ceived. It wasn’t an adren­a­line rush; it was more sat­is­fy­ing and longer last­ing.

A day ear­lier we had left Univer­sal Ma­rina on the River Ham­ble, where Over­lord is berthed.

She was built by the Ger­man ship­yard Abek­ing and Ras­mussen, based near Bre­men, as a train­ing ves­sel for the Luft­waffe in 1936 and was one of a num­ber of yachts ‘claimed’ by the Al­lied forces af­ter the Sec­ond World War, al­lo­cated to the Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth forces. All of these so-called ‘Wind­fall Yachts’ are now in pri­vate hands. Over­lord is owned and run by the Off­shore Cruis­ing Club (OCC), whose vice com­modore, Luiz Provin, had kindly in­vited me for the week­end So­lent cruise.

It was a crew of nine who lis­tened to the thor­ough safety brief­ing that fol­lowed the ar­rival of skip­per John Porter, a for­mer OCC com­modore who has been sail­ing Over­lord for 35 years. I made a men­tal note that safety brief­ings on my own boat should be a lit­tle more com­pre­hen­sive.

The skip­per said he wanted to leave be­fore 0930 and we slipped lines 10 min­utes

early. This was a theme that en­dured through­out the week­end: when the skip­per said some­thing should be done, it was done.

Over­lord was point­ing up­stream on the Ham­ble and as the tide had be­gun to ebb, the bows were al­lowed to pay off be­fore the hard­work­ing Yan­mar eased her into the stream. The en­gine con­trols sit too low in the cock­pit to be much use to the helms­man, so con­cise in­struc­tions are re­quired to the mate at the con­trols: ‘Half ahead five sec­onds’ was the com­mand as we ap­proached a gap in the open moor­ings. ‘Burst astern, then neu­tral’, came the sec­ond or­der as the helm went hard over. Over­lord fol­lowed her in­struc­tions slowly and I no­ticed the large rov­ing fender ready to be de­ployed at the bows. The turn con­tin­ued in a wide arc but at a serene pace. Just as I thought the fender was go­ing to be pressed into ser­vice, a com­mand of ‘Burst ahead’ en­cour­aged the bows to sweep ma­jes­ti­cally past the ex­posed rump of a new Beneteau.

Now in the main chan­nel, we joined the ar­mada of Satur­day morn­ing cruis­ers head­ing for Southamp­ton Wa­ter. West of Cal­shot, we were tack­ing to­wards Yar­mouth and I soon picked up the ex­tra di­men­sion of swap­ping the run­ning back­stays at each tack. While Over­lord isn’t known for her up­wind per­for­mance, tak­ing al­most 90° to com­plete each tack, we soon picked up a de­cent pace to­wards The Nee­dles. By 1300, the fore­cast Force 4 hadn’t ma­te­ri­alised and we handed the jib to re­place it with a genoa. This re­warded us with a wel­come ex­tra knot of boat speed.

Ap­proach­ing Yar­mouth, it was clear that although mid-oc­to­ber, a lot of other boating folk had the same idea and there was lim­ited space, some­thing which Over­lord doesn’t en­joy. We re­signed our­selves to a night on a buoy, with home-cooked Thai chilli and plenty of wine to con­sole us. But an hour later, a space opened up along­side the har­bour wall and the ever-help­ful Yar­mouth har­bour­mas­ter was on hand to en­sure that we berthed with­out in­ci­dent.

Sun­day dawned misty, with a south­west­erly Force 2-3 and we weren’t mak­ing much east­ing against the ebb, even with genoa and full main, so I was de­lighted when the skip­per or­dered the spin­naker on deck. Even with her old train­ing spin­naker, Over­lord put her nose down and ac­cel­er­ated to 6 knots, just a knot and a half less than ap­par­ent. This was in­deed cham­pagne sail­ing – flat wa­ter, a light breeze and the grat­i­fy­ing pull of the spin­naker in the colours of the Union flag.

By 1600, we were safely berthed back at Univer­sal Ma­rina and an hour was spent mak­ing Over­lord sparkle for her next crew the fol­low­ing week­end.

Although she is not known for her up­wind per­for­mance, Over­lord can still thrill in the right con­di­tions Over­lord sails a varied sched­ule with reg­u­lar trips in UK and Euro­pean wa­ters

Ian Tay­lor, 56, co-owns a Dawn Class 39, Stroma ofFind­horn. He cruises and races in the So­lent and is a mem­ber of Lon­don Corinthian Sail­ing Club

Over­lord was orig­i­nally called Pe­likan be­fore be­ing ap­pro­pri­ated by the Bri­tish mil­i­tary from the Ger­mans

Over­lord’s crew en­joy some down­time

There is al­ways some­thing to learn or prac­tise aboard

A well fed crew is a happy crew

Over­lord has been owned by the Off­shore Cruis­ing Club since the 1960s

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