Merrymaid – the 1904 Classic in Hong Kong

Merrymaid in Hong Kong
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Rob Berkeley

About Merrymaid: Merrymaid is a 111.88 foot classic boat built in 1904 at the Camper and Nicholson boat yard in Gosport, England. She has a beam of 17.85 feet and a draft of 12.47 and is built from teak on oak with a steel ring frame.

When she first sailed, fellow yachtsman were impressed by her combination of speed and comfort. In her first season racing, she won the King’s Cup in the presence of King Edward the VII. In the century that followed Merrymaid changed hands several times and during World War I spent several years laid up in a Norwegian fjord. She finally settled with her current owner in 2005. Note: title photo by Rob Berkeley; all other photos by Oliver Cully unless stated.

 

Her specs below as outlined by Classic Yacht website classicyachtinfo

Name: Merrymaid
Class:
Designer(s): Charles Ernest Nicholson
Type of Boat: Gaff Cutter
Year Built: 1904
Built by: Camper & Nicholson
LOA m / ft: 34.10m   /   111’88”
LOD m / ft: 30m   /   98′ 3
LWL m / ft: 21m   /   68’90”
Beam m / ft: 5.44m   /   17’85”
Draft m / ft: 3.80m   /   Originally: 11′ 1 Now: 12′ 47″
Yard No: 167
Sail Stats: Sail Area: 490sqm (5,275sqft)
Construction: 2¼’’ Carvel planked teak on Oak and steel ring frames
Other: 107 tons originally

 

Merrymaid was built as a gaff rigged cutter but was later converted to a ketch (two masts). Her time as a ketch though was relatively short lived (1911-1919) and she was converted back to a gaff cutter which she has remained since. Merrymaid was bought by the current owners in 2005 after which she underwent her second major restoration in the 2000s, the first having been undertaken in 2002, but not completed. Between 2005 and 2008 though she was finally brought back to her former glory. Post restoration she has sailed in Europe doing the Classic Yacht scene for a number of years before setting off on a World Odyssey already spanning several years.
Merrymaid ABC 2013

Photo by Eileen Sze

I managed to take some footage of Merrymaid and other Rally boats in action with my camcorder. The quality isn’t perfect but some nice clips anyhow.
Click on the window below to view:

Sailing Merrymaid:
I was disappointed that the Ruffian fleet would this year not join the Rally. Last year we managed to bring five boats, and the red Ruffian Schannuleke won a whole host of prizes, with my boat Scallywag taking the consolation First Ruffian prize after it was decided that Schannuleke had won too many! This year’s Rally clashed with a harbour race though, and we weren’t able to get any momentum for attendance. We plan to correct this next year by writing the Classic Yacht Rally into our Ruffian Calendar; perhaps making it part of our Chairman’s Series. The Rally is perfectly in line with our aim of re-branding the Ruffian Association as a Classic Class – which indeed it is, the youngest of the fourteen Ruffians being thirty years old. I digress. The reason I am telling you this, is because I was so disappointed not to be attending the Rally on my own boat that I asked ABC Dinghy instructor Kevin Lewis if I could join him on a rib to do some photography. Kevin agreed, and what’s more, he put me in touch with Merrymaid to see if I could join her for the racing. I was both surprised and delighted when he informed me that my place on Merrymaid was confirmed.
Skipper Chris

Skipper Chris

 

As I climbed on board Merrymaid, I was immediately struck by her beauty, she is kept very well, with varnished teak and hard woods from end to end. Down below she is equally well maintained, with a lovely saloon with leather seats and a galley that would contend with many Hong Kong kitchens in terms of size and equipment. I was also taken aback by what I can only describe as her server room – yes you read correctly, this boat has so much high tech equipment on board, she has her own server room. Or server cupboard if I am being more realistic. A rack of computer servers several feet high.

Merrymaid’s entire crew is new to the boat, including Skipper Chris who has been with her for around three months. Chris however has a huge amount of experience running classic boats, and in fact Merrymaid is one of the smallest boats he has skippered in the last decade, having been more akin to Classic boats two or three times her length. Whilst under sail, the speed and confidence with which he shot up the mast (naturally with no harness) to bring down a halyard, contests to how very much at home he is with these boats. And Chris is working on building a strong team around him; a young group though they are, they are learning very quickly and will be a strong crew in not much time.
Photo by Eileen Sze
Photo by Eileen Sze
For my part, I helped in several positions, working the running backstays, as well as the jib top backstays, helping with the mainsail and trimming the spinnaker. I was surprised to find that of Merrymaid’s many brass winches, several of these are electric. What this means is that Merrymaid can be managed by a much smaller crew. Hoisting a main sail for instance on a Classic of her size without winches would have originally required a string of crew (potentially four or five of them) all pulling at the same time with only blocks, rope and muscle. I saw this in action on the Lady Anne when I raced on the 73 foot Fife classic Eilean in Cannes. The Lady Anne (98 foot built in 1912) is a similar length to Merrymaid but when raced requires a crew of nearly twenty. Merrymaid however, with her newly installed electric winches could conceivably manage quite happily with ten to twelve.

 

You won’t be surprised to learn that Merrymaid doesn’t really get properly moving until the wind rises above ten knots. That’s not to say she doesn’t sail in small winds, such is the area of her sails she will still do 5 knots in a light breeze, but she is hardly even tested until she is granted 15-20 knots. In this wind with full sails she explodes into action. Thankfully we got a short glimpse of her capabilities early in the afternoon on the Sunday as we rounded Chesterman Buoy coming onto a fine reach towards the finish line in just under 20 knots. As she picked up speed to 8 and then 9 knots, and finally touching 10 knots for a short while, this old girl of more than 100 years of age was telling me she still had a lot more in her. It was all the more thrilling given that by this time, I had found my way onto the helm for the final stretch. As I took the wheel I was somehow expecting that a hydraulic system might have been installed, but there was none. She was heavy work but steady and once I became used to her delayed reaction time, she was a delight to steer.

 

Me at the helm

Me at the helm

With thanks to Kevin and the Aberdeen Boat Club for the introduction, and to the crew of Merrymaid for being such excellent hosts to all us visitors.
You can learn more about Merrymaid, her history, recent voyages and where she’s heading to next on her website.
www.merrymaid.sy
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