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shop. Then he’d glass it in and put the deck on. As I said my good-byes to Peter I offered: “Well you know, I’ve built a few boats myself. And so has Chris, my draughts- man. If it would make any difference we could come over and build the interior for you. If you can get the hull by early November I think you can still make it.” A week later we had found someone to live in our home in Tenants Harbor and Debby and I, our infant son Nicholas, and Chris on a separate plane, were winging our way back to London. There was no time to get the necessary work permits. We’d try to bluff our way through customs on three-month tourist visas. If they inspected our bags, which were absolutely clanking with hand tools, we’d be a goner and sent home. My one-eighth-Irish luck prevailed and the next day I was a boatbuilder again, living in a rented flat in Mercury Gardens, a modest housing estate in Hamble. One of the Desty brothers lent me a spare car so I could commute to work. Peter said I could have as many ‘chippies’ – boat carpenters – as I needed. If Chris and I could build a boat interior in two months, the hull and deck would be ready to receive it.

BACK TO THE LOFTING FLOOR I can’t recall ever having had so much fun as I had that intense autumn living in Warsash. On my first day in the factory I got down on my knees on a few sheets of screwed-together plywood I’d painted white and slowly lofted pieces of the interior from the drawings Chris had done a few months earlier. I knew it was a bit of theatre but I had to start somewhere. I just had to trust that his drawings were accurate – if things didn’t fit when the hull arrived we were toast. If the famous designer was willing to work that hard with his bare hands no British chippie was going to be outdone, and they worked their hearts out for me. I suppose I respected them as no well-bred Englishman could respect someone who ‘only’ did manual labour. But I didn’t recognize ‘class’ and that gave me a huge advantage.

Debby and Chris and Nicholas and I flew home in early December – two weeks earlier than expected – feeling good about a job well done, all the more so


Above: Victoria 38’s cutter rig and lines

because three months earlier it had looked to be impossible. As you might expect, the Victoria 34 made its debut at the 1986 London Boat Show gleaming in new paint and varnish with no aspiring boat-buyer the wiser about the narrowly averted miscarriage. Once again I endured that miserable night flight to arrive – at a far too affordable London hotel to which I could not gain access until mid-afternoon – beyond the point of exhaustion. But by that point in my life I had learned that this was my destiny, and later that same evening I was standing in Earls Court Exhibition Centre, between the impressive new stands Peter had contrived and amidst his beautiful salesladies, with the Victoria 34 proudly displayed behind me looking as if it had existed forever.


LENGTH OVERALL 37ft 9in (11.5m)

WATERLINE 29ft 7in (9m)


11ft 7in (3.5m)

DRAUGHT 5ft 8in (1.7m)


SAIL AREA 643sqft (59.7m2


VICTORIA 38 The Victoria 38 was a final collaboration between ourselves, Victoria Marine and Morris Yachts, who were building their similar Morris 38 in America. I fitted a racing-inspired deep flared fin keel to the Victoria 38 and finally prevailed upon their management to use a bolted-on outside lead casting rather than the inside ballast used on all previous Victorias. This made the 38 one of the stiffest yachts sailing on the Solent. The interior was basically a scaled-up Victoria 34. Each one was custom-designed by Victoria’s in-house designer Bob Hathaway. Unlike the earlier Victorias, no glassfibre liners were used anywhere, which lowered the centre of gravity. Their absence gave the five Victoria 38s that were eventually built an entirely custom feel. In deference to local tastes we designed a true British cutter rig for this yacht. The foretriangle consisted of a very high-cut jib which is called a “yankee”, interestingly enough, though you never saw one over on the Western side of the Atlantic. Then we drew a very low-footed staysail that was sheeted each time you tacked, making it much more efficient (at the expense of that extra work) than anything that would be self- tending. Almost half of this sail’s area was in undisturbed air beyond the overlap of the yankee. Overleaf: Wings of Grace, Chuck’s ‘masterpiece’

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