The Gipsy Moth IV
Reading about the Henry Moore Statue being lost to us because we didn’t look after it, my mind wandered to another Great Greenwich Loss, The Gipsy Moth IV. I started wondering what had happened to her…
She was, of course, the yacht in which Francis Chichester sailed solo around the world.
Chichester actually started out as an aviator – and the first Gipsy Moth was actually a plane.
He became fascinated by the old Australian wool clippers of the Victorian age, and decided he wanted to do the same route – but more quickly. All this in spite of the small inconvenience of having been diagnosed with cancer in 1958. Allegedly, his wife refused to let surgeons remove one of his lungs and nursed him back to health herself. Miracles do happen…
He had Gipsy Moth IV specially built and in 1966 he took just 106 days to do the fastest round-world trip in a small boat and achieve the first true solo cicumnavigation.
This was, for an age already bejewelled with great exploration, an amazing achievement. Her Majesty was delighted and she knighted Chichester at Greenwich on the same spot and with the same sword that had been used to knight another Maritime hero called Francis, by another Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Drake, who’d also been sailing the seven seas in a ship not much bigger than Chichester’s, The Golden Hind.
The ship was dry-docked in Greenwich, next to the Cutty Sark, and here’s where the shame begins. We let her die. She just rotted away and none of us noticed. Eventually she was closed to the public and we started to not even really notice her.
She was bought by eccentric millionaire (and heir to the MFI fortune) Paul Lister for £ 1 and a gin & tonic. He renovated her and she once again began to sail the seven seas – this time with a youth crew.
I had heard she ran into trouble last May and needed to be rescued, so I have just checked out the website.
I am happy to report that she’s still on the water – and if you’re into maritime logs, you can check it out at:
Paul Lister, BTW, is rather better known for his desire to populate his Highland hunting lodge with the original bears and wolves that would have roamed Scotland. The authorities are, perhaps understandably, less keen but personally I think it would be a great idea.