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Surfing, Boatshows and Film interviews

By James Wharram

Recently I was commiserating with a friend of mine, a Yachting Editor. I wrongly suggested that he had less freedom in his magazine than editors in the past because of advertising imperative, i.e. advertorial writing. He corrected me “No James” he said, “what burdens me is the emails. When I was a junior yachting writer, it was all done by letter. An editor would spend an hour in the morning sorting out his mail, then get on with his magazine. Now we have email coming in constantly. Some people will send an email with 20 photos to illustrate.” At this I felt guilty, I do send him the odd email with photos.

At this moment in the office there is a three-way correspondence between Hanneke, Andy Smith, our franchised builder in the Philippines and Rocna Anchors in New Zealand. Andy Smith is building an Islander 65. He asked me what anchor he should supply. Recently, ‘Yachting Monthly’ of Britain and ‘Sail’ of America carried out a joint test of the world’s most used yacht anchors. Immediately by email we sent Andy Smith a copy of the YM article. Just as quickly he made the decision to contact Rocna of New Zealand as they appeared to offer the best. As a result Rocna in New Zealand then gets in touch with this office. And so, with the use of internet, we have a three way dialogue between the Philippines, Britain and New Zealand in a matter of hours.

Naked women on Spirit of Gaia
“You know, James, what held up your acceptance as a serious Multihull Designer was all the naked girls that run around on your boats.” (Jim Brown)
Ken hook and Dirk sat at an exhibition stand
Ken Hook (PCA) and Dirk man the Wharram stand at Beale Park.

This illustrates the benefits of using “the web” but I must confess that I would sooner see Hanneke sitting at her drawing board than ‘playing’ with her computer. Hanneke, in turn, objects to me reading Yacht Magazines – “a waste of time, stops your creative writing” she says. I insist I am not wasting my time and I did come across this item in ‘Yachting World’, July 2007, page 19.

“Silver Sailors? They shop, they are ‘hot’, they yacht - and they are 55 years old plus. ‘Silver Surfers’ are on course to become the dominant group using the world wide web.” Well, I am bald, not silver headed, but I am well over 55 years old, so it seems I am in tune with the majority of web column readers. The article then went on to say “Silver Surfers are partial to Shopping sites, Pornography, Stocks and Shares and then …. Yachting and Boating sites.”

As far as I am concerned you can count me out on the subject of stocks and shares; I am a poor Yacht Designer. As for shopping, I do make impulse buys, usually expensive books. Pornography? It all depends on what you mean by pornography. Jim Brown the American pioneer Trimaran designer, who I will introduce later, sailing this year aboard my 19metre Catamaran in Greece, said in his husky American drawl “You know, James, what held up your acceptance as a serious Multihull Designer was all the naked girls that run around on your boats.” I did explain to Jim Brown that European women sailing in warm sea areas do happily, naturally, go naked.

Tahiti Wayfarer sailing on a lake
Tahiti Wayfarer sailing on a lake
Hanneke takes people for trial sails on Tahiti Wayfarer.

So, am I the designer for the Silver Surfers? I doubt it. But I do have the advantage of knowing where the aches and pains are… “Oh my back! Mind my knee”, etc! But I am finding a deepening interest - despite having designs in the 20metre range being built at the moment - in designs from 26ft to 32ft.

As a “Bald Headed Surfer”, how do I like to sail now? I like to step aboard my boat or easily climb on board from a dinghy. I like to be able to cast off the mooring, raise the anchor, hoist the sails, without feeling severely physically stressed OR DEPENDENT ON OTHERS. I want to sail, with my head modestly averted or with a nonchalant wave, past any monohull of the same size. I have one such a dream boat in my mind.

At the beginning of June (just before the start of the British Monsoons) Hanneke and I with a friend, Dirk and help from Ken Hook of the Polynesian Catamaran Association, made our now third annual pilgrimage to the Beale Park Boat Show, which is held close to Pangbourne by a lagoon/lake that locks into the River Thames. We trailed and exhibited our little 21ft Ethnic Design, the Tahiti Wayfarer there.

Tahiti Wayfarer on a pontoon
Camera men

The Big Boat Shows in Britain are in decline. Figures appear to show also a decline in the rest of European Boat Shows. Industrially produced boats, with expensive interiors and innumerable gadgets, leave a large section of the world’s sailing public dissatisfied. A small open air boat show, like Beale Park, with sailing builders and designers has got a “Buzz”, which the Big Boat Shows have lost. I used my time at Beale Park to listen to what sea/boat loving sailors really want.

One Silver Haired ex-Wharram Tiki 21 owner summed up Britain’s (and other country’s) Boating problems. In the past, when younger, he built a Tiki 21 and owned her for five years. He also was an experienced glider pilot; a Silver Haired with much adventure experience. Now he owns a gentle cabin cruiser, the 26ft Westerly Centaur.

James Wharram and Jim Brown
Jim Brown, American designer of the ‘Searunner’ Trimarans, and Canadian Multihull Sailor and Professional TV Cameraman Scott Brown, came to interview James on board Spirit of Gaia.
James Wharram, Hanneke Boon and Jim Brown
Jim and Scott were very impressed with Spirit of Gaia: “Gee, she’s a real Ship, man” “See how she moves in a breath of wind”. “Look at the power in those sails”. “God, she is beautiful”

Britain is awash with good GRP second hand boats like the Westerly Centaur and bigger. The main problem, as he explained to me, is that when you have bought your boat, mooring and marina costs are sky high. He tried to trail his 4 ton Westerly home for the winter to save costs, but that meant lifting out fees and towing fees, which are also extremely expensive.

The 21ft Tahiti Wayfarer is a young man’s boat (under 55 years). The total material cost as quoted by Robbins (a reliable boat building timber/epoxy supplier), is under £1,000. (Yes, Plans are now almost finished and will be announced on the web very soon).

Spending the night with Roy, the former Tiki 21 owner, on the way home from Beale Park, in a very hot bath, with a generous glass of Whiskey, I had a ‘Eureka moment’. A larger Tahiti Wayfarer could have more body shelter, a more solid feel, a lowering rig for going under bridges to cheaper moorings upstream. A major question is towability. Preliminary study shows that I could get such a craft on an overall length of 26’6” (8.15m) and it would weigh less than a Tiki 26.

Gaia trampoline
Gaia Wingsail

As if to confirm the Eureka moment, Yachting Monthly, August 2007 has an article ‘Ten Dinghy Day Trips Inland’. Areas in Britain where, if you can easily lower your mast and if you have shallow draft, you can, in bad coastal weather, sail in unspoilt inland waters instead of slugging it out at sea. A 26ft ‘Tahiti Coastal’ can be towed by an average family car anywhere in Europe, from Scotland to the Baltic to the Med. To the cries of “Oh my God, not again” I will push on with the project for I want such a craft.

It has been pointed out to me as a Bald Headed Sailor, that I am behaving like the older man running off with a young girl when I already have a beautiful sleek mature wife/partner.

Gaia in harbour

During the month of May Jim Brown, the famous American designer of ‘Searunner’ Trimarans, along with Canadian Multihull Sailor and Professional TV Cameraman Scott Brown, flew to Corfu, Greece, to sail with us aboard our 63ft (19m) ocean going Catamaran Spirit of Gaia. The object of the meeting was to interview me, on camera, over a few days with reference to the pioneering days of catamaran development, for a living archive project for an American Maritime Museum. From the beginning, it became clear that interviewing me was regulated to a ‘work job’. Both men fell in love with Gaia “Gee, she’s a real Ship, man” “See how she moves in a breath of wind”. “Look at the power in those sails”. “God, she is beautiful” So on and so on.

Well, reader, I will end this column. We will see if I can have both my sweet little sailor and my sleek, sophisticated ocean queen. I will keep you informed.

- James Wharram