I was in the Isle of Wight for a few days this week and spent some time at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy where I talked to one of the students about the Gipsy Moth IV project.
The restoration effort of this historic yacht has been a significant project: 28 weeks, 9000 hours and with a very specific objective: get the yacht seaworthy in time for a departure on 20 June 2005 with three professional crew and three young people. The young crew change each time the yacht docks and there will be 32 crews made up of 16-20 year olds with cancer, learning difficulties or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It’s quite an undertaking. Gipsy Moth IV sailed around the world setting a record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in a small vessel, skippered by Francis Chichester at the age of 64 after he was given 6 months to live. He returned to Plymouth a national hero in 1967 after 274 days at sea. Gipsy Moth was given some time off and installed next to the Cutty Sark where she spent the next decades rotting away while thousands of visitors came to look at the record-breaking boat.
In 2003 Yachting Monthly launched a campaign to save the yacht, and various groups put forward donations to get her back on the water again. UKSA bought Gipsy Moth for £1 and a gin and tonic and the trust was on its way.
Unfortunately, the cost of the upkeep and the latest voyage of Gipsy Moth IV is substantial, and the travelling is beginning to take its toll again. The project seems desperately short of cash, and like any project, when there’s no money everything is much harder to accomplish. Gipsy Moth IV has many loyal followers, supporters and donators so hopefully she will make it all the way round the world this time too. But it’s a reminder that not even big projects always plan right the way to the very end.