With A Bit Of Kicking You’ll Make A Decent Crew
Webmaster - note this piece originally appeared in the December 2005 edition of the Class magazine.
RECENTLY BOTH MARK and I were asked if we would be willing to write an article for the Osprey magazine, to tell the Association Members the full story of why we decided to take on the building of the new glass Osprey. The editor didn’t want a technical article that pointed out where the boat had been altered and tweaked from previous boats, or a catalogue of the technical difficulties inherent in a task of this nature; what he wanted was, in his words, “a human interest story – something that will explain why you felt you would like to take on a commercial project that will probably never make your company a profit”. Dave Metcalfe is, to say the least, a man you can’t resist – when he sets his mind on having a task done he generally gets his way. So, here it is.
The Osprey Project
It all started with ‘Dad’ - me. In my younger days (early twenties), Wally Gardiner asked me to crew his Osprey at the Nationals, his comment being, “You’ll never do any good as a helm, but with a bit of kicking you could make a decent crew” – or something to that effect.
The Nationals came and went and the memories are still strong - from a broken trapeze wire, being dragged behind the boat attached only by the elastic and with a bleeding forehead as I hauled myself back in the boat only to be told to “Stop mucking about, we’ve lost three places!” to being in a force 6-plus, after taking first place, in front of Ken Robertson, up the first windward leg and around the mark, pushing out the pole, turning to see on Wally’s face a look that said, “I don’t believe we should be doing this!”, to the most exciting ride – it even beat times spent in my youth on my Triumph and Norton motorbikes!
That early feeling for the boat has stayed with me ever since.
Twenty-odd years later, with a 7-year-old son, I visited the Dinghy Show to look at the boats, and in particular a second-hand Mark 2 Kestrel. My son asked, “Did you sail Dad? Were you any good at it?” Was I good? So we bought a second-hand Kestrel and joined Blithfield SC. The first time we took the boat out we entered a race. Mark was on board as crew, me helming. In windy conditions we were fourth round the first mark, then onto a reach, a run, the gybe - and the first of many swimming days followed.
I ended up building Kestrels. The builder had gone bust and my son convinced me we should help the class. The rest is history. With every penny I put into the Kestrel I have been rewarded by years of pleasure and excitement that outstrips any costs.
When I spent time with the Proctor family working on the redesign of the Kestrel I was invited by Roger Proctor to visit and sail from his father Ian Proctor’s house on the River Dart in Devon, where the great man worked, sailed and created his dynasty.
I found this inspiring. During my lovely day there I was shown a room that had a plaque of every boat Ian had designed. The room was full of plaques. Sadly, when we came to the Osprey we talked about its demise and how it had been a very special boat to Ian, who always believed it should have been an Olympic-class boat. We thought what a good thing it would be if someone would one day take up the challenge of building the Osprey, maybe bringing it more up-to-date so that it could compete with the modern classes in appearance and attractiveness. Keith Proctor was at that time the family member responsible for it’s future.
The day came when my son wanted to sail faster boats with a trapeze; we thought about it for a while and eventually both agreed the Osprey would fit the bill. We bought 1259, a Porter composite, and the fun began again. This was followed by a very special ‘gift’, number 1114, Just Pogo, from Wally Gardiner, which convinced me that I had chosen the right class to sail.
The next two years were filled with pleas from Osprey sailors to build the Osprey – to keep it alive. The cost vs return when we took on the Kestrel said that this was not what a sound businessman should be doing, but I was tempted to help. I went to the AGM at the Sunderland Nationals, where no-one could agree on anything, and came away very unhappy, convinced I would not build the Osprey.
For one thing, the committee changed, with a new set of people coming into the positions of influence, who were eager that I should not abandon the idea or the class. And as time went on I became more of an Osprey sailor, getting to know the other sailors, their families and boats. I felt from them almost a desperation that they should not be the last generation of Osprey sailors. The wonderful day I spent with the Proctor family was also a big influence on my decision, as was my son Mark, who really wanted us to take on the challenge. All these things, among others, made the final decision easier.
So I set about the task of producing a new-look, new generation Osprey. The brief I received from the Committee was that it must be fast, as fast as any other Osprey ever produced, and that it should have good longevity in its competitive life – two often incompatible elements of boat building. To realise this I knew I would have to assemble a top-notch team, and I believe I put together a team that is second to none in boat design anywhere in the world.
Phil Morrison, who designed a large part of the enormously successful RS stable of high-performance dinghies came on board as part of the development team, as did Ian Teesdale and Kevin Driver. We work together very well as we all have the desire to produce the best. And we all enjoy a challenge – a good job really, as this project has certainly been challenging – and not just on the building side. They were as committed and determined to make this Osprey special as Mark and I were.
The combination of Nick Jones and Ken Carroll on the Committee, who really love the boat, together with the many good people who sail in the class, has made us believe the project is a worthwhile one and is worth the investment.
My request that I be given the same freedom as I had with the Kestrel project, together with the blessing of the Proctor family, and that I could protect the investment by acquiring the copyright, made the final decision to go forward acceptable.
Mark and I committed Hartley Laminates to completing the development of the boat and the production of the first boat two years after acquiring copyright. Saturday the 29th October 2005 saw the Osprey committee meeting at Hartley Laminates, which gave a chance for all the committee to view the finished product. To see their eyes light up told us their response was the same as ours had been when we saw the first boat come off the moulds.
During a visit to our works from Mark Williams, the representative of Ronstan and Company, he requested that the new Osprey be given pride of place on their stand at the London Boat show in January. This told us, if we didn’t already know, that the new boat looked good. We kept our fingers crossed that it would be just as quick as it was sexy.
Sailing the New Osprey
Early on the morning of Friday the 4th of November the new Osprey was rigged and ready to sail at Carsington Water. With Force 4 winds gusting it was not the ideal day to test the boat, but a Force 7 would not have stopped us sailing! It was obvious right from the off that this new boat felt different from any other Osprey I’ve sailed - certainly different from the three Ospreys we own. It’s more responsive and very very stiff, light on the tiller and such a pleasure to sail.
With Mark on the wire, sails hard in, beating to the windward mark, I could not believe it, planing to windward, steady as a rock - but what a feeling! Then on to the reach with kite up, what a boat, what a feeling. Have we got it right? You bet we have.
All the investment, all the time. If we were only to get this first boat from the moulds it has been worth the investment.
I had sincerely intended to keep my prized wooden Osprey, but that, together with my GRP one, is now for sale.
I should like to take this opportunity to thank the many Osprey sailors who have given their support, help and encouragement during the development period. I hope the boat gives many hours of pleasure and enjoyment for many years to come. p
Hartley Laminates is proud to be the builder of the new Mark 4 Osprey. We intend to work hard in developing and promoting the class, and I hope one day in my lifetime to see 100 boats on the start line once again at a National Championship. One day, (I hope not for a long time yet), when I go off to that great regatta in the sky, and meet Mr Ian Proctor, I would like to think that he will shake my hand in recognition of his delight in this development.
As a final thought, JP Morgan, the 19th and early-20th century billionaire, who was responsible for building, among other things, the New York Yacht Club’s famous premises said,
“You can do business with anybody, but you can only sail with a gentleman.”
See you on the circuit next season – Gentlemen (and Ladies).