Cape Horn Trophy

The Cape Horn Trophy is the belaying pin from 'MN Bark Endeavour' which travelled around the world, and was donated to the OGA by Patrick Reid, OGA of Western Australia. Nominations are scrutinised by the judges, Dick Dawson and Ian MacGillivray.

It is awarded annually 'to an OGA member for outstanding seamanship performed by an individual in a single occurrence eg a rescue'.

The fine trophy is illustrated here, awarded to David Grainger and David Rolston on 'Happy Quest' during the 2015 Holyhead Festival.

Not awarded in 2019

2018 winner: Darryl Hughes, skipper, 'Maybird', Dublin Bay Area

The Dublin Bay OGA nominated Darryl Hughes for the Cape Horn Trophy for his outstanding achievement of competing in and completing the Volvo Round Ireland Race. The Volvo Round Ireland Race is run by the Wicklow Sailing Club and starts and finishes in Wicklow town, leaving Ireland and all its islands to starboard. It was first held in 1980 and is now an established race in the RORC calendar. 2018 marked the 20th edition of this classic offshore event and attracted 55 entrants, of which 46 finished.

Maybird is a 43' gaff ketch, designed by Fred Shepherd, built by Tyrrell's of Arklow and launched in 1937. Fred Shepherd's mainstay was capable cruising yachts, but his 1930 design 'Lexia' was the first British boat home in the 1931 Fastnet race. Tyrrell's also built Sir Francis Chichester's 'Gypsy Moth III', so this designer and builder partnership was bound to produce something special.

And so they did - in 2018 'Maybird' completed the Volvo Round Ireland Race. Circumnavigating Ireland non-stop in a 1937 gaff-rigged boat is an achievement in its own right. Not only that, but 'Maybird' is the oldest, and the only gaff-rigged boat yet to compete in the Round Ireland race.

It is for these reasons that Ian MacGillivray and I have decided to award the 2018 OGA Cape Horn trophy to Darryl Hughes and 'Maybird'.

It's one thing to possess a fine and capable yacht. It's another thing entirely to collect the boat from New Zealand, undertake a major and painstaking refit in England and then enter her in one of the toughest races in the calendar. For this you need a special sort of person. Darryl Hughes first clapped eyes on 'Maybird' in 1990 in New Zealand's Bay of Islands and, as he says himself, he never fully recovered!

'Maybird' was freighted to England in 2006, where Darryl put together a team of local craftsmen and women to repair the ravages of 70 years of adventurous cruising around the world. In December 2009 she was relaunched and with new rig to complement the quality work on the hull and accommodation she was prepared for the next chapter of her eventful life. This was not long coming; Daryl had set his sights on the Fastnet Race and 2011 'Maybird' won the Iolaire Trophy for the oldest boat to complete the course.

Both the Fastnet and Round Ireland races attract the most advanced modern racing yachts with talented skippers and crews, all with the one idea of going out to win. For 'Maybird' to finish in these two world-leading events is notable and it is a tribute to Darryl's seamanship and perseverance that it was accomplished in safety. Darryl's achievement has attracted considerable coverage in the media, and has significantly increased the awareness of gaff rig amongst competitive sailors.

Dick Dawson, on behalf of the judges.
January 2019

In 2017, the trophy was not awarded.

2016 winner: Jo-jo Pickering, skipper, 'Island Swift', South West Area

Having learnt to sail gaffers as a child, this skipper left sailing completely for over 20 years. She had never before been skipper of a yacht and certainly never undertaken anything close to the challenge of a return transatlantic crossing with a novice crew that was her husband and boys on departure in 2014. On the outward journey when sailing from the Cape Verde Island to Martinique her boat’s outer forestay parted mid-Atlantic and was carried away with the jib attached. As the boat ran downwind in a heavy swell under reefed mainsail, she went out on the bowsprit being repeatedly dunked in the sea to re-attach the forestay. She lives to tell the tale. The family  encountered every weather on its 10,000 mile trip narrowly dodging some nasty hurricanes on the way home. 

The crew's success in such a small boat navigating with a sextant is testimony to Jojo Pickering’s courage, and seamanship. 'Island Swift' finally made it back in Falmouth, July 2016.

It has long been a mystery to me why sailors bound on a first ocean voyage should be willing to pay money to be part of an Atlantic Rally. The essence of ocean sailing is adventure, and the essence of adventure is self-sufficiency. To set forth into the Atlantic without backup, with an inexperienced crew and a boat one barely knows at sea might be considered foolhardy or irresponsible. Sometimes it is just that, and the sea has its way of bringing home the results, but in other cases, with careful preparation and the right mix of humility coupled with a no-compromise will to succeed, it represents the spirit of that sort of seamanship that comes from the heart rather than a series of instructional courses.

Reading between the lines of her accounts, Jo-Jo and her bold family made some carefully weighted decisions on this trip. The best was probably to lay up in Grenada for the hurricane season, then continue their voyage at the right time of year. Keeping the boat low-tech was in the best traditions of gaffer sailing. It's hard to imagine any boat on the ARC today with no refrigeration, yet many a yacht has completed successful cruises without it. My own first deep-sea experience was based on a boat of a similar size to Island Swift with no technology at all beyond a diesel engine which worked at best intermittently. She was well ventilated, as are Wylo boats, we chose our food appropriately and we mostly drank rum and water with a little lime, a wholesome confection that costs next to nothing in the tropics and has no need of ice. The freedom that spins off from the lack of worry about equipment failures is a tangible thing. It also makes such voyages affordable for the leanest of budgets or, in my own case, no budget at all.

Reading between the lines, one can imagine the usual family tensions coming and going with Jo-Jo's crowd, but the over-riding impression of this voyage is one of deep satisfaction and delight. A family that sails as a crew in this way stays together for life, bound by love, a real knowledge of one another, and mutual esteem. The Wylo boat is the ideal vehicle. I know this to be true because I cruised in company with Nick Skeates, the designer, with his own Wylo II and saw at first hand the many benefits it bestows for remarkably little money.

Many families make so-called Atlantic Circuits these days, mostly in 'white boats' bristling with kit. Jo-Jo's voyage was altogether more organic. It was accomplished, as Eric Hiscock famously said of the best way to sail, 'without fuss'; the emergencies were handled 'in-house' and all her objectives were achieved. She showed the gaffers' flag to the world in Antigua and brought distinction to the association. If more families followed her example, making a proper voyage based on a sound attitude and a traditional approach to good seamanship, our world would be a better place. 

Judge's comments: Tom Cunliffe

2015 winner: Roy Hart, East Coast Area
Special mention: Clive Robertson, East Coast Area

Just two citations were submitted this year, but both were exceptional, and we include them for the record.

The runner-up, with 'special mention in dispatches', goes to Clive Robertson for his extraordinary athleticism, strength and quick thinking in a life-threatening situation. Clive was crewing aboard an Essex smack when a line slipped its pin and one thing led to another, as we all know only too well that it can. The upshot of this minor beginning was that a loaded line caught the hatch boards over the fish hold and lifted them bodily. A baby was asleep underneath and it seemed inevitable that the falling boards would do terrible things had it not been for Clive's rapid action. Somehow, against all odds, he managed to secure all nine boards before they could fall onto the little lad below. In all probability, his action saved the baby's life. This is the sort of instinctive initiative that would merit a gallantry medal in military circles. If we had the power to do so, the judges would strike one for him. Alas, we do not.

The Cape Horn Trophy is awarded for seamanship rather than acts of extraordinary merit on board, so this year it is given to Roy Hart and 'Greensleeves' for a cruise to St Malo and back to Burnham as part of the cutting-out expedition to recapture the Golden Baguette Trophy from the French. Without inboard power and with limited outboard fuel, Roy's voyage in a 19ft half-decked 'Memory' was executed without fuss, which, as Eric Hiscock observed, is the definition of a successful trip. Roy coped with winds nudging gale force, handled calms and rode the mighty tides of the St Malo bight with quiet aplomb. Then he brought his ship home again up-Channel and across the Thames Estuary without incident.

Roy describes 'Greensleeves'  as boasting 'two 7-foot berths, a cooker and sink, a red and black bucket plus a good sail wardrobe'. His log also mentions a number of modifications to the basic 'Memory' fit-out, all executed in a seamanlike manner and none of them expensive. The essence of gaffering has always been one of self-help and keeping it simple. You don't have to be rich to go to sea for pleasure, certainly not if you are a member of the OGA. Roy epitomises this philosophy which binds us all together, so the trophy for 2015 goes to him and his brave little ship. 

2014 winner: David Grainger, Bristol Channel Area

Tom Cunliffe writes

Sam Poole and I are awarding the Cape Horn Trophy to this year’s winner in recognition of the example he sets to all of us by sailing a substantial boat without an engine. Both judges are strongly of the opinion that gaffers are for sailing. Sam and Sue Poole sail 'Wender' far and wide with remarkably minimal mechanical interference, while Ros and I have the unlikely distinction of having cruised the 32-foot Colin Archer 'Saari' from Rio de Janeiro to the USA via the Caribbean with no functioning power unit at all. Sailing without an engine makes a different sort of mariner and our winner shows the world that the old chestnut ‘of course, it was easier back in their day. There was more room, more time, etc., etc., etc.’ is a load of rubbish. The winner is David Grainger and his mindset is that of the true seaman, he brings distinction to the Association and, what’s more, he doesn’t shout about it. That’s gaffering at its finest and we are proud to award him the trophy.


Gordon Garman, OGA Area President, Scotland, recounts the specific incident which inspired this award

Campbeltown Classics in 2014 started in very mixed weather making access to the pontoon berthing facility somewhat challenging, with a strong cross wind and little available space. David Grainger showed superb seamanship by bringing his 'Happy Quest' [pictured] on to the only available berth in a drama free display that was in complete contrast to the commotion created by those with lesser skills, and all without an engine of any kind.

2013 winner: Kees Kooman, Dutch member of the East Coast Area

Awarded for an unusual one-off piece of seamanship undertaken in the normal course of ‘gaffering’ for his single-handed circumnavigation in the RBC. Kees was awarded the trophy for his counter clockwise circumnavigation, reported on 'Sailing by':

I was lucky enough to meet Kees Koomen socially in Holland late last year and was immediately impressed by this total seaman. A Master Mariner and retired Rotterdam Pilot, his gaffer is the 74-year-old 18ft converted ship’s lifeboat 'Snoopy'. He has been a member of the OGA for over 25 years and has so far resisted any temptation to defect from the mainline and sign on with the Dutch chapter.

A few years ago, Kees sailed 'Snoopy' to the Azores and back single-handed, a voyage which featured the unusual experience of cruising alongside whales whose length overall he estimated at three times that of 'Snoopy'. His nomination, however, is for sailing round Britain in the OGA Jubilee Challenge.

Unlike everyone else, Kees went round 'widdershins', or anticlockwise. Apart from a colleague who joined him for a short time in Scotland, he was single-handed. He sailed directly to Scarborough, 222 miles in 44 hours. By 16  July he was in the Isle of Man, having covered 777 miles with only 480 to Cowes and the Regatta. He sailed down through the Menai Straits and on past the Welsh coast to Milford Haven before a tough struggle of 125 miles in 29 hours against wind and tide brought him to the Isles of Scilly. From there to Falmouth, he sailed goose winged 'with a 10ft swell to rock him to sleep' before pressing on 75 miles to Brixham in a force 6. 
When it started to look as though this redoubtable sailor might arrive at Cowes too early, he took a swift detour to the Channel Islands. 'Snoopy' still managed to arrive at the Regatta on time and participated fully in the celebrations, but 300 miles remained to be sailed to finish her circumnavigation.
 After nine weeks, one day 17 hours and 41 minutes and 1723 nautical miles, Kees completed the Round Britain Challenge. His voyage is the very stuff of the Cape Horn Trophy and a sailor of whom the OGA can be truly proud.

Snoopy goose-winged sailing