Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Well shipmates, anyone immersed in yachtie folklore with the degree of obsession that this writer has knows about this little boat. She is the famous converted 'Folkboat' Jester. The only original part of the Folkboat (a class of yacht with its own illustrious history) is Jesters hull. The deck, cabin and rig are additions by Hasler. She was conceived and built by Colonel 'Blondie' Hasler back in the late 1950s.

Colonel Hasler is well known for his involvement as one of the 'CockleShell Heroes' of WW2 during the commando raid 'Operation Frankton'. Six canoes were taken to the area of the Gironde estuary in France by submarine. Twelve men paddled up river and successfully placed limpet mines on Nazi ships. Two men survived: Hasler, and his number two in the canoe, Sparks. Eight were caught and executed by the Germans, while two died from hypothermia when they capsized. Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated that the mission shortened the war by six months. Admiral Louis Mountbatten, called the raid "the most courageous and imaginative ever carried out by the men of Combined Operations during World War Two."

After the war Blondie Hasler was one of four crews in the inaugural single handed Transatlantic race along with Francis Chichester, David Lewis,Val Howells and Jean Lacombe - all yachting legends.
He was also influential in a number of other areas. He designed the Hasler Wind Vane (which is attached to the stern of Jester in the photo) which enables a yacht to self steer. He took Jester to Loch Ness and made a thorough search for the Loch Ness Monster! (Something any yachtie worth his salt would do - having a good reason to sail on a Loch must enhance the experience!
He was also an early pioneer and promoter of the Chinese junk rig which is known for its simplicity and ease of operation. The rigging and reefing of the mainsail and the steering of Jester is operated from the steering position without going on deck at all. Hasler married at the age of fifty a woman nearly half his age and went on to live a fruitful and interesting life farming and building another small experimental yacht and being involved in other interesting design projects.

Now the yacht in the above photograph is not the original Jester. Let me explain. In 1964 Jester was sold to Mike Richey who sailed her in every OSTAR (Observer Singled Handed Transatlantic Race) (Observer being the sponsoring English newspaper) with various degrees of success until 1988 when Jester was lost and sunk in a huge storm. This was the second time she had come to grief. In an earlier OSTAR she had been hauled aboard a passing ship like a huge fish after suffering damage in a storm.  At this point in yachting history Jester had become such an icon of the OSTAR, so well known in the anals of small boat sailing and being much loved by the yachting public, that a trust was formed and a new exact replica of Jester was built and presented to Mike Richey. It is this Jester that is in the above photo. Richey sadly passed away recently at a ripe old age and a life of sailing his beloved Jesters. I am not sure who now owns and sails Jester but I will find out.

Whilst Googling for this post I found out something I didn't know. That is, a sister ship to Jester exists. Her name is 'China Blue' and what a fine little craft she looks in the photograph below.

From a classical point of view these are not beautiful yachts but I find them strangely attractive. The attraction is one of function over form. Functions that have been planned and created by Blondie Hasler in the same inimitable way he designed a kayak that could be loaded down a submarine hatch for the raid in France, a self steering wind vane and an adaptation of the junk rig for a small yacht which sailed into yachting history.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


In the deep core 
I felt the hearing of it 
Felt it with my heart
If I had been deaf
I would still have heard it
 Clambering up onto the deck 
Of my small boat
I heard the high sailing stars singing
Singing in my heart

- Alden Smith