At the end of the Second World War, yachts that had been built by the Third Reich to train Luftwaffe pilots in navigation were commandeered by the allies and brought back to England.
About 200 of these ‘windfall’ yachts, constructed in the 1930s and with steel frames, were brought together and towed back to this country. Some were moored up in Portsmouth harbour and the larger versions used in sail training.
One, the Marabu, was placed with HMS Hornet in Gosport and sailed across the Atlantic in 1952 to take part in the Cruising Club of America’s Newport to Bermuda race.
During that year the yacht had a very successful time, taking part in many offshore events. During the winter it was altered and improved in readiness for the Bermuda race.
A larger jib was fitted and a doghouse (covered wheelhouse) was fitted for more comfort for those on watch. She was 57ft in length with a beam of 11ft.
The crew of nine was made up of serving naval personnel, who had to apply for leave through the Royal Naval Sailing Association.
Lt-Cmdr Brooks (master) and Lt Rogerson (navigator) were assisted by Capt Dunkley RM (mate) and six other serving and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve crew members.
The cost of the trip, estimated at £1,300 (£30,000 in today’s money) was financed in several ways. The Treasury declined to assist, so each member of the crew gave a month’s pay. Other donations were brought in by subscription, from naval messes, welfare committees and a small grant from the Royal Naval Sailing Association. Sponsorship for the race was by the Coastal Forces Sailing Club.
So, did they make it across the Atlantic in one piece and win the Bermuda race? I am sure someone will know. And what became of the Marabu?
Well, I can tell you that she was sold off by the navy in 1977 and she is now high and dry at Ipswich Yacht Marina at Shotley. Before being dug out, this was the HMS Ganges sports field.
One of her crew was Roger Neville, who became Sir Roger and was chief executive of the Sun Alliance Insurance Group.