Adventures are revealed of the windfall yacht Marabu

The Maruba in the Solent.  Peggy Smith is fourth from the left.
The Maruba in the Solent. Peggy Smith is fourth from the left.
Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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On March 3 I wrote about the Marabu, one of the ‘windfall’ yachts built by the Third Reich in Germany to train Luftwaffe pilots in navigation. After the Second World War these were commandeered by the allies and brought back to the UK.

The Marabu, which ended up in HMS Hornet at Gosport, went on to take part in the Cruising Club of America’s Newport to Bermuda Race.

I’m grateful to Peggy Smith MBE of Denmead, who was the PA to HMS Hornet’s captain at the time, for loaning me a report by Captain Peter Carey.

He states that the Marabu arrived back at HMS Hornet on Saturday evening, July 26, 1954.

She had left England on March 31 on a snowy morning with a gale blowing on her way to Bermuda and the Transatlantic race.

In the intervening four months, Marabu had sailed 11,281 miles during a period of 79 days 21 hours at sea at an average speed of 5.9 knots. Her route to Newport was via Oporto and the Bay of Biscay.

After that it was on to Tenerife in the Canaries, across to Antigua and Nelson’s Harbour for a refit by the crew.

Then onward to Bermuda, New London, Long Island and finally Newport, arriving two days before the race began.

Last-minute preparations and polishing took place at the New London Submarine Base courtesy of the US Navy.

It must be understood that no Admiralty funds whatsoever were available to help meet expenses for the trip.

Rigging and canvas had been sparingly ordered from a balance of credit of only £120 in December, 1951. This came from friends and generous contributions.

Peggy tells me that there was no engine and to slow the Marabu down, buckets on long ropes were tossed over the side and used as drag!

The race itself was somewhat of an anticlimax as the Marabu went off searching for winds westward of the Rhumb Line (a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle.)

The race started a few days later on July 2, from Bermuda, again in light winds. On July 14 the Marabu was east of Newfoundland Banks when the new French ocean racer Janabel appeared.

For the next four days they remained in sight of one another. The Marabu seemed to get the better of the French boat as her crew were not used to the new boat.

On July 17 the yachts were through the high pressure area and were changing spinnakers for genoas.

On the morning of March 21 the Marabu was six hours ahead and two days later she entered Plymouth, four hours behind Caribee and 14 hours ahead of Janabel.

Peggy tells me that the Marabu was part of the Coastal Forces Sailing Club based at HMS Hornet in Gosport.

It was largely due to club members that Marabu was in such good condition when taken back by the Admiralty to be used as an official sail training yacht.

After Hornet’s closure in 1957, the club continued to function to provide opportunities for members to take part in ocean races.