Yacht the world has been waiting to see is unveiled

Artists Gregg Wheelan (left) and Gary Winters who are behind The Boat Project at the launch of the yacht at Thornham Marina in Prinstead
Artists Gregg Wheelan (left) and Gary Winters who are behind The Boat Project at the launch of the yacht at Thornham Marina in Prinstead

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IT’S hard to believe a boat made of hockey sticks, tennis rackets, hairbrushes and police truncheons would be seaworthy.

But this is the extraordinary spectacle of The Boat Project, a 30ft sailing boat that will tour the south coast to mark the Olympic Games.

After 14 months of painstaking craftsmanship, the boat was unveiled yesterday at Thornham Marina, Prinsted, near Emsworth.

Funded by a £500,000 grant from Arts Council England, the boat is fashioned from 1,200 donated pieces of wood.

The vessel, which can reach speeds of more than 20 knots, includes a tiny piece of the Mary Rose and part of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

The yacht has been put together by artists Lone Twin, as well as Olympic sailor and boat-builder Mark Covell and designer Simon Rogers.

From hundreds of nominations, a crew of six will sail the boat this summer.

Mike Barham, 42, of Stephenson Close, Gosport, who was in the army and is now training to be a teacher, has the honour of being captain.

As a crew we are going to have a real adventure out at sea,’ he said.

‘I learned to sail here in Prinsted harbour when we moved down here in 1980 and joined the Sea Scout troop.

‘Some of the boats I sailed with the sea scouts are now part of the hull.

‘To come back to Prinsted where I first stepped foot on a boat and to leave again on this boat is really exciting.’

Sailing novice Daniel Lane, 46, an English teacher at South Downs College, will be one of the crew.

Mr Lane, of Ward Crescent, Emsworth, said: ‘We have had two weekends out of the Solent and we have been on a sports boat which is similar to this boat. Getting involved in the stories of the donations has been amazing.’

Retired cabinet maker Ernest Monnery, 75, of White Dirt Lane, Clanfield, volunteered to help build the boat – including donating his scale ruler.

He said: ‘Fourteen months ago I arrived here and I have been here most Tuesdays every week. The end product is really wonderful.’

Sally Abbott, regional director at Arts Council England, said: ‘It’s not just a beautiful work of art, but a fantastic vessel that is going to sail the seas in the most glamorous way you can imagine.’

A celebratory launch event will take place on Monday at Thornham Marina from 11am to 3pm.

The boat will arrive at Gunwharf Quays on June 23.