I am an addict – and proud of it

Published on June 1st, 2020

While a modern raceboat may do well to get you around the race course, its boats with style and pedigree that attract attention. However, owning these boats takes a certain type of addiction as shared in the June 2020 Harken newsletter by Andy Ash-Vie, Harken UK Managing Director (RET):

My name is Andy Ash-Vie, and I am a 6 Meter addict. Lord knows I have tried to wean myself off; I went cold turkey for a few years, selling my 1989 Howlett-designed Wildcat II. Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon when I was offered the 1975 6 Meter, St. Francis VI, designed by Gary Mull and built by Bill Lee.

She had been languishing, unloved, in a barn for the last 20 years, and the urge struck. I know, I know, I was beguiled by the extremely low price and thought just a little one wouldn’t do any harm. She looked so sweet and harmless with a nice little bustle and a beautiful derriere. Oh boy, how wrong I was! Hooked again.

As a mid-seventies 6 Meter, St. Francis VI was uncompetitive against the modern ones and was only suitable for turning into a cruiser racer while keeping her heritage. The concept was to dial back on hard racing and head towards doing the events where looking gorgeous was more important than being competitive.

Plus, I wanted to do a bit of pottering around in my retirement, so in late 2017 I began stripping her down of all the old gear and planning her conversion.

An electric engine would be a good idea for short-handed mooring. Mooring her on Lymington River meant solar panels were needed to keep topped up for the weekly beer can racing with shore power when necessary. My female crew used to be a bit sniffy about using a bucket; a small plumbed-in head would keep them happy.

The boat needed to be more seaworthy for coastal deliveries to regattas so we fitted a self-draining cockpit and a coachroof, and we put in a barebones galley for a nice cup of tea (or hot toddies). Lifelines were needed to do the Round the Island race. (If it was a displacement race, I would be in with a shout but toast if the others were planing.)

Two berths were put in under the cockpit and in the forepeak; it wouldn’t be very comfortable but manageable to sleep off a couple of sherbets. To make sail handling easier, we raised the boom, fitted batten cars to the mainsail, and installed a roller furler recessed in the bow well.

Progress was slow and delayed further with my back problems needing surgery. The good thing was that it made me more and more determined to see the project through, knowing that good health and enjoying life was not to be taken for granted, so we needed to crack on.

The ace boatbuilder Symon Woods (AKA Honey Monster) and the all-around rockstar David Alan Williams came into the project to speed things up. We spent a lot of time mocking things up because every bit of space was critical for both racing ergonomics and fitting in the bare essentials.

Working out all the control systems made the electric motor a challenge. In the end, we went for a 6kW/48V Bell Marine motor powered with four 150Ah 12V lithium ion batteries with four separate 12V charging systems. This made it modular, lower cost and actually less bulky than a 48V system.

Some idiot wanted a black paint finish, so we spent ages fairing her up. Luckily, Jack and Henry Collins joined us. After many coats of hi-build, undercoats, top coats and lacquer (combined with an eclectic collection of swear words), we finished the job.

She left the shed on March the 10th and was launched. I spent a week commissioning her ready for sail trials which were delayed with spring gales. Finally, we were ready…. and then lockdown happened! She was left on her mooring, growing weeds. Finally, on May 17th, I had a grin ear-to-ear. Judge me all you like; I am an addict – and proud of it!

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