Hidden beauty 25-year yacht-build up for national Classic Boat Award
The “collaborative” build of a classic yacht whose hull was lodged for years in an inconspicuous concrete shed near Truro, Cornwall, is in line for a Classic Boat Award – more than quarter of a century after the project first began.
“Cass” is one of only two classics built to the 1966 “95 Holman” design of famous Cornish yacht designer Kim Holman. Boat builder Barry Cass began work in 1994, constructing her beautiful wooden hull in the shed, which was just big enough to house her, set in woodland on the side of the A39 at Arch Hill.
Fast forward to 2016 and Dr Simon Mitchell bought the 43-foot hull as a project from Barry Cass (giving her his name as a tribute) and so began a four-year labour of love to finish her, involving an intricate partnership of marine experts including master shipwright David Bentley and the electronics and engineering team from Mylor Yacht Harbour.
“When I came across Cass, I knew I’d found something special,” says Simon. “Boats aren’t made like this anymore and she deserved – and got – the best possible maritime talent to complete the beautiful job that Barry began all those years ago.
“That said, when I took David Bentley to see her in the shed and asked how mad is this project – he said ‘very mad’ – I think this was from his early days on the Thames building and renovating classic steamers and launches!”
Building a new wooden boat, David says, is a privilege these days and the Cass project involved a host of talented people: “I was lucky to be able to involve past colleagues and friends Nick Byatt, Brian Hall, Bob Claringbold and Shaun Roseveare to name a few – but it is always a team effort.”
Firstly, Simon himself involved local naval architect Jack Gifford to change the original sloop to a cutter rig and look at the deck plan, deciding also to fit a skylight above the saloon.
“We, the boatbuilding team, used traditional construction methods blended with modern improvements where possible so, for example, fibre-glassed decks that look like the original canvas decks – obviously giving greater longevity.
“Modern Superyacht epoxy and paint systems were used on the hull and inside. Also, Simon gave us a lot of individual freedom to improve areas if we maintained the classic lines and pretty looks. For instance, the original cockpit design was outdated and not practical for today. So inside, due to changes in the cockpit, the modern equipment being fitted had to evolve.”
Here it was fortunate that, many years earlier, David and Nick had spent a lot of time fitting out Holman and Pye interiors, so knew the features to incorporate keeping Cass a True Classic.
From the beginning, David brought in his friend and expert collaborator of 35 years Bob Claringbold – a marine electrical engineer from Mylor’s Marine Team with a legendary reputation for detailed, considered work – for the planning and installation of the electronics and electrics in order for all electrical components to be seamlessly integrated into the wooden build as it progressed.
“Working with Bob on the electrical installation for Cass was like working with a master craftsman,” says Simon. “He knows exactly what you need before you need it or even know that you need it. He just gives you that confidence that when you’re at sea everything is going to work.”
Bob and the Marine Team were tasked with incorporating modern technology into a classic wooden sailing boat – from navigation and auxiliary equipment, all internal and external wiring and lighting, plumbing, water pumps and the installation of an air heating system.
The results are exquisite – as became apparent when the roof of the shed was removed to allow Cass to be craned out and the team (along with the shed’s owners who had generously supported all the works taking place there over many years) could finally see her as a whole.
She was towed around to Mylor Yacht Harbour for the finishing touches and for the Marine Team to commission her new Yanmar engine ahead of sea trials – with a berth at Mylor Marina now her permanent home. As Simon puts it,
“Mylor is the best place to be with your boat: the sailing in the area is fantastic, the experience and expertise of the yard and marina staff give you absolute peace of mind – and you have everything you need in this beautiful spot.”
This outstanding “team” project has put Cass among the finalists in the Classic Boat Awards 2021 in the “Best Traditional New Build Sailing Vessel” category – the results of which will be announced in Classic’s May issue on sale from April 9th.
A more in-depth story about the entire project was featured in the April 2021 Issue of Classic Boat written by Nigel Sharp titled ‘Built on Faith’.