A doyenne of the Falmouth Sunbeam fleet is celebrating her 90th birthday and that of her elder sisters – sporting a new face lift completed under the expert hands of Mylor Yacht Harbour’s Marine Team master shipwrights.
“Wendy” has been beautifully restored by the Marine Team, working alongside her owner Jeff Martin and is now back on the water complete with her immaculate coat of smart red paint and mirror-like varnish.
Looking like miniature J-Class yachts and sailing like a dream, there are few fleets more “classic” than the Falmouth Sunbeams. Gentlemen and women of the twenties and thirties thought them quite the thing to race and the same applies today – with an ever more competitive edge.
This year as they celebrate 90 years of racing in the beautiful waters surrounding Falmouth, Mylor Yacht Harbour is taking pride in the skills that have ensured the class flourishes and grows.
Two hundred years ago in the great days of sail Mylor was England’s smallest naval dockyard in one of the world’s most strategic ports; with consistent investment through the last 20 years it is now Cornwall’s busiest boatyard and marina. And as well as looking after many of the older members of the Sunbeam fleet Mylor is the only yard in recent years to build new, wooden Sunbeams on exactly the same lines as their elder sisters.
“At Mylor we share a passion for these fantastic vessels and for boats in general,” says Managing Director Roger Graffy, “and our team of master craftsmen with decades of experience between them nurtures younger talent to make sure we take those brilliant skills into the future.”
Through the decades Sunbeams have only been found as a racing class around the Isle of Wight – where most of them were originally built – and Falmouth. But while the Solent fleet has allowed new fibreglass versions into their competitions, all Falmouth Sunbeams – even the newer ones – are wooden with everything from the size of the pitch-pine planking to the length, beam and draught exactly to the specifications of Alfred Westmacott’s design of the early 20’s.
Roger Graffy’s passion for these vessels goes back to childhood trips to Cornwall – and the building of his own Sunbeam, “Milly”, at Mylor fifteen years ago, was a dream come true.
“I think I started the idea when I was about ten when I used to come down to St Mawes and sail Sunbeams,” he says, “but I never really thought I’d actually achieve it. Now we’ve built three beautiful new Sunbeams and we are all so proud of that achievement.
“We have the skills here at Mylor and we’ve wanted to put them to good use and show people what Cornwall can create. The Sunbeam’s are one of the most respected classes in the Fal – it’s very serious racing and they are such things of beauty.”
In total agreement with that sentiment is Jeff Martin who has sailed all his life, all over the world and is now the proud guardian of 90 year old Wendy.
“We’re not really owners of these boats,” he says, “just custodians and when John Pickup was looking to “retire” from racing Wendy I stepped in to his place,” he says.
“There’s nothing quite like an old wooden boat. They need a lot of attention to keep them going but our Sunbeams are raced very hard and they have stood the test of 90 years so they’ll probably go on for another 90.”