Queen's Baton

AAS - stepping the mast
Duane & the Baton

 All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- October 2005 Issue

Youth Instructor Carries Queen's Baton for XVIII British Commonwealth Games

 Share How exciting it was to see Duane Smith receive the Queen’s Baton on Youth Instructor at Road Harbor three weeks after the Shoot-Out. On our boat, I joined the BVI marine community flotilla to welcome the baton in its arrival to the BVI in honour of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. Duane had the pleasure of standing on the bow with the famed baton uplifted while El Richardson helmed the Tortola Sloop around the harbor before passing it on to BVI Governor, Tom Macan. The event was sponsored by the BVI Tourist Board, the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports, the Ministry of Education and Culture, Scotia Bank and the BVI Olympic Committee. Designed in Australia, the baton, which thousands of runners will carry around the globe as part of the March 2006 Queen's Baton Relay, will carry a message from Her Majesty to athletes in each of the countries competing in the games to be read at the opening ceremony.

The Commonwealth Games will feature some 4,500 athletes who will visit Melbourne, with over 1 million spectators and a presumed global audience of up to one third of the world's population. It is the first time that all 71 Commonwealth countries will participate in the relay, which was introduced at the Cardiff Games in the United Kingdom in 1958. The BVI participated in the games for the first time in 1990 in Auckland, New Zealand. The baton was being accompanied by four delegates from Australia - Brett Kennerly (team leader), Kate Brody (Media), Will Salter (photographer) and Damian Whitford (asset protection officer). BVI Olympic Committee Head, Ray O’Neal, stated that “The BVI will be represented at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and we do hope that all our athletes, officials and our country can gain from this experience.” What an afternoon -I know that I enjoyed doing my part to show enthusiasm for the event.

All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- October 2005 Issue

BVI Governor Tom Macan Spearheads a New Mast for Youth Instructor

Tortola Sloops are a large part of the culture of the British Virgin Islands. Youth Instructor, a Tortola Sloop built in the 1990s by Osmond Davies of East End, has for various reasons gone through three masts since her original launching. After the third mast broke, the day before Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta this year, Gov. Macan met with Dave Cooper, Commodore of the WEYC – organizers of the races under which the Island Sloops sail, and expressed a desire to have a proper mast made for Youth Instructor. The Governor wanted to make sure that the boat was ready for the Island Sloop Shoot-Out during the BVI Festival. Cooper went to Mike Andrews, General Manager of Yacht Restoration at Nanny Cay, and asked him for a quote on the job. The results were viewed as Youth Instructor raced against Moonbeam two months later.

The Tortola Sloops are fractional rigged boats – the foresail stops six feet from the 32.6’ masthead. The process of making this mast is quite interesting. Jason Holmes was in charge of the project and his excellence as a shipwright is seen in the finished product. The 40’ long & 12” diameter log, from which the mast was made, was de-barked and treated before arriving in the BVI. Because the center growth ring is usually never in the center of the tree, the first thing Jason had to do was center the trunk.

“I set up a round disc that was to be the size of the finished mast and centered it on the rings. The more centered the trunk is the more stability it will have as a mast. I squared the log on the center growth ring to begin the project, which would make each of the four sides between 7” and 8”. At this time I also put the taper in so that it is smaller at the masthead than at the heel. ( Youth Instructors’ masthead is 3.5” in diameter and her heel is 6.5”.) I began “sizing”, which is a geometric way of making something round out of a square. The process is complicated as I size and taper at the same time. During this process you can’t walk away from it because you lose your eye, or your “feel”, for it. That mast was in my dreams for two weeks.”

The mast was transferred to four chocks and planed, with the grain, from the heel to the masthead. This process took 8 hours a day for seven solid days. Once the chocks are level and straight you work one side at a time. Jason started with the worst side first, to get it centered, and then planed from there. It is then turned 180 degrees and the process is repeated with each rotation - planing, sizing, until it is round and of the size required. It is sanded, primed and painted - Jason used a hand planer at the end for a proper finish.

This is the first mast, out of the four that Youth Instructor has had, that was made out of a solid tree. The others were “glued up” with pressure treated pine of 2 x 6s. The first mast broke under sail due to too many knots in the wood. It was repaired quickly in order to sail in a regatta. It then broke again as some other knots were too flexible for the boat.

Another mast was made, similar to the first and it was also too weak and delaminated at the glue joints. The third mast was donated by a wooden boat owner whose boat had been given to Neptune - a conversion was tried which failed when the mast was stepped, the day before Foxy’s. Governor Macan races on the Tortola Sloops each year and has had a true concern for the fate of the Island Sloops since arriving in the BVI. He tells me,

“Sloops were a cornerstone of the economy of the Virgin Islands, and it is vital that we keep examples afloat and in working order so that today’s kids can understand their history. I am delighted that, with this new mast, Youth Instructor’s continued success can be guaranteed.”

As lovers of these classics, we all thank him for coming to the rescue – and also to Jason for having the talent to sculpt a mast truly worthy of a Tortola Sloop.

Jason Holmes

Jason Holmes is from Bosham, UK, where he apprenticed with Combes Boatyard for 5 years in wooden boatbuilding. He has been a Shipwright for 13 years and specializes with wooden masts. He was the Foreman for the 80’ mast on White Wings, a famous Alden classic sloop featured on the cover of Classic Yachts. “Youth Instructor is a well built boat and now has a mast to suit the boat. They shouldn’t have any trouble with the rigging. I enjoyed doing it and lost 2 stone in the making. It was nice to do - something that I haven’t done in a long time - the “Zen” of woodworking - very therapeutic.”

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