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On board the famous J-class yacht "Velsheda" in the Solent, Summer 1991.

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“Velsheda” was designed by Charles Ernest Nicholson and built in 1933 by Camper and Nicholsons at Gosport, Hampshire. She was built for businessman William Lawrence Stephenson, managing director of Woolworth retail shops. Velsheda was named after Stephenson's three daughters, Velma, Sheila and Daphne. She raced with the greatest names in classic yachting in the 1930s, including the King's Britannia, Endeavour and Shamrock V. Most "J's" were built to race for the America's Cup; Velsheda however was never a challenger. That didn't stop her success though: in her second season she won more than 40 races and achieved an outstanding record of success at regattas from Southend to Dartmouth. Other venues included Torbay, Swanage and of course the Solent, all under the control of the famous Captain Fred Mountifield. The permanent crew at that time was probably around 16 men and this would have been augmented to around 30 for racing. In her 1930s heyday, she represented the most advanced technical design for spars, rigging, sails, deck gear and ropes. Her masts were aluminium, made by bending plates and riveting them together. Sails were made from the new Terylene threads and deck gear now included winches for easier handling of sheets.

But by 1937 she was laid up in a mud berth on the River Hamble and lay there for almost 60 years, inevitably becoming derelict. Velsheda was rescued from her Hamble mud berth in 1984 by Terry Brabant, who economically refitted her sufficiently to go sailing and used her for charter work with a new steel mast and limited interior. Still without an engine she sailed regularly along the UK south coast and occasionally ventured to the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

It was during this period that this photograph was taken: a group of friends and I chartered her for a day in 1991. At the time, £70 a head seemed a lot, but the thrill of actually sailing aboard a famous classic, let alone helming her (see Workshop 1!) made it well worth it.

A few years later the owner Terry Brabant sold her. She was then laid up again and moored at Gosport in 1995/6. She was finally purchased in 1996 as a bare hull from the bankrupt C & N yard in Portsmouth Harbour. Southampton Yacht Services on the River Itchen were then commissioned to undertake a major rebuild including a new one piece carbon fibre mast and inboard diesel engine installation for the first time. She was re-launched in November 1997.

She is now a regular on the classic yacht racing circuit, and looks smarter than when new: see Workshop 2

Shot on Ilford b/w film and processed by me in the College darkroom. Negative scanned on Nikon film scanner.

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Additional Photos by Will Perrett (willperrett) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1068 W: 303 N: 3014] (13799)
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