The Story of Cetewayo

Laurent Giles has always been regarded as an originator in yacht design, gifted, capable and confident in his skill and ability to design innovative yachts of astounding beauty and performance.

In 1955, this confidence was manifested in the design and construction of Zulu, a 7/8 fractional Bermudan sloop, which was built on speculation of sale, rather than commission, by Morris and Lorimar on the Clyde. There are whispered rumors that many post war yachts were built of inferior materials, but the opposite was true for Zulu. During the war, Morris and Lorimar built wooden MBTs, and one can only assume that the shipwrights who had once built beautiful schooners saved the best timber in the hope that it could be used when the war finished. The result was that, during Zulu’s two years of construction, she was built with the best of timber, using teak below the waterline which, to this day, is in pristine condition, and mahogany for the topsides and coach roof, all built on oak frames that were specified in the design to be as small and light as possible.

On completion and without much difficulty, Zulu was sold to Sir Henry Spurrier, launched in 1957 and was raced on the Clyde in her first season, gaining five firsts and only being out of the prize list once.

The racing achievements of Zulu or, as she is now known, Cetewayo, are as glorious and honorable today as in her debut year, much to the hard work and restoration of her present owner David Murrin. However, her story has not always been one of glory, and might indeed have ended in tragedy, if it were not for David, who found her, in 1989, perched high on Pembroke Dock in an abandoned – and what would seem terminal – condition. The life of Cetewayo and path that lead her to her potential ruin was colorful and not untypical of yachts of her size and age.

From Sir Henry Spurrier, ownership then passed in 1952 to Brian Stuart who, as a member of Lloyds, had sailed extensively his Laurent Giles ketch Lutine, which had been named after the famous Lutine bell that sat in Lloyds of London. This beautiful Laurent Giles yacht has survived the years, and is now a member of the BCYC. Rumor has it that that, having monopolized Lutine, it was suggested that Brian might wish to own his own yacht. So it was that he soon found and purchased Zulu when she was on the hard at Berthons, and proceeded to sail her enthusiastically season after season in offshore RORC races, for which she was ideally suited.

Brian owned Zulu for almost two and half decades and raced her hard with a plethora of crew who, to this day, remember sailing on her. However, Brian was not renowned for paying excessive attention to her aesthetic condition, perhaps viewing her more as a utility than as a craft of great beauty. After two decades, he commissioned a new Camper and Nicolson’s fiberglass yacht and transferred the name Zulu to her. To this day, Zulu can be seen starting and finishing many a RORC race. He renamed the old Zulu Cetewayo after the famous Zulu chief that presided over the Zulu War that lead to the British defeat at Isanwalla and heroic resistance of Roukes Drift, and who was subsequently captured and presented to Queen Victoria at Osborne house.

story of cetewayo

Displaced and unused for a few years, Cetewayo languished on a buoy off Campers in Gosport waiting for a new owner. Unfortunately, he came in the form of an individual called Humphrey Polson, who put a deposit on Cetewayo. Then he persuaded the Campers staff to give him the keys and sailed off with his new love into the sunset. Cetewayo and its new almost-owner then disappeared from the radar screen for almost six months until by chance the manager of the Gosport Campers yard was working at Campers only other UK yard in Pembroke Dock for his summer break. There, whilst in a small boat with his family, he rounded a creek to find Cetewayo moored on a buoy. Keen to recapture his company’s honor, he quickly contacted Brian Stewart, who proceeded to place an Admiralty writ on the vessel, but not before Mr. Polson had Cetewayo lifted out on a Friday night onto the only jetty in the harbor that could accommodate her, under the pretense of a weekend’s work. Then on Saturday and Sunday his own yard’s workforce descended on the jetty and stripped Cetewayo of her interior, leaving only a carvel shell, and a pile of wood by her side. One can only speculate at Mr. Polson’s rationale, that he thought that in the this condition he might pay less and thus keep the yacht. Instead, there was a long legal battle in which Mr. Polson paid back increments to Brian Stuart, until a critical point was reached at which Brian forced Mr. Polson to sell the vessel.

Meanwhile, one Thursday night while sifting through a copy of Yachting World, David Murrin saw Cetewayo for sale for £25,000, and was struck by her perfect and beautiful hull form. Two days later, David was under said hull with his brother, charmed by what was obviously a beautiful boat that, despite being in need of huge amount of work, would be well deserving of the effort. Undeterred, the 26 year old purchased her, and in what was a dramatic twist, had to pay off Brian’s old mortgage and enter into an agreement with Mr. Polson to put her back together, as the latter owned the only classic boat yard on the river.

When David undertook the task of transforming Cetewayo from a bare rotting hull, with only few remaining internal bulkheads, to the elegant racing condition she is in today, his initial objective was to reconstruct her to then sail for a season prior to a complete renovation. Following eight months of hard work in Pembroke, she was ready for her ‘maiden voyage’ to Plymouth. This voyage from Pembroke Dock was the story of a great escape from the clutches of her Pembroke jailer, as the yard struggled to complete its jobs before departure. On the first attempt, the jib track ripped off, and on the second her engine failed within the first hour of the voyage. A major storm lasting several hours in the Irish Sea then put Cetewayo and her crew to the test.

For the first few seasons, in the Solent David used Cetewayo as a cruising yacht much as his father had done with his family’s beloved Harrison Butler, “Minion”, on which David was conceived and brought up on the weekends and summer holidays. However, in 1993, David entered the Yachting Monthly Cowes Classic Regatta in which he won the Round the Island Race. He then won a most memorable event in the first ever match race with the Fife, “Solway Maid”, Which was kindly organised over two days by the RYS.

David’s conclusion at the end of 1993 was that racing Cetewayo was enormously fun, but that, since that there were not enough classic yachts to race regularly, Cetewayo should instead race modern yachts for practice. Thus began the process to optimize her true racing potential by racing her under a system called ‘CHS’ (Channel Handicap System), which was the fore runner of IRC. For her debut, she entered the Hamble Winter Series, with what, at the time, was a handicap of 1.01, well away from her optimum rating (now 0.958 ). In addition, this big heavy yacht was not set up to race round the cans against modern light yachts. The result, predictably, was a jolly good trashing and a placing at the back of the fleet. However, the eight Sundays of racing provided many lessons that would applied over the coming winters to enhance Cetewayo’s racing performance.

In order to optimize Cetewayo’s CHS handicap, a continuing programm of restoration, innovation and improvement was undertaken year on year for seven years. This included faring the hull and keel, improved race instrumentation, re-winching the whole boat with Anderson winches and re-arranging the back stay runners, replacing Laurent Giles levers with winches. In addition, the transom, rudder and steering system were rebuilt and strengthened, and the covering boards and garboards were replaced. On the inside, the interior was rebuilt to a higher standard than its original white plywood finish, replete with aluminum door frames.

The experience of learning just how finely balanced was Cetwayo’s design, and her sensitivities to various modifications to her handicap in relation to her boat speed, was one of the many great pleasures her owner experienced as he developed a relationship with her over many years.

During this period, the Dacron sails were replaced by the first white Mylar sails built by Doyle’s. Mylar has a much higher modulus than Dacron and many people suggested that the addition of such sails would pull an old wooden yacht apart. However, the counter- argument was that such sails would undergo less deformation and stretch and, consequently, would retain their shape maintaining the power generated as a forward driving force rather than a heeling moment. As Cetewayo is a long narrow boat, it would be easier for her to absorb a driving forward force than a heeling moment that constantly puts stresses on the narrow lateral rigging and down into the garboards. In addition, the high shock loads developed by high modulus sails would be partly absorbed by the more flexible wooden spar, and the use of traditional sheets. She became a trailblazer, for it was and is today not often that one sees a yacht flying the most modern Kevlar sails from a wooden mast and boom constructed with glued spruce.

With the first two seasons use of Mylar sails, there was a marked increased success and performance. The next suit of racing sails were Kevlar and straw colored, and with improved shapes from Reilings these powered Cetewayo to many a victory. In addition it was recognized that for a small decrease in the foot length of the mainsail Cetewayo could fly masthead kites rather than fractional kites. This turned her into a rocket down wind, and yet made very little difference to her upwind performance.

Cetewayo’s lines reveal she was built to be fast. Her sleek outline, long waterline dimensions and a distinctive overhanging transom immediately say speed. That being said her semi stepped keel is not efficient upwind, when she is moving at speeds below 6 knots through the water, which translates into a wind speed of 1o knots. This performance weakness is only compounded by Cetewayo’s extremely heavy weight of 17.5 tones for a yacht of her length, excluding her from being competitive under IRC in upwind conditions in wind speeds below 12 knots. Conversely Cetewayos hull shape and downwind sail configuration make her highly competitive under all down wind conditions, so in the lighter conditions her overall competitiveness is a function of the ratio of upwind to downwind legs in a given race. Once the wind picks up to 20knts her performance becomes excellent over all points of sailing, though unsurprisingly she has never managed to plane like a modern light displacement yacht! The one exception was achieved whilst sailing in a 45knt gale of St Catherine’s during a RORC race in the middle of the night, when speeds of 14.8knots were noted surfing down the waves with a spinnaker. This compares dramatically to her normal maximum hull speed of 9.5knots!

Sailing Cetewayo against modern boats of similar rating, meant learning and adapting the way she was sailed to ensure that she could compete effectively. A modern yacht of similar IRC rating to Cetewayo is about 30ft long and a third of the weight, thus it’s maneuverable, and able to stop and start easily, and point upwind by up to 5 degrees higher. Meaning that working through the upwind lanes of such a modern fleet meant looking for the spaces to be able to sail relatively faster and lower course.

The starts for example were very challenging, as a modern fleet will often hold off the line head to wind, a couple of boat lengths to leeward, bear away, accelerate and then hit the line fast. Cetewayo in comparison would need a long speed built of about a minute, and had to find a hole in the fleet to sail into, that allowed her to sail fast and low off the line compared to the other yachts. Otherwise she would be pinned by a leeward boat that would sail high and cause Cetweayo to sail slow and high into a stall, a sure way to slip to the back of the fleet. Compounding the upwind challenge was the problem that tacking was very slow in Cetewayo compared to a modern yacht, especially in light to moderate winds. As such it was most important to be roughly on the biased side of the start line with clear air to leeward and to have selected the correct side of the course and to if possible make only one or two tacks to the windward mark. This was in effect a bang the corners tactic, and needed excellent lay line skills, especially in the complex tidal waters of the Solent.

However once at the windward mark and sailing downwind Cetewayo came into her own, as her water line length generated higher speeds when driven by her much larger rig making her a downwind jugenought Similarly on any reaching course her water line length and long stabilizing keel gave her a distinct advantage, allowing her to carry large asymmetrics on very tight wind angles. The only time where this down wind advantage could be challenged was in the very strong breezes where the lighter boats could surf downwind.

All that being said, Cetewayo required great deal of hard work to sail round a short course, with a complex set of ropes to pull associated with her twin spinnaker pole configuration, and the constant need to have the right sail up to drive her heavy weight through the water at optimum speed throughout the race. Naturally it was the short round the cans races that demanded excellent boat handling skill levels to allow Cetewayo to be successful. The Hamble winter series provided the best bell weather for the improvements in Cetewayo and the ability of her crew to sail her effectively over short races. In the first year in 1994 we struggled at the back of our class, in 1995 we came 9th, in 1996 3rd and in 1997 and 1998 placed first.

Mean whilst offshore where the start was less critical, and the number of tacks per mile sailed reduced significantly, as long when the wind was not less than 12knots for the upwind legs Cetewayos came into her own and won many a RORC race in class and a few overall.

By the year 2001 Laurent Giles’ original design for Zulu, had been transformed and synchronized with the advancements in modern technology and equipment to become a honed powerful racing yacht with incredible performance against competitors in the Modern Class. By that time she had won many races perhaps foremost of which was the Commemorative East to west Round the Island Race at the 2001 America’s Cup Jubilee which, when David choose to race in the Modern Class under IRC, was not a popular class win, or second place overall next to the wining maxi sled, out of some eighty competitors and thus was a largely unheralded feat!

The story did not end there as post 2001 David having won and proven Cetewayo’s racing pedigree, decided that her hard racing days were over, and she would only be used to race in classic events, and Round Island Races. In line with this a major refit was undergone in the winter of 2003 that like so many others grew as it unfolded. During this long extended winter spring and summer of 2004, a new Perkins 65hp engine and Hydraulic drive was installed amidships under the owners bunk, freeing up the dog house space for a redesign as a galley and navigation area.

This refit to end all refits completed the interior rebuild to a high common standard and also optimized the internal space usage. It also unexpectanty moved the weight forward with the Perkins engine which countered the increased weight of her transom and dead wood over time due to the absorbed moisture in eth dead wood. This allowed Cetewayo to sit in a more balanced fashion in the water and had the added benefit of reducing the drag of her stern wave but most of all it greatly enhanced her beauty. In addition Cetewayo received completely new electrical refit to the standard of a super yacht. On competition of this dramatic refit Cetewayo was both competed inside and out to the highest standard. One might wonder what Laurent Giles would think of his evolved design over a half century later; David Murrin is sure he would be proud.

2015 and Cetewayo’s new rig

During the 2013 and 2014 BCYC light wind regattas, under 10 knots, despite the addition of a new zero, this wind range found Cetewayo at a significant disadvantage. Mainly as boats in the BCYC had become increasingly competitive.

This catalysed a thought process of how to make Cetewayo more competitive in the light conditions. There were a number of lines of thought:
1. The genoas had wide sheeting angles due to the fractional rig so she could not point higher than 38 degrees of apparent. These genoas also made her very slow to tack.
2. A study of all the most competitive yachts in the classic fleet found that Cetewayo’s power-to-weight ratio was 15 compared to an 17.8 average, placing her at a distinct disadvantage in light airs.

new mast

The first thought process was to make the rig more efferent with a bigger masthead genoa that would have a slightly improved sheeting angle. However, it was soon appreciated that this would only improve the power-to-weight ratio and pointing ability slightly and not enhance performance by the quantum jump required.

In the next iteration, we considered adding a section to the top of the mast increasing the main and spinnakers’ areas.

Lastly, we decided that a jib would increase pointing considerably, but the only issue was that it would result in a smaller area than the current genoa. Initially, we hoped that the bigger main would compensate for the smaller jib. However, the final piece of the puzzle came when Kevin suggested moving the forestay forward, which upon examination became structurally feasible. Thus, the new jib became bigger than the old genoa by a couple of metres with all the area in the right place forward of the mast.

Created was our new ideal rig and sail profile, which would increase the upwind sail area by 12%. When the more efficient sail plan, its extra height and the mast stiffness were added together we estimated a power increase of 25 to 30%, soon obvious in the increased healing angle as the wind picked up. Indeed, we found ourselves powered up in 8 knots of true wind, not bad for a 17.5 tonne boat of 48 feet! Mostly noticeable with the barber haulers pulled in tight over the coach roof, the sheeting angle narrowed to about 8/9 degrees. In practice, this allowed Cetewayo to point 10 degrees higher compared to with the old rig (from 38 to 28 degrees apparent). This represented a staggering increase in upwind performance. In downwind the taller mast and bigger main added 13m of sail area. However, again we sought to maximise performance and a 30cm increase in J (the measurement from the mast to the forestay) translating to longer poles and the projection of the spinnaker centre of effort forward correspondingly. This coupled with the larger masthead spinnaker allowed us to increase our downwind area by 25% enhancing the downwind performance considerably up to hull speed.

In adition to the sail plan enhancements we also hoped to increase the rig’s efficiency by reducing its drag coefficient in light airs, and lastly to make it stiffer and thus more powerful. To do that we had the privilege of receiving design inputs from Giovanni Belgrano following his own experiences in designing Whooper’s mast. It was then up to Theo Rye to design the mast and rod rigging itself. Theo started by making the lower section fit into the boat with the same profile as the old mast. But from there on, everything changed moving upwards away from the deck. Theo designed the mast in Columbian pine with a higher modulus than spruce making it 60% stiffer all-round and 300% in the top section. The spreaders were some 12 inches wider than the boat to reduce the load in the rig so that the loads were no greater then than the old mast. Meanwhile all the halyards were internal to reduce wind resistance. The task of building the mast went to Collars who did a marvellous job creating a work of art.

However, whilst ideas are always great on paper the real challenge came in the building and putting all the custom made parts together and then into the boat. The time pressure only made life more challenging. We knew that such a major new modification would have knock on effects, and sure enough in our first two days of sailing the masthead crane collapsed as it was not strong enough. The forestay plate lifted and we faced another three weeks of repairs before the RIR. We just managed to hit the water the day before competing. In the RIR we gained a respectable 64th overall in some fruity (not quite what the rig was optimised for!) conditions that showed that the motion of the boat downwind had become even more unpleasant than ever. Indeed off Dunnose point we underwent our first full on broach in 15 years, when with the maximum sail up, the wind and waves picked up. After another round of minor optimisations Cetewayo was made ready for the BCYC. In this regatta she proved how fast and powerful the new rig drove her, powering her to a class win and joint 3rd place overall. The following week Cetewayo raced in the RYS bicentenary international regatta. Ironically, it was a windy first half of the week which proved that the no. 2 blade configuration was extremely fast upwind in heavy weather. Through downwind in heavy airs the new mast continued to make life challenging. Cetewayo ended up in 2nd place in her class for this event despite leading until the last day.

The most significant difference in the new configuration is Cetewayo’s upwind performance, as she points like a witch and with the new jib she tacks in about 20 seconds with very little speed loss. This allowed us to keep our lanes with both our classic and modern competition. In addition, with a bigger rig than most of the boats around us we are able to pass both to leeward and windward other boats in positions that in the past we could never have hoped to gain from. Furthermore, starting became much easier with the extra power and pointing in all conditions, providing that we start from the front row.

We are convinced that we have only just started to unlock the potential of the new rig and with more time afloat we will be able to further maximise Cetewayo’s new sailing characteristics in the regattas next year. Cetewayos has always been very competitive against both modern and classic yachts, however we are confident in saying that her new rig has made her one of the most competitive classic yachts in the world.

Since the jubilee Cetewayo has been raced only in round the island races and in Regattas of the BCYC, and used as a charter yacht, where she continues to gather admirers of her beauty and sailing form.

Cetewayo’s logos

Originally, the figure of a Zulu with his shield, about to launch his assegai was the first logo adopted for Cetewayo. This logo appeared on many of her spinnakers and is cast into the end of the boom.

Then in 2015, coincident with the refit that gave Cetewayo her new mast, a new logo was created. It was designed in South Africa by the advertising agency Zoom and depicts a left eyed Zulu warrior integrated with his shield. His intent to achieve his objectives is clear in his facial expression, as it is Cetewayo’s intent with her new mast to go very fast in the right direction!



Photo by Barry James Wilson

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