‎Ken Wales‎ STA Schooner Experience under Sail

My boss was Brian Stewart who I believe was Commodore of the STA. The juniors in the company were offered trips on the schooners.

I was lucky enough to ship on the Malcolm Miller in 1967 as a 20 year old for the Tall Ships Race from Gothenburg round the Faroes back to Kristiansand.

We flew from Gatwick in a Bristol Britannia. Arriving in Gothenburg we had a weeks working up before the race. We were feted by the city received basically the freedom of the city.

I remember being on the bow of the Miller and Rupert Davies (Maigret actor) was on the George Foch moored behind us and the TV crew said to him looking at the British vessels does that remind you of home whereupon he started singing Maybe it’s because I am a Londoner and then the cameras switched to us all singing the chorus (my first TV appearance).

When we started the race there were hundreds of vessels seeing us off plus TV helicopters. 

During the race we came becalmed in the middle of the North Sea and some of the crew went for a swim.

The wind was such that the square riggers had to shorten their race and turned on oil rig rather than the Faroes. Our navigator wanted to hug the coast but was told no we had to go straight due to inexperienced crew. The Swedish ship which won did go coastal. We saw her coming back as we neared the Faroes a magnificent sight,  a schooner under full sail.

While we were becalmed the foresails sheets were changed to heaving lines as the would be lighter for any wind. We all dreaded what would happen when the wind got up. I was in watch in the middle of the night when the wind got up and the heaving lines snapped. Our pounding on deck woke the other watch up and due to the now large movement of the ship many made the trip to the heads to be sick.

We were second and we beat the Winston Churchill. Again in Kristiansand were feted again.

There was a tug of war competition between all the Tall Ships, our crew were knocked out. The final was between the George Foch German cadets (massive guys) in their smart uniforms against the Winston Churchill in their wooly poolies. Even the locals wanted the British to win and they did much to the chagrin of the Germans.

Whilst we were in harbour one chap from another crew went out on the yards of the Winston Churchill and crossed to the Malcolm Miller. Not sure how far apart they were but not for me. I only got to go to the crows nest as I have an intense fear of heights, which you might find strange as I now “work” as a flying instructor in Australia.

We then sailed back home. (I think)

Superb experience and did me a lot of good.