Short handed Achilles Sailing.

Despite being stuffed with bunks the A9m & A840 were always intended to be sailed short handed offshore, perhaps by mum, dad and one or two small kids, whereas a 30 ft half tonner was raced by a crew of five, and often needed every one, these boats whilst not as fast could comfortably be sailed by one or two. The idea spilled over to the A24 and a number of them have done some serious offshore single handed sailing.


As described in his brief autobiographical piece Chris Butler led the way sailing the A9m and A840 in the OSTAR (wining his division in the A840) and the Azores and Back single handed race and at least one A24 "A236 Songeur" completed the OSTAR (1976) & AZAB (1975) and was in both cases the smallest boat to finish. 

Achilles 24  "Songeur"
A236 "Songeur". Photo Anton Lawrence.

A note from Ian Wallace (A24 "Spring Run" & A9m "Spearhead")

A236 "Songeur"  was purchased as a special kit from Butler Mouldings by a New Zealander named Rodney Kendall who, basically, wished to complete her for sailing home to the land of the long cloud. This is exactly what he did, taking advantage of the 1976 OSTAR for the Atlantic crossing. The boat was exhibited at the prior Earls Court Boat Show and I took a look inside (which was unrecognisable as an A24) and shook Rodders' hand. He could have chosen a better year - 1976 holds the record still I think for headwinds, gales and retirements.

Later he crossed the Pacific and was reported to have encountered another A24 going the other way.... Unfortunately Rodders wasn't keen on paperwork and didn't publish any logs, so we lost trace of him.

Then, quite some years ago, someone (?Anton) reported being offered a "Van de Stadt 24" which turned out to be the long-lost "Songeur" in a very poor condition. Full marks to Anton for the restoration.

Then the small boats were banned.


The Jester Challenges were set up after the OSTAR excluded the smaller boats and it reverted to the ethos of the first OSTAR with personal responsibility at the fore (no rules, scrutinising, etc.)  and with it not being a race there was no need spend a fortune to take part and have fun. 

David Knowler has taken his triple keeled A840 "Headway III on the JBC (Baltimore IRE), JAC (Azores) the JNC (Newport, USA) and in 2021 the one off J51/8 (to Milford Haven via a virtual mark at 51o N, 8o W, in the Celtic Sea, to avoid Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland) and done some more than once. No picture I'm afraid, his boat is largely hidden behind another in the pic I took when we met up in 2021. 

In fact most challenges have had at least one Achilles taking part, the largest number arears to have been in 2019 with three A9m's and an A24.

Thee Achilles 9 metre yachts in Baltimore
Three A9m's at the end of the 2019 Jester Baltimore (IRE) 
(on the Sancerre Blog)
The 2019 Jester Challenge to Baltimore (IRE) was not a race but the Ireland based A011 "Freebird" (left in the picture) was first to arrive having started from Pwllheli (minimum distance 227 NM), A021 "Sancerre" (right) and was second in and first from Plymouth (minimum 261 NM) after 76.5 hours sailing. Centre is A059 "Tranquillity", a triple keel variant, that also started from Plymouth and was not far behind, especially when considering that after a wind shift he was caught down tide going into the Fastnet. This was a tough event with more than half the entrants (as at the day before the start) not making it, but all three A9m's and the lone A24 (Mischief) got there. 


I am sure there are far more stories but at least three A9m's, in addition to the competitors in races or Jesters, have done some quite long short or single handed cruises.

Achilles 9 metre yacht "Blue Marlin"
A9m, Red Marlin A004, Cesme, Turkey.
Photo Tony Bannister

Between 2006 & 2012 Ian Wallace took Spearfish to the Mediterranean, the Canaries and Ireland see the entries on the Trip Reports page.

Tony Banister and his wife lived aboard A9m A004 Red Marlin for many months each year whilst cruising the Mediterranean, whilst a previous owner, Linda Lane Thornton, completed a singlehanded Atlantic circuit (c 1982) , which included three years in Barbados working at the British High Commission. 

And at the time of writing Sancerre has completed two single handed round GB trips, one clockwise via Cape Wrath and Orkney and one anti clockwise via Orkney & Stornoway (outer Hebrides) and a total of 8,500 solo miles over four seasons, despite Covid-19.

A24 sailors have done even more and have written about it

William Garnier:  Big Bloke, Small Boat: voyage of a madman? (2008),  A well written, humorous account of doing an Atlantic circuit in an Achilles 24.

Roger D Taylor:  

Ming Ming II & the Islands of the Ice (2016). The fourth in a series of books on long distance sailing in small boats, this one in his modified, junk rigged Achilles 24.

Ming Ming II & the Impossible Voyage (2020),  describes sailing Ming Ming II to 81 Degrees North and beyond, passing to the north of the Svalbard group and then east to the north-west coast of Franz Josef Land. This voyage, in waters which are usually icebound, took him into the little known and virtually never sailed Queen Victoria Sea. 

His web site can be found here.

Achilles 24 yacht "Ming Ming II"
Modified  A24  "Ming Ming II" A159 and Roger Taylor at the end
of the Jester Azores, 2008. Photograph: Tony Head. 

See also several posts referenced on the "Seamanship, safety & equipment" page.

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