For about $230,000, someone who loves sailing history is going to take home a piece of it.
That’s the asking price for Gipsy Moth IV, a 53-foot ketch built in 1966 that Sir Francis Chichester commissioned to sail single-handedly around the world in 1966-67. His journey captivated countless imaginations—a man in a boat trying to accomplish what Clipper ships five times the size were doing in those days. And, Chichester was 65 years old at the time.
The BBC reported that a crowd a quarter million strong gathered at Plymouth Hoe to welcome Chichester and Gispsy Moth IV back to England as he completed the circumnavigation. Thousands of small boats accompanied Gipsy Moth IV into Plymouth Sound. The Royal Artillery sounded a 10-gun salute, and at the breakwater, Chichester’s wife and son joined him aboard, bringing with them two bottles of Champagne.
The homecoming was televised internationally, making Gipsy Moth IV the toast of the world. With just one stop—in Sydney, Australia—Chichester had become the first person to circumnavigate solo from West to East via the great capes. Today, more than a half-century later, the accomplishment remains such a major milestone that an image of Gipsy Moth IV graces the pages of British passports.
Current photographs of the yacht can now be found on the website of Sandeman Yacht Company in the United Kingdom. Sandeman is the listing agent selling the yacht on behalf of the current owner, the Gipsy Moth Trust. “Hopefully we can find somebody who is willing to take her on the next leg of her journey, and she’ll prosper from there,” trustee Pete Rollason told Soundings.
The trust has owned the yacht since 2010. Before that, Rollason says, Gipsy Moth IV endured quite a few decades’ worth of changes. For starters, after Chichester completed his famous itinerary, the yacht was left sitting in dry dock for 37 years. “They wanted to make the boat visible to everybody, so they put it on display,” Rollason says. “Gradually, it dwindled in its popularity and wasn’t maintained as well, and it’s never good for a boat to be out of water for that length of time.”
In 2005, a campaign was launched to get Gipsy Moth IV sailing again under new ownership. She received a proper sprucing up and then went around the world in 2006-07. After that, in 2010, those owners put her up for sale. Would-be buyers from Italy and the United States expressed interest—there was, Rollason says, “a bit of a battle, dare I say”—but then the Gipsy Moth Trust was formed and took ownership.
Ever since, Gipsy Moth IV has been a mainstay at festivals, regattas and other types of events throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. People would book a half or full day of sailing, and sometimes would cruise aboard when the yacht sailed to a race in France, Ireland, Holland or elsewhere. When that wasn’t happening, a sailing school was held on board.
Demand remains high for all those types of uses, Rollason says, but everything had to shut down when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. “Last year was a complete write-off,” he says. “And we had done a lot of expensive maintenance on the boat into early 2020, in anticipation of the 2020 season. Then the season didn’t happen. We were fully booked for the whole year, and we refunded everybody. That’s the only reason she’s up for sale. Hopefully we can find somebody who is willing to take her on the next leg of her journey, and she’ll prosper from there.”
Whoever buys Gipsy Moth IV will take possession of a yacht that just had her mast (which is original to the vessel) taken out and fully reconditioned. She also received a new set of sails along with new helm electronics and instrumentation, all of which was added in a way that preserves the boat’s historical look.
“If you go down to the saloon, all the original instrumentation is there, and hidden behind it is all the modern electronics,” Rollason says. “The space looks pretty much like it did in 1967.”
And, he adds, Gipsy Moth IV is very much ready to do what Chichester did with her back in the 1960s. She’s being kept at Buckler’s Hard, in the same mooring location where Chichester kept her, on the river.
“She’s ready to sail,” Rollason says. “There’s always cosmetic stuff that needs to be done when the weather is nice, varnishing and painting, but structurally, she’s sound. I would take her sailing around the world tomorrow.” Perhaps, depending on who buys her, somebody will do precisely that.
This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue.