An OPB sailor

As I reach, if not the twilight of my sailing career then at least the late afternoon, I look back on all the boats I’ve sailed.

I’ve owned seven of my own and had wonderful adventures with them but I’m saving those for another discussion at another time.

For now I’m thinking about OPB’s, Other Peoples Boat’s. Some sailors spend their whole life sailing OPB’s and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I started sailing as a child in Hong Kong where I was a regular guest on my best friends parent’s boat, a wooden junk of around 30’.

Whilst that was perhaps the most unusual vessel I’ve sailed, the biggest was one of the fleet operated by the Ocean Youth Club, a 72’ cutter-headed ketch. We left from Hamble and went to Honfleur, Cherbourg (battling through a Force 8 to get there) and Alderney. A labour intensive boat, deliberately so, on which team work was an essential requirement. I steered her into the Solent at the end of the channel crossing, an exhilarating high speed reach under full sail which I remember as if it were today and not 30 years ago.

The most splendid OPB has to be a 59’ custom Trintella belonging to a wealthy friend whose pursuit of an even greater fortune means he has little opportunity to sail his splendid vessel. So, I was happy to occupy it for him for ten lovely days in Majorca.
She’s an aluminium boat with a big complex rig, two wheels and a luxuriously appointed interior with a master stateroom aft and two guest cabins forward. A real treat.

I’ve crewed a few times on a 42’ Swan, a Ron Holland design; on one delivery trip from Chesapeake Bay to Newport, Rhode Island we were hove-to for eight hours in a nasty F9/10 and I was thankful for her excellent seakeeping qualities. But that wasn’t the OPB in which I weathered the worst storm of my career to date; that honour goes to Nexus, a 45’ sloop not dissimilar to the Swan in style. She was built in South Africa and it was whilst sailing from Dassen Island to Cape Town that we encountered a black sou’easter gusting to 100 knots that blew us all the way back from a point off Cape Town harbour, a handful of miles from our destination, to Saldahna Bay some 100 miles back up the coast in the direction from which we had come. We’d lost the engine as the storm developed so it was an overnight sleigh ride under bare poles, in mountainous seas. I still have the Cape Times from the following day which tells of the Cape’s worst storm in 20 years and gives Nexus a small mention.

I’ve sailed on many other boats – Pearsons, Westerlys, AWBs of all kinds, a very impressive Amel Maramu and a delightful Claymore – but I’ve never sailed on a multihull. No catamaran, no trimaran and no proa. I don’t avoid multihulls, I’ve nothing against them, it’s just that the opportunity has never arisen which is really quite remarkable given my long history as an OPB sailor.