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"Winter Nellie"   Robert Tucker 'Clayre' Class, Auxiliary Cutter Lying Herts.

Sails and Deck Gear
Nav Station

Owners Comments

A “Clayre” class design commissioned from Robert Tucker in 1969.  Based on his “Ayriel” class cutters for the Ayr yacht club on the Clyde, using the same hull form but replacing the reverse counter with the older style one, developing the bow into a “clipper” form with bowsprit, and rigging it as a schooner.

The present owner completed construction and launched  “Winter Nellie” into Chichester harbour in 1977 and sailed her from Emsworth two seasons.  With her schooner rig and elegant ends she did look very pretty but the windward performance was disappointing and the running backstays were a perfect pest. Work and other commitments then put a stop to sailing and the vessel returned to and remained in her building shed.

When she re-emerged in 1987 she had been re-rigged to the original cutter sailplan.  A season sailing from West Mersea on the Blackwater found the windward performance restored and the boat was handy and well-balanced . The cutter rig has the mast reassuringly stayed at three points along its length: the cap is supported by fore and aft stays and shrouds and above the crosstrees the pull of the inner forestay is balanced by two intermediate shrouds leading aft, while four lower shrouds meet at the base of the crosstrees.

 Subsequent detail modifications such as a self-tacking staysail,  single-line reefing, lazyjacks and bringing the main halliard and other control lines back to the cockpit, have made for a nimble and easily-handled yacht which can be comfortably sailed single-handed in all weathers. The combination of flared bow, snug cockpit and sprayhood make her dry even in a blow - dodgers are not needed - and if you do need to go forward there is plenty of room to work on the foredeck and a comforting collection of stays and structures to hang on to. 

The little Yanmar diesel engine has had a lot of TLC and has been frugal and reliable.  It has electric starting but can also be started easily by hand should the main battery fail and will push her along at five knots all day if necessary.  The shortish keel and substantial rudder means that she spins quickly on her axis under power and she will steer as directed going astern, which reduces Marina Incidents. It also means that  under sail she will not hold a course for long unless helmed or Autohelmed. Oh well.

Living arrangements below are “compact”, at least in the vertical plane. Tucker designs tend to favour sailing performance and reduced windage over creature comfort so only circus personnel can stand erect below as headroom is between 4’8’’ falling to 4’6’’ forward.  Four or more people can enjoy day sailing but although there are four full-length berths, for extended cruising a crew of three is the comfortable limit, especially if they are rugby players.  The separate heads compartment amidships is a haven of repose by day and segregates the snorers by night.

The instrumentation is comprehensive and reflects the owner’s paranoia and conflict over “would be nice to have” versus “more things to go wrong”.  There is therefore a machine to note that it is too windy, one to confirm that the tide is mightier than the sail, one to advise that you are about to go aground, two who work together to plot the exact point where you strike and one to enable you to summon the helicopter when you do.   And there is also one, installed at the insistence of the insurers, to indicate when you are about to blow up.  Plus a lead line to find the real depth, plastic shoes to protect your feet when you jump over the side to push her off and some flares so the helicopter pilot is left in no doubt.

Since 1987 “Winter Nellie” has been sailed from West Mersea whenever circumstances permitted, exploring the local creeks, with periodic forays across the Thames estuary and north to the Suffolk rivers.  At the end of a season she is washed off, loaded onto her trailer and hauled back to base, an arrangement which avoids yard storage charges, facilitates maintenance, and confers great flexibility in choice of cruising ground.

Although first launched in 1977 the vessel has been lightly used and heavily maintained, having been afloat for only two seasons on the South coast and eight on the East coast.  The insurers have nevertheless required three full out-of-the-water surveys, in 1985, 1995 and 2003, all of which are available for inspection.

To summarise: An unusual and elegant wooden-hulled yacht, painstakingly constructed to a high specification and continuously developed until everything works.  A trailer sailer with a difference. Would suit another eccentric with a soul.

And reason for sale? Decrepitude I suppose, really. Need a much bigger one. With central heating. And professional skipper. And physiotherapist.  Better start building again.


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    For further details or to arrange to view, please contact
Adrian  Espin at: - Astonbury Marine Services 
19 Colne Road, Brightlingsea, Essex, CO7 0DL  Tel: Freephone 0800 068 6190 or +44 1206 305 996
or email to: adrian@EasternYachts.com
In this case we are acting as Brokers only. The Vendor is not selling in the course of a business. Whilst every care has been taken in their preparation, the correctness of these particulars is not guaranteed. The particulars are intended only as a guide and they do not constitute a term of any contract. A prospective buyer is strongly advised to check the particulars and where appropriate at his own expense to employ a qualified Marine Surveyor to carry out a survey and/or to have an engine trial conducted.