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Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 16, 2009-Condor of Bermuda (update)

Updated october 20 after several comments (below) provided me with better Information. Thank you all.

Condor of Bermuda, Phuket, Thailand

Some boats are iconic. Condor of Bermuda is one of those: beautiful dark mahogany and with yellow trim and condor on the transom; you can't mistake this vessel from any other and even of you've only seen it in photos you never forget it.

I spotted Condor of Bermuda in Yacht Haven the first day I arrived there. The boat is sitting quietly on B dock under a full cover, still stunning and still memorable.

It is one of the more famous racing boats from the IOR era.

Condor of Bermuda was designed by John Sharp for Bob Bell, who still owns her, and was built in the late 70's. It was an awesome and powerful yacht and it was successful right from the early days.

Condor of Burmuda, at Fastnet Rock

In 1979 Bell entered Condor in the Fastnet Race. Peter Blake was steering and with a crew of mostly Kiwi's they had high hopes. Their main competition were Jim Kilroy's Kialoa and Ted Turner's Tenacious and with a new rig on Condor, 10 feet taller than previous, they were eager at the start to compare their speed with the other two, but it was the weather that year that presented the biggest challenge.

Fastnet 1979, as we know, was a brutal race with a deadly and unexpected weather system which hit the fleet sailing across the Irish Sea. It wreaked havoc on the fleet, tossing boats like toys, breaking masts and rudders, and killing sailors; 15 lives were lost and several boats were abandoned or sank.

But on board Condor of Bermuda they were focused on dealing with the severe conditions in which it took all of their seamanship to be able to keep pushing the boat and push they did. Condor was first to finish in the 1979 Fastnet Race and the crew celebrated, ecstatic to have survived the carnage on the Irish Sea and to have finished first.

“We yelled and and danced, shook hands and slapped backs and laughed and smiled. Line Honours – The Record – beaten Kialoa. Perhaps even first on handicap. We put it all aside and began to stow the sails. Our time – 71 Hours 37 Minutes and 23 Seconds. We had beaten the previous record by over seven hours.” Chris Windley

Here is a quote from Sports Illustrated:

BOATING—In the most tragic race in yachting history, CONDOR OF BERMUDA, skippered by Bob Bell of Bermuda, set a course record for the Fastnet leg of the Admiral's Cup. The 77-foot sloop finished in 71:25:23, nearly eight hours faster than the old mark. TENACIOUS, with Ted Turner of Atlanta at the helm, won on corrected time in 79:52:22. Fifteen sailors died and 23 of the 306 boats in the race either sank or were abandoned when heavy rains, 75-knot winds and 40-foot waves battered the southwest coast of England.

Click here to read the rest of the story from on board by Chris Windley.

Next Condor headed down under. Peter and his new wife Pippa sailed the boat to the South Pacific as sort of a honeymoon cruise and in 1982 Condor of Bermuda entered the Sydney to Hobart race.

In the closest Hobart race ever in 1982 Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo by 7 seconds, finishing in 3 days and 59 minutes 17 seconds. They came back in 1983 for another first-to-finish in 3:00:50:29 and again in 1986 they were first in an even faster 2:23:26:25.

In 1986 they travelled to the Atlantic and sailed in the Newport to Bermuda Race and again took line honors.

After 1986 Condor of Bermuda dropped out of the international limelight a bit, but the boat continued to sail. There were other episodes including an encounter with a reef in French Polynesia and a subsequent rebuild.

Somehow, after all these years, Condor of Bermuda wound up in Phuket Thailand, still sailing, and still beautiful.

Click here for Wikipedia about Condor of Bermuda.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket

PS: A later "Condor" designed by Ron Holland and built out of Carbon, Kevlar, and balsa at Kiwi Boats Penryn UK, (sort of an odd international combination, I agree, but that's what the available information says) was the first sloop rigged maxi IOR boat. At 77 feet, with a tall four spreader rig and huge sail area, and is now sailing in the Whitsundays.

Condor of Burmuda, Sailing at Hamilton Island race week, Whitsundays, Australia

Maxi yacht Condor of Bermuda sailing in the Whitsunday Passge, 1985Location:Whitsunday Passage, QueenslandDate:April 1985Creator:Gale,Ngaire



Blogger chris said...

Hey guys - thanks for putting up my article about Condor and The Fastnet. Just been down to watch the Fastnet boys coming in to Plymouth Sound - which obviously brought a lot back. May I just mention the Sir Peter Blake Trust - which - following Peter's murder I do my best to promote. Great to see recent pictures of Condor - Thanks very much. Regards, Chris.

29 August, 2009 10:04  
Blogger wingssail said...

I found some references to the boat as "Condor" 77 foot Maxi sloop, designed by John Sharp and built for the 1977 Whitbread Race, builder: Kiwi Yachts, build manager: Irishman Killian Bushe, however elsewhere It is listed as a Holland design.

If anyone knows for sure who designed and built it, and when, please let me know.

29 August, 2009 18:03  
Blogger chris said...

I believe that she was built for the 1977 Whitbread and sailed in that. When I went on board for the '79 Fastnet I was told that she had had a taller mast installed than she had in the
r-t-w race and that this was what would help her to beat Kialoa, Mistress Quickly etc in the Fastnet. ie what you have said is beginning to stack up with what I heard on board ( and remember ).

03 September, 2009 10:57  
Blogger chris said...

Hi Fred,

I sent an email to Killian and got this reply:

Hi Chris,

The boat you sailed on was called "Heaths Condor" (built in wood) and designed by John Sharp for the 77 Whitbread

The boat I was head builder on at Mid Ocean Marine in Penryn was called Condor of Bermuda, designed by Ron Holland and and built of
composites and launched in June 1981



This is as much a surprise to me as it may be to you !!!! I always thought Heath's Condor ( R-t-W), Condor ( Fastnet ) and Condor of Bermuda were one and the same !!!

Also see

About Peter.

Regards, Chris.

04 September, 2009 02:30  
Blogger chris said...

I found this photo by Googling Heaths Condor



04 September, 2009 10:00  
Blogger chris said...

I think Heaths Condor is here

Abel Point Marina, Airlie Beach, Queensland. ???

Doing tours of the Barrier Reef etc etc

Perhaps you should go have a look Fred ???

Regards, Chris.

04 September, 2009 10:08  
Blogger wingssail said...

Boy, I am now confused too. There is a boat in Yacht Haven which has the name "Condor of Bermuda", however it's hull shape looks more like "Heath's Condor", the John Sharp 77' design (does not have the long transom). So I guess that next time I am there at the same time as the owner I'll have to stop and talk to him to get to the bottom of this.

04 September, 2009 19:06  
Blogger chris said...

Please do Fred as this is going to keep me up at night :-)

I am also totally confused !!

.... and of course there is the small matter of me writing a story about sailing on Condor of Bermuda in the '79 Fastnet - maybe I imagined doing it ??

Regards, Chris.

05 September, 2009 06:01  
Blogger chris said...

Condor of Bermuda has a Facebook page which I have requested to join ... you never know I might get to speak to someone soon !!!

05 September, 2009 06:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Guys... I can solve this one for you...

The original owner, Bob Bell, is due in Phuket in the next few days. He still owns this boat; and i believe some of the family are joining him there this week.

It *was* the original Condor, later Heath's Condor, and then Condor of Bermuda.

It's successor, CONDOR, was built in Penryn as mentioned above. And made in Kevlar and Composites, as per above. And designed by Ron Holland.

This one, the one you've seen, is the original, round the world racer. Check out Condor of Bermuda on wikipedia (i've just posted an article)...

John Sharpe did design this one. And it is the one that raced in the 79 fastnet, sailed with Peter and Pippa Blake to NZ, etc. But it isn't the one that's doing day sails in the Whitsundays.

Hope this is helpful.

20 October, 2009 01:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gidday Guys; Check out Wikipedia on both Condor and Condor of Bermuda. The Plastic Condor (CONDOR) is the one now owned by ProSail in Australia. The original wooden one, is still Hamilton Based (bermuda), owned by Bob Bell, and is in Phuket or Malaysia (depending on the month).... It's this one that won the 79 fatnet (line honors)... the plastic condor (CONDOR) won the next fastnet breaking the record, winning line honors, and was placed first on corrected time too. Check me on that, it may have been 1983. Cheers Boys... happy sailing!

22 October, 2009 15:05  
Anonymous chris windley said...

Whew !!! Thanks goodness that's all cleared up !! Thanks all.

09 January, 2010 14:21  
Anonymous chris windley said...

P.S. Please say Hi to Bob Bell for me !! Hope he likes the story !!

09 January, 2010 14:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. On a lark, I found this blog on Condor, and noted a bit of an omission in her story- when she crashed into Marlon Brando's little hideaway atoll called Tatiaroa, north of Tahiti, in late June, 1980. If indeed Mr. Bell does read this, I first want to extend a long belated thanks to him for allowing me the apportunity to go sailing on his magnificent yacht those many years ago. I flew all the way from San Fran to Tahiti to meet the boat, which was on her way from NZ to Hawaii, then to San Fran. I was the lone American aboard that fateful night, among a mixed crew of Palmies, Kiwis and Aussies, trying to keep a low profile and fit in as best I could. But crimony! Tahanks to a drunk skipper and incompetent navigator, we crashed the boat before we were more than six hours underway. Nice to know she's still looking great and sailing the seas. One of these days, I'd still like to sail on her again....without shipwrecking her. Cheers, Kirk D.

12 February, 2010 21:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all nice to read all your comments on the boat that I was involved in building Heaths Condor at our UK Emsworth ship yard we
built her in 32 weeks from lofting to launch I have some archive film and a photo album of the construction and launch etc, nice to see her looking healthy.

Dave Javens boatbuilder.

17 January, 2011 12:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the social life on this build was quite varied including drinking turning over cars a night behind bars and a rugby match that saved the day.

12 June, 2012 15:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are not fairy tales these times were relayed personally by my friend the late Andy Burnell he was a great friend too old to be my son too young to be a brother,it's now 26 years since his tragic passing. I still miss him.

09 May, 2013 16:34  
Blogger Simon Baker said...

Simon Baker, 47 years old, Ewhurst, Surrey,UK.

My father the late Larry Baker who passed away in 2005 aged 84 was the founder and Managing Director of Bowman Yachts. He was in charge of the build of Condor (Condor of Bermuda, Heath's Condor) in 1977 at his yard called John King's Shipyard in Emsworth, Hampshire, UK. He had a great team of people working at the yard and I remember seeing her being built. She was the first and only Bowman to be constructed out of mahogony. My father shot heaps of footage with his super 8mm camera which I still have to this day.

I remember going on her sea trials up Southampton Waters at the age of 11 on the lead up to the Whitbread Around the World Race'77-78. My father also took me on one of his friend's boats (David Mallet) to see the start of the race. She led the fleet out of Portsmouth and past the Isle of Wight, I will always remember feeling so proud of my father as we watched Condor's huge billowing yellow spinnaker with the huge black condor blazoned across it.

Anyway it's been fascinating reading everyone's comments on her, I only wish that a) I could some how get to see and sail on her again and b) meet some of the guys who worked for Dad and built her. I did see Ego at Dad's funeral so that was good.

So I guess she's still moored up in Phuket and still owned by Bob Bell who commissioned her way back in 1977 or 1976. Fantastic.

22 May, 2013 14:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw your post on a blog about Heath´s Condor, great reading.

In partnership with Volvo Ocean Race HQ in Alicante and the Gothenburg Stopover, we have launched a very exciting project. It is called "Where are they now?", it is a research project that aims to find all of the old yachts that has participated in the Round the world races since the first edition in 1973. The research will result in an exhibition displayed Gothenburg for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race. The exhibition will be open for the public free of charge and hopefully it will contribute to keeping the legacy of the race alive. Doas anyone have anymore info about her whereabouts today, still in Thialand?

09 November, 2014 09:48  
Blogger wingssail said...

contact Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket

09 November, 2014 14:19  
Blogger thomas gatrell said...

hi everyone, so good to be reading about Condor of Bermuda . Hi to dave javens , yes we worked on the build at bowmans. i recall after a few weeks i left to work in holland on the Teilsa , one of two entries for the same 1977/78 whitbread race. whilst the teilsa was a steel maxi racer, the other dutch entrie was the famous Flyer ,grp i believe. i belive the flyer did very well, the teilsa finished down the fleet about 10th.
i came back to bowmans after i year in holland, back to all my great friends. i have been living in north thailand for one year now (65 next week)- but before i came here i was working with eggo (edward) dridge the build manager at bowmans.
so many happy memories of that yard. Sadly, eggo died last year, but i did manage to get over to emsworth to visit eggos brother john, the guy who carved that famous condor for that transom. i have so many old photos in storage of bowman yachts and the great charactors that worked there on so many important boats.
again sadly the shipyard no longer exists, a victim of council ignorance of local history but it seems a crime.
best wishes tom (van) gatrell

17 June, 2015 22:05  

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