Highwayman doing what she does best, thrashing to windward in a fresh breeze

Highwayman was designed for Tony Clegg and daughter Libby as an ocean-capable One Tonner, a term which needs some explaining. By this time the One Ton level had already cast its dye as a grand prix class, with boats becoming more and more inshore oriented, even despite the harsh lessons of the 1979 Fastnet. Highwayman, on the other hand, was intended primarily for the mooted RORC Caribbean Race and general blue water capability, and as such was accepting an acknowledged cost to round-the-can performance under the IOR. The boat was also very definitively a cruiser-racer, spiritually more traditional than her contemporaries in her level of fit-out, but nevertheless enjoying a fast hull of good behavioural characteristics. It was a concept that Humphreys was to return to later with boats like Apriori, designed like Highwayman as an antedote to some of the excesses that were befalling yacht racing.

To date there have been three chapters in Highwayman’s life, the first in Libby’s hands, the second under famous nautical author Sir Peter Johnson’s ownership, and for the past few years under the ownership of Tjeerd and Karin Dijkstra. We generally see her every season as they cruise through Lymington towards the West Country from Holland.

Our results archive for Highwayman, like rather too many of our boats, has not been well maintained. However, we have found a summary of her 1986 results, the best of which are as follows:

1st Class III Cowes-St.Malo
2nd Class III RORC Cervantes Trophy
3rd Class III RORC Loujaine Cup
1st WSCRA Yarmouth Cup
1st CHS overall Schroder Channel Race
7th overall Skagerrak Cup
2nd Class III Skaw Race
1st overall CHS Brent Walker from Brighton to Cadiz

An Owner’s view by Sir Peter Johnson

This racing boat of LOA 38ft (11.6m) was the last boat to be built by South Hants Marine (of She fame) whose meticulous work was inspired by the late Rod Stephens, the superviser of its earlier boats. On a male mould the foam sandwich hull was to the order of Libby and Tony Clegg and launched in 1981 as a One Tonner (27.5ft IOR, remember them?) and for a trade wind transatlantic race. Because the design was worked on shortly after the 1979 Fastnet race, everything was designed to cope well with heavy weather and the hull was slightly narrower than optimum rating might have demanded. For me as owner, it was bliss because we had a real weather puncher and the result was an incredibly close winded boat in light to moderate conditions. The joke among the crew was that the owner/skipper/navigator would say ‘ Ah! Good; we’ve been headed again’.

Our ‘worst’ weather was a two-sail reach, but unlike some proponents of modern rating rules we did not expect compensation for that. We knew what our weather was; other boats had their day as well. Actually down wind, once the masthead spinnaker went up, the rating once again was in line.

The 1985 Fastnet was a bad one with many retirements and the only race in which I have hoisted the storm jib on separate occasions twice within a couple of days. (It was the year that keel fell off the maxi Drum and she turned over). Many boats gave up and went into Dartmouth, but we kept well offshore at Start Point where I now believe the wind was locally funnelling at 60 knots. Our mainsail (Dacron, of course) ripped, but we sewed it up. At the Fastnet rock they told us that we were the 54th boat (we were in Class III). We replied that that was impossible as there were 54 Admiral’s Cup boats (18 teams), who must all be ahead: did you say 154th? No! 54. It was so: most had retired. On the way back we met the second gale and it was storm jib and triple reef again.

In 1986 we sailed to the Baltic (from Lymington) for the Skaw race and returned, all inside 30 days. The Skaw race in the Kattegat was started one year from Denmark (the Skaw), one from Sweden and one (that year) from Hanko, Norway, and counted as a RORC race, but we were the only British boat. It took five days to reach Marstrand, via the Skaw itself, where we sailed inshore events, then a feeder race to Hanko. The 350 mile event had a short blow, which was difficult for some of the Scandinavian boats which sail between the islands. We collected our Class 3 prize from his late majesty King Olaf. Then we sailed back via the Kiel (Nord-Ost See) canal to windward all the way to Dover.

Highwayman’s last big race in my ownership was under CHS, which by now we were all using and in which she did well (there are some boats which are ‘good’ under all rating rules and some which are ‘bad’). It was the 1990 RORC Brent Walker (remember that one, as well?!) Brighton to Puerto Sherry (near Cadiz) race of 1100 miles; just the sort of race which the all-weather Highwayman and her crew enjoyed. She won the CHS class (which was most of the big fleet) overall.

Seldom did we ever sit with legs over the side. The bunks right under the weather deck gave better leverage and an alert crew. There was a properly operable, not over heavy, galley. It is true that on every day of six years of racing, whatever the conditions, the crew never went without one proper hot meal a day.

For some time now (2000) Highwayman has been owned by Tjeerd and Karin Djikstra in the Netherlands. The name is the same; so is the sail number (with NED as a prefix). Mostly they do extended cruises and often visit the south coast of England and once or twice each year ship aboard a crew and race, collecting at least one piece of silver. Her solid look is as deceptive as ever. The French skipper of an IOR skimming dish once memorably said after a race (in which he was beaten), ‘How can your boat go so fast?’

LOA 11.64m
DWL 8.99m
BEAM 3.48m
DRAFT 2.07m
SAIL AREA 58.2sq m
BUILDER South Hants Marine