King’s Legend, the boat that finished second in the 1977-78 Whitbread Round the World Race with Skip Novak as her navigator, has become the latest entry to the Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta and Reunion in Alicante, Spain in November after securing sponsorship from The Jalousie Enclave, an exclusive property development in a UNESCO World Heritage site, Val des Pitons on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
In 1977-78, owned by English gentleman Nick Ratcliff, flying the British ensign and drawing on the talent of a multinational professional crew, King’s Legend - a sloop rigged Swan 65 built by Nautor in Finland - came second behind Flyer.
“On King’s Legend we had a real boat race on our hands as the pre-race favourite, Flyer, had exactly the same handicap rating,” Novak, one of the Legends Ambassadors, recalled. “The wealthy Dutchman, Cornelius van Rietschoten beat us into Cape Town by only two hours after a hard-fought upwind battle in the South Atlantic. But the most poignant moment for me was seeing Table Mountain on the horizon from 50 miles out, having navigated there with ‘a sextant and a time piece’.
“I will never forget the first squall that ripped through as we sailed into the mighty Southern Ocean,” Novak recalls. “We had full sail, YESSIREE! – spinnaker, blooper, and staysail , the works, and we decided to ‘ride it out’ with much bravado. It took the crew five hours to clear up the mess after we gybed her ‘Chinese’ and got pinned on our side in what can best be described as a snow storm. Among other things, we blew the spinnaker and the blooper, broke the spinnaker pole, the halyard and the after-guy, and shattered most of our egos. But this early wake-up call to survival helped us to beat the Dutchman into Auckland, which meant we were level pegging halfway round the world.
“The next crew drama was when a leak was discovered at the rudderpost, which was opening and closing in the huge waves. We made contact with the crew of Adventure, Great Britain II (both yachts will attend the reunion), and Heath’s Condor, all of whom agreed to listen out for King’s Legend via the radio every six hours.”
After two days of worry, the crew was able to bring the leak under control. However the event was a stark reminder that these are desolate oceans populated only by albatross, whales and ice, with no shipping within thousands of miles.
After a massive broach while stampeding towards Cape Horn, water from the heads found its way into the SSB radio, which immediately ceased to function. “It may seem strange today,” says Novak, “but no-one was in the least alarmed that we were completely cut off from the outside world.”
By being one degree of latitude too far south, King’s Legend lost Flyer on the scorecard forever, and trailed her across the finish line to take second overall.
Crewmember Chris Barker raced with Novak four years later on Alaska Eagle and again on Drum, which famously capsized without loss of life when her keel fell off in the 1985 Fastnet Race, with co-owner Simon Le Bon on board.
“As dedicated spokesperson for King’s Legend, I have made fresh contact with many of the original crew,” said New Zealander Barker. “They have all lived colourful lives scattered across the oceans of the world. Hanging on and watching the Southern Ocean in full rage has changed all our lives forever, and there’s many a tale yet to be told. Our sponsor, the developer of The Jalousie Enclave and founder of ACSC, Pascal Mahvi, and his wife Caryl, will join us for the regatta in Alicante. Skip and I look forward to meeting our old shipmates, and to sailing with Pascal again.”
About King’s Legend
Designer: Sparkman & Stephens
LOA 65’ (19.8m)
Finished: 2nd 1977-78
Elapsed time: 126.96.36.199
Skippers: Nick Ratcliff/Mike Clancy
About King’s Legend crew/Whitbread history
- Nicholas Ratcliff UK - Owner and Skipper
- Round the World
- Skip Novak USA – Kings Legend, Alaska Eagle, Drum, Fazisi
- William Porter GBR – UK (F T Clipper Race 75/76), Adventure, Kings Legend
- Edward Alison USA – Kings Legend, Alaska Eagle, Phillips Innovator
- Greg Tuxworth USA
- Hans Savimaki AUS
- John Roberts GBR
- Michael Clancy USA- Skipper Leg 2
- Charles McKee USA
- W. D Birchenough Jnr USA
- Bryan Dawson NZL
- Jack Bossert USA
- Richard Bertie RSA
- Chris Barker NZ – Debenhams, Kings Legend, Alaska Eagle, Drum, The Card
- Jacques Sarasin SUI
- Jean Vincent Blondiou BEL