Vertue Yachts in General
Vertues are small yachts with a reputation for extreme seaworthiness. The original “Vertue” called Andrillot, was designed as a commission by Jack Laurent Giles in 1936. It was roughly based on the design of the pilot cutters such as Jolie Brise. It also has a striking similarity to the splendid yacht Dyarchy, although at just 25 ft 3” it was, of course, considerably smaller. The boat proved itself to be a very capable sea boat and so more were to follow.
It wasn’t until 1939 that the name Vertue was adopted for the class. The yacht “Epeneta”, built to the same design, won the Little Ship Club’s Vertue Trophy for making a passage across the Bay of Biscay and so it was decided to name the class “Vertue Yachts”.
Since then, the yachts have made many ocean voyages. Humphrey Barton described his eventful Atlantic crossing in the book Vertue 35. David Lewis entered his yacht, Cardinal Vertue, for the first Observer Transatlantic Race in 1960 which he describes in his book “The Ship Would Not Travel Due West”. The same boat under the ownership of Bill Nance held the single-handed speed record for a long passage of 122 miles per day over 53 days.
There is a wonderful film about an engineless Vertue called The Restless Wind. It is well worth spending 40 minutes watching it and marvelling at the skill of the Skipper and his wife.
Over the years some 200 Vertues have been built. They have various rigs and coach roof styles but the hull shape has remained virtually the same. There are a few steel versions but the majority are timber.
During the 1970’s, Bossoms Boatyard of Oxford produced the Vertue II in GRP. The glass fibre version is about 6 inches wider but retains the basic shape of the wooden Vertues
Sumara of Weymouth
My yacht is number V198 and is called Sumara of Weymouth. She was built in, guess where, by Terry Newman and although the name Sumara sounds a bit like an Iraqi war zone, it is actually following the Velsheda tradition of combining the stems of his daughters’ names. I am not a believer in changing boat names because it tends to confuse the boat’s history.
Terry was an extremely talented boatbuilder and Sumara was built with a huge amount of thought and skill. Nowadays there would be a YouTube channel all about the build but as YouTube wasn’t set up until 14th February 2005 we are grateful that Terry took some photos and gave me a splendid album. I have photographed each page and made it into a PDF which can be found in the “Downloads” section of this website.
There are a few things that make Sumara rather special.
Firstly, she was built in a barn besides Terry’s house. This enabled Terry to spend many evenings just sitting on board and carefully working out the fine ergonomics of the interior. He decided to place the two main sea berths in the centre of the boat with a pilot berth going off aft on the starboard side. Most Vertues are laid out as four berth yachts and too be honest there just isn’t the space for four people plus kit and sails on a 26ft boat.
Up forward through a panelled door is a Baby Blake loo in a central position with a wash basin to starboard. There is a bin for the anchor chain. More about the interior later but it is very civilised, and that’s thanks to Terry.
I have made a rather over length video about the interior which can be found here
Secondly, Terry decided to build her out of a single log of Iroko on oak frames, with an elm keel and garboards. Varnished boats should ideally be built from a single log so that the planks all match. There is a little split behind the aft port window and a matching one on the starboard side! Because the log was sourced long enough, it means there are no scarf joints on the boat.
Thirdly, the boat was built for pleasure. There was no rush, no short cuts. Everything was made by Terry, his wife and sons. They welded all the stainless fittings on the mast, they poured the lead keel and made all the engine controls. Terry even marinized the engine – which lasted for thirty years before I replaced it with a Beta 16 hp in 2020.
Hull Planking Iroko from a single log with no scarf joints. All splined except the garboard and the next two boards. The planking was undertaken Mike Patrick (“Spike”) who was an expert at planking boats. Terry and family helped secure them. The hull is varnished with Epifanes Gloss Varnish.
Keel and Deadwood Elm
Ballast Keel Lead with Aluminium Bronze Bolts
Deck Ply and teak. Teak replaced 2020. Chalking TDS. All bonded no screws.
Engine Originally Kubota 12 hp solid mount with raw water cooling. Now Beta Marine 16 hp heat exchanger cooled and flexible mounts
Controls Originally all rods and lever. Now bronze Kobelt system
Propeller Special casting in aluminium bronze. Right hand 14 x 8
Mast Varnished Douglas Fir. Air draft 11.7 m (touching the aerial)
Rigging Renewed for 2022 season. Wire by KOS. Rigging screws by StaLok
Boom Recycled gymnasium parallel bar – Douglas Fir
Sails Since 2009 Ratsey and Lapthorne, triple stitched in brown thread. Main, stay and Yankee
Diesel Tank 14 gallons (63 L) giving a range of 200 nm at 2,000 rpm using 1.25 L per hour
Water Tanks Two stainless tanks 17 L each
Paraffin One pressurised tank (Taylors) plus aluminium tank in forepeak.
Cooking Taylors paraffin
Performance Criteria (from Sailboatdata.com)
Comfort Rating 54.56 (over 50 indicates an extremely heavy blue water boat)
Capsize Rating 1.29 (The boat is better suited for ocean passages (vs coastal cruising) if the result of the calculation is 2.0 or less. The lower the better. The Vertue’s rating is very low indeed!)
Sail area/displacement Ratio 14.05* (below 16 would be considered under powered; 16 to 20 would indicate reasonably good performance; above 20 suggests relatively high performance) This seems rather strange as a Vertue held the single-handed speed record for a long passage of 122 miles per day over 53 days. It seems that Sailboatdata.com are currently using a sail area of 300 square feet but Sumara’s sails are 395 square feet and other Vertues seem to have ails between 380 and 390 square feet. I have contacted them so hopefully the figures will be revised soon. (*This has now been changed so the ratio has increased from about 9 to 14)
Ballast Displacement Ratio 40.91 (A Ballast/Displacement ratio of 40 or more translates into a stiffer, more powerful boat that will be better able to stand up to the wind). Vertues are very narrow and heel quickly to the wind becoming progressively stiffer.
Displacement Length 494.12 (The lower a boat’s Displacement/Length (LWL) ratio, the less power it takes to drive the boat to its nominal hull speed.
less than 100 = Ultralight;
100-200 = Light;
200-275 = Moderate;
275-350 = Heavy;
350+ = Ultraheavy;
Hull Speed 6.21 knots
Pounds/Inch Immersion 550.04 lbs (249 kg) (The weight required to sink the yacht one inch. Calculated by multiplying the LWL area by 5.333 for sea water or 5.2 for fresh water).