History of MISTRAL II
Mistral II was built in Berry’s Bay, Sydney in 1922 by Wattie Ford Jnr for Mr. Edward Percy Simpson, a noted Sydney solicitor and Vice Commodore of what was to become the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Mistral II competed in the first Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 1945 and the next 5 races. She was reported to be the biggest yacht in Sydney at that time. Among her various owners, there has been one Tasmanian in her life: Jack Paine. She is still registered at Hobart and has been donated by the family of the late Ron Burton to the Windeward Bound Foundation Ltd. She will be restored and operated for young Australians by the Windeward Bound Trust.
Getting Mistral II to Hobart
The story began when the head of the donor family, Barbara Burton, contacted our Managing Trustee and advised her of the family’s desire to donate Mistral II in order to see her both preserved, and used to develop the future prospects of young Australians. A thorough inspection of the vessel was then carried out by Captain Sarah Parry and one of her Tall Ship colleagues, Jon Simpson. Having spent several days going over the entire inside of the hull, pricking and poking into every surface, it was decided to accept the challenge, and bring her to Hobart, firstly for restoration and secondly as a future adjunct to our youth development programs.
While Sarah began exploring the development of a future program, Jon managed to cement an agreement with a shipping company that had one of their ships calling into Sydney for fuel whilst on their way to Hobart. However, time was short, the window of opportunity was narrow. A cradle to support Mistral II was required. Barbara Burton made contact with a family friend, a structural engineer, David Hall, who agreed to design the 8 tonne steel cradle. Having done so, Barbara contracted with a fabricator to build the cradle. The cradle was so large it had to be de-mountable to transport it to the wharf area….. We then had to wait for the ship to arrive at Sydney. The weeks sped past, the ship was held up by cargo problems in various ports and several potential loading dates came and went.
In the meantime, Jon had enlisted the aid of The Sydney Heritage Fleet Tugs to move Mistral II around as required, and Australian Bridge and Wharf Pty Ltd agreed to provide an alongside work berth, a crane and appropriate personnel to lift the masts and bowsprit out, many days were spent by a growing group of both Sydney and Hobart based volunteers filling a shipping container with Mistral’s fittings, hardware and equipment, a large quantity of Burmese Teak, and countless other items.
Then the year ran out, the loading wharf in Sydney was needed for the NYE Fireworks preparation, and the ship was still running behind time. Enter the Royal Australian Navy to the rescue. We discovered that the Navy’s Heavy Lift Transport ship HMAS CHOULES was coming to Hobart from Sydney for the Royal Hobart Regatta and the My State Bank Australian Wooden Boat Festival. We submitted a request under the Defence Assistance for Civilian Communities program which was, in due course, approved. The Commanding Officer of HMAS CHOULES, Commander Scott Houlihan and his team enthusiastically embraced the challenge, agreeing to carry Mistral II, her cradle and two shipping containers of equipment to Hobart with them.
They were amazing, Mistral’s cradle was assembled inside Garden Island Dockyard, Mistral was towed over and craned into the cradle, chocked and strapped securely into place, the “package” plus the containers were craned up onto HMAS CHOULES cargo deck, and Mistral II put to sea again feeling the rise and fall of the Blue Water once more.
Where to from here?
MISTRAL—Multi Industry Skills Training Reaching All Levels
When the Burton Family donated Mistral II to the Windeward Bound Trust it was in the expectation and hope of seeing her being a training “tool” for young Australians. Mistral has a way to go before she is ready to put to sea again, however, we at Windeward Bound saw a magnificent training opportunity. Our Managing Trustee immediately set to pen and paper and wrote a synopsis for a training program incorporating the un-restored Mistral and at the same time, attracting some necessary funding to enable it to happen.
The synopsis was aimed at meeting a very necessary requirement affecting a significant number of young people, particularly the longer term unemployed, the very necessary skill of workplace protocols and workplace behaviour. You see, if you’ve never worked in a proper workplace, how do you know what is expected of you. You can be trained to the nth degree, but still not be recognised for your knowledge and skill levels, because you simply have never had the opportunity to learn.
We have, therefore, put the MISTRAL program into action, and we have been successful in obtaining significant funding from the Tasmanian Government’s Department of State Growth Work Pathways program. This funding will allow us to take two intakes, each of 9 “work ready but not job ready” young Tasmanians, aged nominally between 18 and 25 yo, working normal “job hours” in a structured working environment, with a full-time shipwright as facilitator and instructor.
The work to be done is both complex and interesting, it can be emotionally and psychologically rewarding. It will provide more than a normal workplace, in that it will have its challenges and its rewards. It will also provide an avenue for the participants to increase and/or hone their skills by being able to participate in a large number of short courses provided by either TasTAFE or Seafood & Maritime Training, or both. Both organisations have agreed to sponsor short courses that will benefit either individuals, or the group. Young trainees will also participate in a 10-day Windeward Bound Youth Development voyage at the beginning their particular program, to boost their self-esteem and create a closer bond within the group.
The training program will use the same principals as those applied to Windeward Bound’s Sail Training and Youth Development programs and will also see an increase in participant’s self esteem, confidence, skill level and job readiness. Trainees working on her will also be able to benefit from other Windeward Bound sail training activities.
Once the restoration has been completed, Mistral II will join our seagoing programs for advanced sail training and will help to extend our reach into the growth and future wellbeing of young Tasmanians. She is a very important piece of Australia’s maritime history. Hopes are to have the yacht mobile enough to greet the Sydney to Hobart fleet for the 75th anniversary of the race in 2020 and to celebrate her own 100th birthday in 2022.
Designer: John Alden
Year built: 1922
Length Overall: 64’8”” (19.71m)
Beam: 14’6” (4.42m)
Draught: 8’3” (2.51m)
Displacement: 39.054 Tonnes
Rig: 2-masted Gaff schooner