New life for an old boat

10 Jan
I often wonder what happens to old boats. There must be thousands of yachts that were once commissioned, designed, built and raced hard, and then pretty much forgotten. I was sure that this was what had happened to a boat I used to race on in the early 80s. The boat was designed by German Frers, built by Palmer Johnson in Wisconsin, and owned by Chuck Kirsh and Jack Batts. Chuck Kirsh made his money as founder of Kirsh Curtain Rods (one in every home) and Batts pioneered injection-molding coat hangers. There’s money in coat hangers I guess. The boat was called Scaramouche and I was the bowman.
We raced the SORC, a series of races that started on the west coast of Florida and ended on the east and we did well enough to be chosen to represent the USA at the Sardinia Cup in Italy. There were three boats on the American team and with 17 countries represented the fleet was 51 strong. If memory serves Scaramouche was the only “old” boat in the fleet. All the rest were brand new builds to the latest design. I was working for Hood Sails at the time and remember this cocky Kiwi showing up to helm the boat. I had never heard of him and thought he was a bit of a prick, but damn if he wasn’t good. It was Chris Dickson who later went on to fame and fortune as one of the best sailors in the world. Dickson managed to put us in the right spot for every start and proceeded to demolish the fleet. We ended up coming second overall, quite an accomplishment.
After that, we did a couple of Newport Bermuda races and some other regattas and then Batt’s bought a bigger boat and I am not sure what happened to Scaramouche. Well, I just found out what happened to the boat and it’s a great story. In London yesterday they held their annual sailor-of-the-year awards and the Junior sailor-of-the-

Montel Fagan-Jordan

year award went to a 17-year-old by the name of Montel Fagan-Jordan. Montel was the skipper and he and his crew had raced a number of regattas in England and had also competed in the Fastnet Race. By here is where things get really cool. Montel and his crew were part of an inner-city school by the name of Grieg City Academy. They had wanted to put together a sailing team but funds were scarce. Instead, they started a massive fundraising effort by pupils and staff which enabled the school to buy and restore an old 22-foot yacht which they found on eBay. Later they bought another yacht, a 45-foot Frers design by the name of Scaramouche. They paid a whopping £17,000 for the boat.

They entered their first race and won. They continued to race and continued to amaze their fellow competitors with their skill and determination and qualified for the Fastnet Race, but by that time all the money had dried up. Instead of giving up, Montel and his crew started giving talks. “We gave so many different talks,” Montel said, “There was a period when we did no sailing but 30 different talks in a month.” It paid off and they finally landed a sponsor for the Fastnet. No they didn’t win the race but they did extremely well finishing well ahead of schedule.
So this is a happy feel-good story to start off 2018. I am thrilled to know that the old girl still has life in her and almost 40 years after she was launched is still kicking some ass on the race course.




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This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. royal shackelford

    In the 1970 Mackinaw race I was on the foredeck on the “Norwester” [ a PJ 43 built by Nautor of Finland and marketed by Palmer Johnson of Sturgeon Bay, Wi.] Chuch Kirsch had the same model as did Mike Kelsey, the owner of Palmer Johnson. Historically we did a match race to see who would win the jug of Tangeray gin when we hit the island. Mike’s boat lost steerage in huge seas and dropped back. His crew, Shuff Willman and B.J. Johansson fixed the steering linkage and caught back up to the Scarmouche and the Norwester. Over the evening and into the night the wind continued to build over 50 knots and into the 60’s. At about 2:30 in the morning the mast track pulled of the mast but itwas still attached at the tack and at the head. We hoisted Jim Ford up the mast to try to re-tie the track back on as we needed some sail power to get control of the boat. The seas were very high and close together as Ted Turner explained after he finished on his 12 meter American Eagle. I crawled up to the bow to put a snatch block at the tack area when the Norwester went off a large wave and plowed into an oncoming wave. The bow went under and took me along with it. I held onto the bow pulpit and when we came back up the lake water went down through my rain gear and blew my right deck boot off. We got the main driving again but it was a very long night. The wind moderated to around 40 knots the next day and I have pictures of our crew riding the windward rail in the sunshine and having a cool can of Bud. Most of our crew have passed away now but we became a band of brothers that night. Royal Shackelford – crew on the Norwester. P.S. Charlie Kirsch won the bottle of gin but we all went to his boat and celebrated a fantastic race.

  2. Stephen Armitage

    Yes, sure is nice to see the boat sailing. As you all probably know there were several Scaramouche over the years. It was a busy time for all and lots of races to be done and won
    The 57ft Scaramouche was built and launched in just under 90 days. At the time quite a feat. She went on to win the Bermuda race, and a host of other races as well.
    They were fun times for all and that is for sure

  3. Richard Hubbard

    I was the navigator on Scaramouche for the 1973 SORC and Jamaica races. Chuck Kirsch was the nicest owner I ever sailed with–generous, gentle but firm, and always in a good mood. Unlike so many other owners, I never, ever, heard him swear or yell at his crew. His boat captain was Steve “Sticky” Armitage, a Kiwi whose humor, professionalism and skill I admired greatly. Its good to see that last generation’s boats are finding new life. No, they don’t plane, fly, or exceed the wind speed, but they can take punishment while keeping the crew comfortable in any conditions. Thanks for the update!

  4. scott fruechtl

    Greetings from Sturgeon Bay , WI on the Door Peninsula. That was a fine and warming story regarding SCARAMOUCHE. With the aura of ” The Good Old Days of Palmer Johnson ” well astern….it is always fun to have a pleasant reminder from the past. As a youthful and wide eyed local sailor I was fortunate to go for many a sea trial on ” new builds ” that were being welded together up here in ” God’s Country “. These projects attracted a world class talent and featured the ongoing revolution of cutting edge technology as it applied to electronics, laminated sails, hydraulics etc….not to mention ( in some cases ) hull graphics. All this was a boon to a small town in Wisconsin with a rich maritime heritage. Nice to hear of another famous war horse participating in battle. It’s a shame more contemporary ” sprit boat ” bow men have never experienced the sheer thrill of a dip pole gybe in a breeze on board one of these works of art.Thanks for the flash back. scott from Sturgeon Bay , WI

  5. David W Walsh

    Cool uplifting story. Good to hear that the old girl is still around and bringing newcomers into the sport.

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