Here is what I currently know about the history of the 6-Metre Kyria. If anyone has any information to add, or any corrections, I would be very happy to hear from you (please get in touch via the contact page).
Kyria was the last Six Metre designed by Nicholson and was built for Air Commodore John Charles (Paddy) Quinnell in the year 1947 (5th month). Whilst serving in WW I John Charles Quinnell was Mentioned in Despatches for his services with No 7 Sqn and received the DFC whilst commanding No 104 Sqn. Upon retiring in 1945 he returned to his first love....yachting, taking part in numerous races. He was the Commodore of the Royal Southern Yacht Club 1949 - 1950 and Rear Commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club 1956 - 1957. There is an RAF biography for him here.
Below is a series of photographs of Kyria taken by Beken in 1947, the year she was built:
As mentioned on the homepage, Kyria took part in the Six Metre class trials for the 1948 London Olympics, but was not selected. However, I have not been able to obtain any specific details regarding the trials in order to confirm this. If anyone has more information I would love to hear from you. [Update: Tim Street has very kindly confirmed that Kyria did take part in the Olympic Trials. The Six Metres that took part and the order they placed at the trials were as follows: Johan, Circe, Thistle, Juno, Marletta, Kyria, Caprice, Saskia II, Noa and Golden Hind].
At the time that Kyria was built, in 1947, it seems that Six-Metre racing around the UK was mostly concentrated in the Solent and on the Clyde. As Kyria was registered in Portsmouth, we can perhaps assume that she spent most of her early years in the Solent, but it is also known that she did race on the Clyde.
Below is a copy of a page from the book 'Call of the Wind' by Ian G. Gilchrist with a photograph of Kyria racing with Johan off the Dunoon coastline on the Clyde. This book was first published in 1948 and therefore we must assume that the photograph was taken in either 1947 or 1948.
Ownership details for Kyria are relatively patchy and the following is information received from Lloyds Register of Yachts:
- The vessel was built for Air Commodore J. C. Quinnell, Westminster, London SW1 and was registered in Portsmouth
- In 1953 her new owner was O. T. Williams, Port Dinorwic, Caernarvonshire and in April that year he chose to no longer have her classed by Lloyd’s Register
- In 1956 her new owner was J. S. Hirst, Honley, Yorkshire and in 1959 she last appeared in Lloyds' records.
There are some photographs in the Gwynedd Archives of Kyria racing/sailing in the Menai Strait (North Wales), all dated 1953 - see the gallery below. This must have been when she was in the ownership of O. T. Williams of Port Dinorwic (who, I've been told, may have been the manager of the Dinorwic Slate Quarry).
Above gallery - Kyria racing in the Menai Strait in 1953 - click on the photos to enlarge
We are also aware that the Hirst family sailed and raced her in the Abersoch area in North Wales. Below is a copy of a postcard of her racing in Abersoch on Regatta Day (no date), with Kyria shown enlarged in the photo on the right:
In the background, top left, is another Six Metre, K48 Caprice. Other yachts racing include 30 Square Metres and West Solent One Designs.
We also know that during the early 1970's Kyria was owned by a W. B. Leggett, Willarton-in-Wirral, Cheshire. It appears that he may also have sailed her in the Pwllheli / Abersoch area perhaps. There is an invoice for lifting out at Partington Marine in Pwllheli and there are copies of several other invoices, all relating to 1973 and 1974. There are also quotations and plans for a new aluminium mast dated around the same time (which is Kyria's current mast).
According to my father, her previous owner stated that he had fitted her with an aluminium mast because... "she broke her wooden masts with regular monotony".
[Note - there is no reason why a properly designed and built wooden mast shouldn't last a long time if it is well set up and maintained. However, Six Metres are narrow with a fairly high rig, which made the design of the rig much more challenging, and therefore dismastings were not uncommon.]
She broke her wooden masts with regular monotony!
Kyria under the ownership of my family...
My father told me the story of when he and my grandfather first saw Kyria. They were both Menai Strait Pilots, but the income from pilotage at that time was not enough to support a family and therefore they also undertook other work with their boats, such as fishing and laying/servicing navigation buoys and moorings.
On one occasion they were away laying and servicing moorings in the Porthmadog area when they saw Kyria laid up in a yard ashore. The boat next to Kyria had burnt to the ground - the story goes that there was a gas leak in this other boat and when the owner went aboard there was an explosion, which fortunately threw him clear and miraculously he survived. The boat caught fire and subsequently burnt to the ground. Kyria was immediately adjacent to this boat (only about 2 to 3 feet away by all accounts) and her topsides had been badly charred down her starboard side, together with part of the deck along that side too.
I'm not sure what year this was, but my father seems to think it was around 1976. Update: I have been contacted by Paul Smith (a current 6-Metre owner) who remembers Kyria moored in Abersoch! He said that they used to tie up alongside her with their small dinghy and and fish for flounders. He says that he was about 13 or 14 at the time and... "she seemed huge, all varnish and grace". Paul thinks that the yard fire was in 1979 and that it was briefly reported in Yachting Monthly. I am currently trying to locate a back issue in order to confirm the year.
My grandfather was no stranger to Six Metres - he had often accompanied the owner of the 1927 Fife Six-Metre 'Sunshine' (K5) whilst racing in the Menai Strait - by all accounts she was very fast and used to win everything. As a Menai Strait Pilot he knew the waters very well and his local knowledge would have come in very useful for yacht owners that wanted that extra advantage in order to win the race (particularly in the Strait, which has many navigational challenges and complex tidal streams).
My grandfather clearly liked the look of Kyria and he told my father that perhaps she might be for sale.....I believe his words were something along the lines of "she might be going cheap”! (My grandfather wasn't one to mince his words and he always called like it is!). The damage looked extensive, but my grandfather said that as long as the charring hadn’t passed through the outer skin to the inner skin then it wouldn’t take too much work to rebuild her (Kyria is double-skinned - carvel planking on the outside and diagonal on the inside). They carefully scraped away some of the charred wood and found that the scorching had only gone about half way through the outer skin - which is quite incredible considering the outer skin is only 3/8ths of an inch thick! My grandfather decided that the work was viable and subsequently made an offer for Kyria.
After checking Kyria's hull more carefully (and making sure she was still watertight!) they had her craned into the water and towed her around through Bardsey Sound and over the Caernarfon Bar into Caernarfon. She was then hauled out of the water near my grandfather's boatshed.
My grandfather contracted a local shipwright, Alun Jones from Felinheli, to help with the necessary work on Kyria, which included replacing quite a number of the planks of the outer skin along her starboard side and replacing the whole deck with an edge grain Oregon Pine laid deck (with 'secret nailing' so that no fastenings could be seen) and Mahogany kingplank and covering boards.
It seems that the work was fitted in inbetween work on their other boats at the time and it took several years before she was completed. She was re-launched in 1981. The photos below show what she looked like at the time:
Above gallery - Kyria after her re-launch in 1981 - click on the photos to enlarge
My aunt told me the story of when my grandfather first took Kyria out sailing after she was re-launched. When they returned, my uncle asked him "How did she go?", my grandfather simply responded...."Like a dream"!
I am aware that they took part in some races in the Menai Strait Regatta, but they did not race Kyria extensively (at that time they were still very busy with piloting all the tankers that came into Caernarfon and with all the other work they did with their boats). I know that she took part in the annual race through the Strait from Beaumaris to Caernarfon on at least one occasion and claimed line honours for that race. I seem to recall that the headline in the local newspaper read something like "Menai Strait Pilot leads the way home".
Kyria's sails were old and stretched out of shape. My father told me the story of when they were racing through the Strait on one occasion. It was light airs and Kyria always did well in such conditions. At one stage in the race they were leading when there was a sudden rain shower and Kyria's mainsail became saturated with water. Her speed just dropped away completely and other boats started to pass them. Fortunately the sun then came out and as Kyria's sails dried she picked up speed again, passing all the other boats one by one, and they ended up winning the race!
British Open Championships 1985
In 1985, after a gap of some 30 years, the British Six-Metre fleet was restarted by Tim Street and Tim Russell when they organised the first British Open Championships in Cowes, Isle of Wight. Four moderns (Perdita, Gitana, Kirlo and Razzle-Dazzle) and two classic sixes (Kyria and Catherine) took part. Another classic, Mena, was also meant to take part, but unfortunately she was damaged when she was involved in an accident on a Motorway whilst being transported from South Wales.
Kyria was chartered by John Caulcutt and my father accompanied her down to Cowes. It was clear that Kyria was poorly prepared and equipped for the championships. Her charter was arranged at the last minute and my father had to hurriedly paint her before she was shipped off.
She was transported from North Wales down to Cowes on a standard road trailer towed by a Range Rover (she must have been at the limit of the weight that could be towed safely). Below is a photo showing her enroute on the trailer.
As mentioned earlier, Kyria's sails were old and stretched badly out of shape (anything over a light breeze and the point of maximum draft on the main would move well aft, reducing forward thrust and causing her to heel over more).
In an effort to improve matters the crew ‘borrowed’ a spare mainsail and genoa from Kirlo (K81), which did help, but the luff of the main wasn't a good fit for Kyria’s mast (which didn’t have anywhere near the bend of Kirlo’s mast). The backstay tension was increased as much as possible to try to improve the set of the main, but Kyria’s backstay fitting was pulling out of the deck and the crew had to rig a makeshift preventer around the counter to try to lash it down! Due to Kyria having two sets of crosstrees, Kirlo's genoa was also tending to get caught up on the crosstrees when she tacked.
The modern sixes had very ‘bendy’ masts in comparison and were able to flatten the main to de-power the rig in heavier weather. They were also sporting the latest in sail materials, which allowed the sails to maintain their shape better as the wind freshened.
Given the above, it is perhaps not surprising that Kyria was no match for the modern sixes in heavier weather (even in proper racing condition with modern sails, rigging and hardware, classic sixes have a difficult time keeping up with the moderns in heavy weather, especially downwind).
Kyria has always been fast in light airs and in one race, with very light airs at the start of the race, she was in the lead at the first mark, but then the wind picked up and two of the modern sixes (Perdita and Gitana) passed her – however, she did manage to maintain her lead over Kirlo and Razzle Dazzle to finish in 3rd for that race. Below is a scan of the score sheet showing the points for the series:
Key: 1st place = 0.75 points; 2nd place = 2 points; 3rd place = 3 points; 4th place = 4 points; 5th place = 5 points; 6th place = 6 points; DNS = 8 points
As mentioned, Mena didn't take part as she did not make it to the Championships. I believe that Catherine also had some problems that meant that she was unable to take part in much of the racing (according to the score sheet, it would appear that she only took part in one race).
For the championships Kyria had been transported by road from North Wales down to Cowes using a standard boat trailer towed by a Range Rover (all without incident!). However, as Mena was involved in an accident on the motorway, it was decided that to be prudent it would be better to arrange professional road transportation for Kyria’s return journey to North Wales. Unfortunately the so called ‘professional’ transporters failed to secure her properly for the journey, which resulted in damage to hull planking where she had been ‘bouncing’ up and down on trailer pads and damage to the deck where the mast had also been bouncing around.
I believe Kyria spent quite some time in Dickies Boatyard in Bangor whilst waiting for the damage to be repaired (it probably took some time to sort out the insurance to cover the cost of repairing the damage that was done in transit). In 1986 she was then re-launched and towed back through to Caernarfon and laid up on the shore near my grandfather's boatshed. This is where she has been ever since.
I understand that my grandfather put Kyria up for sale and Tim Street and Tim Russell visited Caernarfon in order to inspect her and I believe that an offer was made for her. It seems that this was around the time that my grandfather unfortunately passed away. The sale was therefore never completed and my father then inherited Kyria.
My father was aware that Kyria was in need of a complete re-fastening, but he did not have the time to do the work as he was busy with his work as a Menai Strait Pilot and also ran a passenger boat operating out of the harbour. In 1992 he was planning to put her up for sale again, but when he found out that I would love to do the work he decided to give Kyria to me on my 21st birthday.
In June 1993 I commenced Kyria's restoration. I was young and full of enthusiasm and at the time I did not fully realise the extent of the work that I was taking on! To read more about the details of the restoration project please click here.