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Boat of the Month

June 2023   Freelance of Restronguet

By Sherwood Elcock

Freelance is a Freedom 30, designed by Hoyt/Herreshoff in the USA, built by Fairways Marine on the Hamble and launched in 1982.  

She is the shallow draft version of the Freedom 30 with a lifting keel.

The original design was a freedom rigged ketch, which with it’s unstayed mastscould have been designed to carry a junk rig.

I first saw Freelance in 2003 when I was posted to RAF Acrotiri in Cyprus during the 2nd Gulf War.  She was stored on the hard at the small harbour within the military base.

I was then the proud owner of a small gaff rigged sloop and was not looking to buy a new boat but I was attracted to her lines and when I heard that she was on the market at a very good price was unable to resist.

Freelance had initially been based on the River Fal in Cornwall hence her full name. Originally rather basically equipped, new owners had kitted her out as a live-aboard complete with heating and TV. They had also fitted powered winches for the anchor and in the cockpit, making her very easy to handle when short-handed. She was later moved to the Hamble from where after a further refit she was transported to Cyprus when her then owner was posted to the island on military duty.

At the time when I purchased Freelance in 2003 I was in full time work in the UK and unable to take extended periods of leave.  My wife and I decided that we would take our time and sail her back to her original home port in Cornwall in short stages, with sailing limited to a couple of weeks twice a year. 20 years later we have reached Rocella Ionica in Calabria, Southern Italy having explored the Turkish Aegean, the Greek Islands and the Adriatic along the way.

In 2013 we were based in Brindisi, Freelance still had her original sails and running rigging which were badly in need of replacement. We had never found the original Freedom Rig easy to handle and we decided that rather than replace the existing sails we should change the rig.  We were encouraged by well-meaning friends to go for a modern tracked Bermudan sail plan and considered various options but quickly settled on junk rig as our preferred option. 

The JRA played a major role in reaching this decision. They provided encouragement and plenty

of information. We attended

a local “junket” meeting in the Solent where we had the opportunity to talk to members and enjoy a short sail in a Freedom 30 that had been converted to junk rig.

Through the Association we contacted David Blaine who had had experience of providing junk rigs for these boats and he reassured us that we would have little difficulty setting up the new rig 2000kms away from home.

We chose a well tried 7 panel flexible batten design which David had used successfully on previous conversions. The sail area of 396 sq.ft. would be similar to that of the existing Freedom rig. David supplied the rig ready assembled which we loaded on the roof of our camper van and set off to Brindisi. 

The process of setting up the new rig was remarkably uncomplicated and completed at a Marina berth with no need for assistance from the local yard. Within a few days we were proud owners of a newly junk rigged yacht.

We have subsequently spent 5 years exploring the Adriatic including a memorable morning when we sailed into an almost empty Venice lagoon at sunrise.

We have never doubted the wisdom of our decision to convert Freelanceto junk rig. Under the old rig Freelance always needed a good breeze to get moving and that is still the case.  The lack of windward sailing ability can be limiting but this is more than compensated by superb off-wind performance and the ease of handling particularly when needing to shorten sail when running downwind.

We are now facing the prospect of having to replace the ageing Lombardini diesel engine and, keen to limit our environmental impact further are considering electric propulsion as an option but that is a matter for a future article if we proceed.

Covid restrictions, and engine problems, have limited our sailing opportunities and for the past 2 years we have been based at Rocella Ionica.  This summer we hope to sail through the Straits of Messina heading for Southern France and the Canal du Midi. We are still following our plan to bring Freelance back to Restronguet but that might take another 10 years.

Our "Boat of the Month" Archive is here, and the forum discussion for comments and candidate suggestions is here


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       " ...there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in junk-rigged boats" 
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