Berthon Gauntlet information
classic ocean racing yachts

Mitten

  Current owner:  Jamie Abdy Collins 
  Location:       Lymington
  Year built:     1937
  Build number:   526
  First owner:    H G May, sold to Hon C Pearson
  Size:           8 tons
  Previous names: 

Boat location

History

The following information was supplied by Nicholas Gray, owner of Mitten between 2004 and 2006.

Mitten was built in 1936/7 and was the first of the “baby” Gauntlets, hence the name!

Like most of the early Gauntlets, Mitten was built ‘on spec.’ by the Berthon for H G May who sailed and raced her during her first season.

In 1937 she was sold to the Hon. Clive Pearson. With Mitten is a copy of the Berthon's invoice for this sale - £900 including sails plus £25 for a clinker dinghy.

The Hon. Clive Pearson sold Mitten soon after the war and in 1947 the Berthon built for him a new 14 ton Gauntlet – Cloud-in-the-Sun.

Mitten then went through several owners and was kept in the West Country for several years. On board Mitten is a copy of an article in Yachting monthly describing a cruise to Ireland undertaken by Mitten in the 1950’s. Otherwise little is known about her at this time.

In or about 1985 Mitten was bought by a Martin Clucas who based her at West Mersea and lavished much money, love and care on the boat. She was stored ashore under cover every winter and between 1990 and 1998 he undertook much improvement work. Most Gauntlets were originally built with lots of galvanised steel work, including floors, knees, etc. Martin Clucas replaced all these in bronze. He renewed the keel bolts in bronze and refastened the hood and garboards with bronze screws. He installed a new Volvo Penta engine and equipped her with a new sail wardrobe in narrow panel cream cloth. He renewed all the electrics and put in up to date instruments.

Martin Clucas took Mitten to numerous classic yacht rallies, including the inaugural Yachting Monthly rallies at Yarmouth and Brixham in 1989 and 1991 where she was Concours class winner. His final outing was to the Cowes Classics in 1997 where she was also race winner. He also cruised her each summer visiting Gibraltar, the Channel Islands and the Scilly Islands, often single handed, returning to West Mersea each winter.

In 1998 Martin Clucas put his beloved Mitten up for sale and bought a bigger boat, on which, sadly, very soon after the purchase, he had a heart attack whilst sailing and died.

Mitten, then in immaculate condition, was sold in 1998 to a man who sadly neglected her. He sailed her only once – a delivery trip from West Mersea to Dover Marina in Kent, where he tied Mitten up in the Wellington Dock and virtually never went near her again.

There she languished from 1998 to 2004, with all sails still bent on, a galley full of food and unwashed dishes. She became a sort of ‘Marie Celeste’, kept afloat by local berth holders pumping her out from time to time. The varnish disappeared amid green mould and the sails and running rigging became mildewed and similarly tarnished.

In 2003 I berthed my boat in Dover after a trip through the French canals and immediately recognised Mitten. Having known Mitten and Martin Clucas from the 1990's I knew what she used to look like and it was heartbreaking to see her as she then was. For 12 months I watched her deteriorate even further until I could bear it no longer. The Marina manager would not disclose the identity of the owner but he agreed to forward a letter to him, in which I offered to buy Mitten. The owner contacted me and seemed relieved that I was offering him a solution to a problem he obviously could not face up to. The upshot was that I agreed to buy Mitten, subject to a survey. I then asked the owner where I could get a set of keys to the cabin. He told me that he had no keys and authorised me to get the local boat builder to break into the boat!!!

This we did and the condition in the cabin was dreadful. Food was rotting in the galley, the bunk mattresses were sodden, the fore cabin was full of bagged damp sails and the engine was seized solid.

Mitten was hauled out for a survey and 6 years growth of mussels and barnacles was harvested from her bottom.

Surprisingly there was very little wrong and the recommendations of the surveyor were few and minor. No rot was found and the structural condition of the boat was a testament to the quality of the Berthon’s original work.

So I bought her, with the intention only of saving the boat and then passing her onto a new owner who, hopefully this time, would cherish her.

Over the next three years we stripped out the boat, took out the engine, cleaned and repainted her inside and out, repaired the mast, carried out all recommendations of the surveyor, had the sails valeted and repaired (one of the sails was unused and still had the sailmakers ties on it and was recognised by one of the staff who said “I made that sail when I was with James Lawrence in 1995”), renewed all the standing and running rigging and had new upholstery made up.

In 2006 Mitten was re-launched and looked a treat with new paintwork and teak brightwork and newly varnished spars.

In 2007 she was bought by Chris Humphries who took her to her new base in Plymouth (not without incident on the delivery trip) where she has been much in evidence at classic yacht get togethers and much admired.

Chris is now selling Mitten as he needs a bigger boat to accommodate his growing family.


Some pictures and information are available on a broker website.


Spotted by Nick Twist in Fowey harbour for a classics rally 2006.


Photo: Nick Twist.


Photo: Nick Twist.