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Happy Birthday Kingfisher

Posted on 1st March 2020


Happy Birthday Kifi ! 20 years ago this week, Kingfisher was launched and undertook her first sailing trials in New Zealand. An amazing team effort by everyone to design and build this ground breaking boat so far from 'home' in just 12 months from project start. The design effort alone included a tank testing, wind tunnel and CFD program, all of them firsts at that time in the IMOCA class.

During the construction even an overnight fire in the build oven that required the fir e brigade to attend, could easily have destroyed the hull plug and did set the program at Marten Yachts back weeks couldn't stop us. We just worked harder, smarter and sub-contracted out the parts we couldn't start. The sailing team when they arrived leant a hand with fairing the hull bottom, worked nights, did cook out bbqs in the evening for the 'stay behinds' among the Marten staff. Then we really ramped up the pace/hours for the last three months. With just eight weeks to go before the launch (and three months before we had to leave and cross the Southern Ocean to return to the UK) the first keel arrived; only for me to have to reject it. This was just before everyone else in NZ shut down for the long Christmas holidays. Steve Marten didn't flinch, he ordered a new fin and agreed to sort out who'd pay for it another day. I recall at the time that I felt it was critical that set backs had to be internalised, hidden or down-played to keep this project that was far away from UK on-track. It was an extreme situation and often there wasn't an alternative except to ramp the pace up another notch and get on with it. The Kiwis and the sailing team didn't dissapoint. We couldn't afford the time, lost experience/miles with the boat or money to ship her to the start of the OSTAR in Plymouth.

The stress of being lead designer and project manager, at the same time nearly broke me, but she's still my Kifi twenty years on. I'm now working with Didac Costa, Kifi's latest custodian/skipper to update/modify her for yet another circumnavigation. One day I hope she'll retire gracefully and someone will put her out to pasture, sail, enjoy and look after her as a grand old lady should be looked after. I really dislike the thought of her declining in her later years. She still looks so fit and healthy now

Happy Birthday Kifi. Thank you Mark and Ellen for having faith in the design team idea, it would have been so easy to go to one of the established design offices. But, especially thank you everyone who pulled out the stops. You know who your are.......have a great 2020, best wishes, Merf Owen and Allen Clarke

For more information about Owen Clarke IMOCA 60s contact Merfyn Owen


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