When the 74-foot ketch Stormvogel ghosted across the finish line well ahead of the largest fleet ever to sail in the Bermuda Race, her owner and skipper, Cornelius Bruynzeel, allowed his dour Dutch face to break into a rare wreath of smiles. "Well," he said, "this makes me very pleased." Then the 15-man crew which had sailed his vessel to her elapsed-time victory broke into a lusty "For he's a jolly good fellow." A few moments later, as the last "and so say all of us" floated out across the milky green water to mingle with the salutatory din of small-boat horns and whistles, one of the crewmen had a sobering second thought. "I dunno why we're singing," he muttered to a mate. "I think we're the jolly good fellows."
He had a point there. Unlike most yachtsmen, Bruynzeel, a lumber millionaire who divides his time between Cape Town, South Africa and Zaandam, Holland, does not believe in paying out good money to feed a bunch of seagoing sponges just because they're willing to work his boat for him. Instead, and uniquely, he believes the privilege of sailing in a racing yacht is one worth paying for. He therefore charges each of his crewmen approximately $180 a month to hand and steer, wash dishes, swab down the decks, wind winches and do whatever else is necessary to make a boat go.
"The money they pay me doesn't nearly pay the food bill," he says. "But it's a way of getting nice people aboard."
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this policy is that it works. Of the 11 male and two female crewmen who labored to get Stormvogel first over the line at Bermuda last week, only three were not paying hard money for the privilege. Two were close friends of the owner, the other was an invited guest who sweated and strained as hard as any but had to sleep on a settee without blankets in the main saloon while bunks lay empty in the master's cabin.
July 12, 1964
Other members of the crew were seastruck amateurs from South Africa, Ireland, England, Argentina, Holland and the U.S., whose occupations varied as widely as their nationalities. There were two marine engineers, one of whom has become so attached to his freewheeling life that he plans to leave Srormvogel temporarily at Rio and go to sea in a steamer to earn enough money to continue on around the globe with Stormvogel. Also aboard were a commercial artist, a law student, a shopkeeper from Cork, a bearded English expatriate from Cape Town named Jock Hardwicke—described by one of his friends simply as a "retired gent"—and an ex-assistant manager of London's Savoy Hotel.
For decorum's sake, the two female members of the crew bunked forward in a tiny, two-berth cubbyhole filled with a jumble of sails, bagged and unbagged. Both joined Stormvogel in Cape Town and will be with her all the way to Rio. Textile Designer Margaret Macdonald, 26, stands watches, pumps winches, spins the wheel and hands sails. Nurse Rosemary Kirkman, 26, is content to wear a bikini and pay $180 a month to cook for the other 12 ever-hungry crewmen. "My father's a keen yachtsman," she said by way of explaining how she came to be aboard. "He was in favor of the idea, but my mother had a few doubts. Anyway, here I am."
For most of Stormvogel's complement, the 635-mile run from Newport to the Onion Patch was merely an inch or so on the yardstick of her 20,000-mile itinerary up and down and across the Atlantic. Since the light-displacement ketch was built in South Africa three years ago (she is the biggest of her kind ever constructed in that country), she has averaged 20,000 miles every year, and her logbook reads like a tramp steamer's. Only Huey Long's Ondine has traveled farther. This year, for example, Stormvogel (the name means stormbird in Afrikaans) left Cape Town; crossed the South Atlantic by way of St. Helena to Recife; breezed up through the West Indies to the Bahamas, Miami, New York; did the Bermuda Race; rested there four days; and right now is on her way back to St. Thomas, South America and Rio, where she will lay up for a month or two. Next January, Bruynzeel plans to cruise her to Buenos Aires for the B.A. Rio race, then up to Panama, through the Canal, up the Mexican coast and on to Los Angeles in time for the Transpacific Race. Then she goes down to the South Seas, New Zealand, up to Australia to keep an appointment with the Sydney-Hobart Race, on to Japan, Hong Kong and after that Bruynzeel alone knows. Wherever she goes, Stormvogel always flies a Dutch flag of convenience since occasionally she has to stop at ports where a Republic of South Africa ensign would be an invitation to trouble. Nevertheless, Stormvogel is South African by name, build and, most of all, spirit.
When he is aboard, Bruynzeel commands his vessel from a spacious after cabin like an omnipotent Captain Ahab. Sometimes he is as stolid as Dutch cheese. At other times, such as when a crewman goofs, he can turn as volatile as Bols gin. When the real skipper is absent, his command is assumed by a young Englishman named John Miles, who could show many a seasoned navigator a thing or two about fixes.
For long stretches during the Bermuda Race, Bruynzeel stayed in his cabin and left things to Miles, appearing only now and then to take a turn at the wheel or to recommend a sail change. The first two nights out, when the wind blew freshly, he was alert to the possibility that his boat might break the record of 70 hours 11 minutes 37 seconds set eight years ago by the Stephens-designed Bolero. But when the wind blew away, he lost interest in record-making. His only concern then was that Stormvogel erase the blot on her log that was put there in 1962 when, a highly touted newcomer, she was beaten across the line by Northern Light.
This time her promise was justified and, despite being reduced to a humble 123rd place on corrected time, both captain and crew were satisfied to know that their boat had crossed the line ahead of all the others. Whatever else they may be, the paying, working guests aboard this curious craft are fiercely loyal.