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Today we hear from sailor Frank De Block-Burij, who shares the story of his beloved Ocqueteau Speed 770 trimaran. All I can say is that Frank really took time to write both write it down and supply the featured photos.

Many thanks Frank!

And so, without any further ado — take it away Frank …


My Ocqueteau Speed 770 Named Gonzo
by Frank De Block-Burij

I have been a sailor since I was about 11 years old, when my father bought a 9.5 m long 6 berth oaken boat, the “Anna Margaretha”

The boat was in very bad shape. My father had to spend all winter scrubbing all the wood and painting it with 4 or more coats of varnish (polyester, epoxy and other raisins where unavailable at that time) … just to allow our family to sail it on the Dutch coast, in the Schelde estuary, the “Zeeuwse Wateren.”

We did that for several seasons. (Alas, no pictures left of the “Anna Margaretha”). We finally sold the boat and for my 18th birthday my parents bought me a bright red Lanaverre 490 sailing dinghy, with which I did some racing (with my best friend Walter at the jib).

Next, I started studying shipbuilding at Delft University in Holland but didn’t finish. While there, I was accepted as skipper on the “Trui”, an antique, historic flat-bottomed traditional fishing boat, owned by my student fraternity “De Bolk.”

True picture of “Trui”

One day, I got a joyful ride on a Tornado catamaran. I loved it.

Later, I got more and more experienced in monohulls, belonging to friends, who invited me as (a little bit more than) co-skipper. (Apparently, they trusted me — the fools :-) …

… first on an Etap 22 …

… later on a Spirit 28 …

… both built in Belgium.

I eventually came to rent a Corneel 26 catamaran that I’d seen an ad in “Bateaux” magazine. It was designed by Fountaine-Pajot, and was a version of “Love”, meaning it had a “nacelle” (small shelter) between the two hulls.

The Pajot brothers (the designers) are French multi-sailing champions, amongst others:
— Olympic Silver Medal winner, in 1972 in Flying Dutchman.
— 5 times World Champion
— 7 times French Champion

You can see some of their achievement listed on Wikipedia here.

We used this boat to go sailing with my daughter (10) and my girlfriend and her two daughters (10, 11) for a week from La Rochelle to islands île de Ré, île d’Oleron, île D’Aix, etc., on the Atlantic coast of France.

During this vacation, it was quite windy. Being the only experienced sailor on board (and only on monohulls at that) I was (maybe somewhat) over-confident. Little did I know how light and how wide a multihull could be. In half panic, I jumped from side to side to fend off collisions on all sides.

To cut a long story short, after about two hours, I was solidly moored back in place, heads to tails. I sat there completely exhausted and depressed, meditating that I had rented an extremely uncomfortable floating caravan that I would most probably never be able to master. Luckily, early next morning, there was no wind at all.

So we started off, very relaxed, while sailing the wind increased. I felt I slowly, but surely, started to master the boat. We all ended up having a marvelous holiday, sailing from island to island and harbour to harbour.

We bought fish, vegetables and other food at the local markets for cooking on board. There was swimming, of course, and the three girls loved the extra wide trampolines to play on while sailing. Naturally, while moored, the beaches left us all with sweet memories.

Afterwards, I realized I was forever hooked on multihulls but was afraid I’d never be able to afford one. However, 3 years and a new job later, by a lucky streak, I found an Ocqueteau Speed 770 trimaran. It had been neglected under the trees at a boatyard specializing in horrible Bayliner motor yachts — in Nieuwpoort (Flanders).

Ocqueteau Speed 770 Trimaran

I always was an avid reader of magazines and books on sailing. After my first multihull experience, described above, more on cats and tri’s (i.e. Multicoques Magazine).

This is how I got to know about Gilles Gahinet, the Speed 770 (and Freely 8m)’s designer. He is truly a multihull pioneer with an impressive palmares, who sailed amongst others with Eric Tabarly:
— 1975 : 2e Solitaire du Figaro
— 1976 : 3e Solitaire du Figaro
— 1977 : 1er Solitaire du Figaro sur le half Gradlon, un plan Ron Holland
— 1979 : 3e Solitaire du Figaro
— 1979 : 1er Transat en double Lorient/Bermudes/Lorient avec Eugène Riguidel
sur VSD
— 1980 : 1er Solitaire du Figaro
— 1981 : 3e Solitaire du Figaro
— 1982 : 2e Solitaire du Figaro
? 1984 : Abandon Ostar sur le catamaran de 18,28 m 33 Export (Ollier design)

So I immediately knew what I was looking at. I fell in love with this boat at first sight.

Apparently, it belonged to the shop owner’s son, who was in military service at that time. One phone call showed that the son was bored with the boat and the shop owner wanted to free his money to buy another Bayliner to sell with extravagant benefits.

So, on the spot, I negotiated an incredibly good price for this wonderful, trailerable trimaran that was, at max, only about 4 years old. At the time, it was worth about $50,000 (US currency). It featured the original Dacron sails, virtually unused, including a spinnaker. And on top of that, it had an extra Mylar (or whatever), tailor made set of competition sails.

I was able to buy it all for less than $10,000, including it’s trailer. Of course, I never hesitated and bought it on the spot. Within an hour, much more than the best of a dream I’d ever thought possible … came true!

Due to it’s look, I appropriately named my boat “Gonzo“, after the goofy Muppet whose motto, like mine, surprisingly turned out to be (I only discovered that many years later): “Anything worth doing is worth doing without a parachute.”

During the first year I sailed this trimaran, I slowly got accustomed to the boat. One windy day, I sailed it up to 16.5 knots with a friend. It was exhilarating, but there were many scary moments for us as crew … especially since we came from monohulls. (The previous owner had pretended to me that he’d gone over 20 knots once, but I’ll take that with a grain of salt).

The next year, we drove the boat to Saint-Mâlo (Brittany, France), assembled it and then visited the Anglo-Normandy Channel Islands: Jersey, Sercq, Herm, Guernsey, Alderny. We even went, with hardly any wind, at “dead” tide, through a “race” between the islands with currents over 8 knots. It was an absolutely thrilling roller coaster ride.

A year after that, we coast-hopped from my mooring in Holland (Kortgene) to Finistère (Brest), visiting all interesting ports.

During my 4th sailing year, after failing to sail to the Isle of Wight (on the English south coast), due to counter currents, wind and tides, we ended up sailing to the East coast of England. We then meandered (literally) rivers such as the Ore, Alde, Deben, Stour, Blackwater and Crouch.

We enjoyed absolutely wonderful surroundings. (I can highly recommend everybody visit Pinn Mill).

At this time, my boat is currently lying here in my back yard, derelict and in very bad shape. But I do intend to joyfully ride on it once again. (The pictures and video’s on youtube, as shown in the video below, that feature what usna79 did to his Speed 770 have been very inspiring — thanks!)

A fellow named Steve Hanson seems to own one too. I’d love for these guys to contact me. (I speak mostly in French but I can talk a little English too :-)

— Greetings, Frank