After 18 months of gruelling re-building work I was keen to get Mingming II afloat. Below decks the total refit was by no means complete, but I needed to have her in the water and sailing. Not only had she been comprehensively rebuilt, she had been given a new rig - junk, of course - with a much-altered mast position.
It was important that I had some sea-trials before the winter. I needed to see how she trimmed with so much weight alteration. I needed to see how she balanced. I had designed and built the rig myself : lamp post for a mast, home-sewn sail, home-made spars.
She was, as far as I know, the first Achilles 24 to undergo a junk rig conversion, so there were no comforting precedents. Even the sail was somewhat revolutionary - my Triple H (Horizontally Hinged Hybrid) design. I won't bore you with the details. I needed too to see how the new single-handed control and management systems, derived and developed from Mingming I, actually performed in practice.
In other words there were a hundred questions that needed resolving before I spent the winter and next spring finishing the job.
After I had spent a final weekend preparing her for launch, Michael at Rice and Cole suggested we 'splash' her on Monday afternoon. That was fine by me, as at least Brenda and I could be there to witness the moment. The weather could hardly have been worse. In torrential rain the last few dabs of anti-fouling were applied to the bottom of the keels (all three of them), more in hope than expectation of it sticking and doing any good.
Up into the air she went, swinging through the grey murk, and showing her graceful Oliver Lee lines. Down she came, almost to the water. Up went my heartbeat. Michael stopped her for a moment as she hung there just above her natural medium and made some crack about how she looked pretty good so far. Then in she went.
Within a second of her settling I knew she was a good 'un. So did Michael. We both simultaneously exclaimed how well she floated. It seems daft. Floating is what boats do. But there's more to it than that. We both picked straight off that she looked totally right, that she was perfectly trimmed, and that she had a kind of natural grace and liveliness. "Just look at her," said Michael. "She's going to sail really well."
I hope he’s right...