The Golden Globe Race 50th anniversary edition in 2018 is being run as a celebration of Robin Knox-Johnston’s achievement at becoming the first man to sail non-stop around the world. But in contrast with the original race, none of the 2018 competitors will be sailing multihulls. In the early 1960s, there were few multihulls in production and even fewer in fibreglass, so it was a brave soul indeed who commissioned a 45ft "plastic" ocean-going catamaran, which is now more than 50 years old and up for sale.
Doctor Lewis Griffith Cresswell Evans Pugh (29 October 1909 – 22 December 1994), generally known as Griffith Pugh, was a British physiologist and mountaineer who played a pivotal role in the world’s first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. It was he, who in concert with the Prout brothers, canoeists in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, specified a brand new 45ft offshore catamaran concept that paved the way for many of the long-distance multihulls to follow.
Pugh was by all accounts an adventurous skipper, and in one of the many obituaries published upon his death, a friend and colleague wrote: “most of his friends soon discovered that an invitation to accompany him for a weekend's sailing often involved a challenge to disregard every appalling condition of wind and weather and interminable hours of being cold and soaked to the skin. I quickly became adept at finding excuses for not accepting such invitations!”
With that mindset, it’s not hard to see why the sleek lines of the Ocean Ranger appealed to him. The Prout brothers began designing cats after serving in RAF in the Pacific during world war II, where they saw Polynesian outrigger canoes sporting large lateen rigs. After demobilisation, they worked in the family firm designing and building folding dinghies and canoes, but began developing a catamaran by simply joining together a pair of canoe hulls and attaching a rig from an International 14 dinghy. From there, within a short time, they had designed the Shearwater, a 16ft 6in catamaran racing class that is still going strong in the UK today.
Pelican was handed down to Dr Pugh’s family upon his death in 1994 and now lies in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight approximately two-thirds of the way through a large refit. She has a whole new deck of fibreglassed plywood on spruce and a recent rig that has seen little use. Auxiliary power is from a completely reconditioned single Sillette stern drive leg powered by a marinised commercial engine. According to the broker, and one-time part-owner of Prout catamarans, Robert Underwood, she needs new electrics and a whole new interior – lining, furniture, everything. “It’s a fair old refit job, but it’s a fairly simple boat, so a practical person could do it in a few months,” he reckons. “It had a fairly new rig when it was laid up."
The full list of refitted areas is on the listing and includes, importantly, new hatches, new cabin windows and new engine instruments. "It’s got lots of sails of different ages – some of which are in quite nice condition. It’s had quite a bit of money spent on it. Ocean Rangers sail very well. Even by today’s standards it would be a good sailing boat, but it does need somebody with enthusiasm and energy to do it. The trouble is if you take it to a yard to do it the costs would be too high."
Underwood started working with the Prouts in 1972 as a salesman, then bought into the company in 1976. He bought the remaining shares in 1979 and ran the business until 2000 when it was bought by a Chinese-Canadian consortium called the Winfair Group. Operations were first moved to Thailand, then to China where Prout International were still selling 60ft+ models until around 2012. Underwood went on to found Broadblue taking several key people from Prout with him. "We started out building the Prout 38 and 46, moving on to new designs such as the Broadblue 42/3 and the Broadblue 385 models – now built and sold by Multihull World.
“The Prout Brothers founded really the first modern catamaran building company. They pioneered a lot of the catamaran design stuff that you see in almost all modern cats to this day, such as the bulkheading systems and hull shapes.” In 1961, they started building the first all fibreglass production cat, the Ranger 27/31, in which they pioneered the low-aspect ratio keels and the structures that make modern catamarans safe and strong.
“The Ocean Ranger was designed entirely by the Prout Brothers for Dr Pugh,” says Underwood. “I wouldn’t say she’s luxurious but comfortable, for sure. It was an idea they had had for a very fast, powerful ocean-going boat. It’s got a unique shape. I sailed on it when I was 18 with Dr Pugh in the Chrystal Trophy race, which we won in 1968.”
There were only about 10 Ocean Rangers built, before the design morphed into the Quasar class, and remarkably, at the time of writing there is another example for sale based in Columbia on our sister site YachtWorld.com. It's listed as a 1979 example, which probably means she was home-buillt from the original moulds, but she's operational (currently cruising the coast of Columbia) for less than £20k more than the asking price of Pelican.
For a selection of slightly more mainstream but still decidedly affordable boats like this, check out: 6 of the best comfy catamarans.