Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Wood, Wind and a Collective Spirit

Published on May 22, 2012 by   ·   No Comments

As Britain gears up for its extraordinary Olympic year, artists across the country are letting their imaginations run wild to create equally extraordinary memorabilia for the future.  Artists Gary Winters and Gregg Whelan – known as “Lone Twin” – have pushed the boat out with “Collective Spirit”.

Collective Spirit is a 30ft wooden sailing yacht with a major twist, the twist being that it has been built from 1,200 pieces of wood from some unlikely sources.  Lone Twins Gary and Gregg visited 20 locations hunting out donations of wood to be used in the construction of their boat.  They also left the doors of the boatyard at Thornham Marina, Emsworth, open for public to drop by with their wooden pieces.  The only criteria were that they had to be wooden and have a quirky or interesting story behind them.

The crowds wait for the boat to be launched

The finished Collective Spirit can boast bits from Tudor warship the Mary Rose, a section of Brighton’s West Pier, a few hockey sticks, a Victorian police truncheon, a piece of HMS Victory, a hair-brush used by the make-up team at Pinewood Studios in the 1960s, a few crates used to transport Britain’s gold and negotiable securities to Canada during WW2, a plank from the London 2012 velodrome and rock legend Jimi Hendrix’s guitar which has ended up at the tiller.

Tracy Jones, project spokeswoman, said, “Each and every fascinating back-story was digitally recorded and photographed with its donor and placed in The Boat Project’s Black Book.  The name Collective Spirit was chosen by public vote and the honour of naming the vessel was given to Emily Covell, the 13-year-old daughter of boatbuilder and Olympic silver medallist sailor Mark Covell.”

'Lone Twin' artists Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters

Meanwhile artist Gary said a sense of fun had flowed throughout the year-long build.  “It’s very difficult to be very serious with an aardvark and a coat hanger.  The callout was for objects, which had significance and a story. People responded to that in all sorts of ways and we were given some lovely, lovely things, personal and emotional things.  I don’t have any favourites but I like a stick which came from someone who made a pilgrimage to Sad Hill Cemetery in Spain which was used for the set of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and that stick has made a migration to the boat and will continue to do so.”

Lone Twin and the build team – which included acclaimed sailor, boat-builder and Emsworh local Mark Covell (Olympic silver medallist, Open Star Sailing, Sydney 2000) and Hampshire based international boat designer Simon Rogers (Artemis 20) – brought traditional wooden boat-building techniques together with 21st century technology to construct a yacht capable of reaching speeds in excess of 20 knots – fast enough to wake surf behind.

Boat-builder Mark Covell and daughter Emily who launched the boat

More than 1,000 people witnessed the launch of Collective Spirit, many keeping an eye out for their donated bit of wood, as she was placed by crane into the waters of Chichester Harbour at Emsworth in Hampshire on 7 May.  A traditional fete with music, refreshments and entertainment accompanied the champagne smashing.  The weather threatened, but failed, to dampen enthusiasm.

Her maiden voyage will see Collective Spirit sail a two-month route along the south coast of England taking in Portsmouth, Margate, Brighton and Hastings before arriving at the Weymouth and Portland Olympic sailing venue in time for the first event, the Men’s Finn, on 29 July.

The Arts Council as part of its “Artists taking the lead” initiative funded the project for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.  Collective Spirit was one of 12 public art commissions created across the country, one in each nation and region of the UK, to help celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  An Independent panel of artists and producers selected the winning commissions.


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