A retired British businessman with the lifelong dream of building a majestic yacht has almost achieved his goal. Mike Ludgrove, 63, is putting the finishing touches on the 60ft boat that he has spent the past 12 years painstakingly crafting by hand. He has spent £1.3 million ($1.8 million) and several thousands of hours on the classic sailing yacht that he has named ‘Helena’.
Ludgrove, who trained at Lyme Regis Boatbuilding Academy, originally estimated that he could complete his dream yacht in just three years, at a cost of around £500,000. He soon realized, however, that both the timeline and budget were overly ambitious. To raise more funds, Ludgrove and his amazingly supportive wife Elaine sold their London flat, their primary home in Exeter, Devon, and now live in a rented ex-council house. Five years ago, the couple sold their health food business to raise additional money for the boat. Ludgrove also enlisted the help of his son and some friends to work alongside him to make his dream a reality. Ed Burnett, the naval architect who designed the Queen’s Jubilee barge, provided the plans for Ludgrove’s yacht.
Photo: video screengrab
“Helena has been my dream for almost 40 years,” Ludgrove, who started working on the project in 2006, told Daily Mail. “Every part of her has been personally fashioned, assembled, spoke-shaved, and brought into position. It has taken 12 years, and I have enjoyed most of it, although there have been some low points when I’ve wondered whether we were going to make it.”
“Everything that I am has gone into Helena, from my home to my business. I have nothing left in my pocket to give her,” he added.
The hull of the yacht is made of Canadian Douglas Fir, and the decking is teak salvaged from a 1850s cotton mill in Mumbai which was due to be demolished. The lead in the keel was sourced from the roof of the 13th century Exeter Cathedral in Southwest England, which has undergone recent renovations. The 30-tonne boat is coated with fiberglass to protect the wood and has a captain’s quarters and two large cabins which can accommodate up to six people.
“The aim was always to build something of supreme beauty, in a manner not possible when working to commercial constraints,” Mike said. “People simply do not make boats like this anymore.”
Ludgrove claims that his dream was inspired by a formative childhood experience when he participated in the London Sailing Project, a charitable foundation that allows disadvantaged young people the opportunity to experience a sailing adventure.
‘Helena’ is due to launch this coming spring, and Ludgrove said of the project that he hopes it will inspire young people who would not usually have a chance to sail, just like the London Sailing Project did for him. He plans to sell trips on the yacht and use the revenue to help enable young people to sail.
“I first sailed aged 12 with a charity which offered the opportunity to young people from urban, often deprived areas the chance to go out to sea, something which they otherwise may never have got the chance to experience. It changed my life, and everything in my life since has revolved around sailing,” Ludgrove said. “The ultimate pleasure for me would be for people, young and old, to get to sail the seas for the first time, to get the thrill of cutting through the waves and harnessing the wind.”