1955 - 1973 Inishfree
When Norm Walsh, who had owned Venture II, decided he wanted to offshore race, he turned to George H. Cuthbertson in the spring of 1955 to design a 53’ footer for him. And Norm promptly went on his yearly month long fishing trip in New Brunswick at his lodge there. June rolled around, and Norm returned, called Dad and asked how was the design progressing ? G.H.C. at the age of 26 hadn’t taken Mr. Walsh seriously having not had anything built other than the run of 8 ½” Water Rat dinghy’s and a one off 23’ plywood boat. Norm promptly informed father after learning nothing had been done “ You ought to know by now that when I ask you to do something, you should do it.”
Design #55-5, the four earlier in 1955 being refits, soon appeared on the draughting table of Dad’s. In the spring of 1956, Cliff Richardson Boats Limited of Meaford, Ontario began work on her. Every Thursday, Norm and George would drive up to see her and what Dad thought was painfully slow progress. These trips even became part of the dating ritual between Dad and my mother Helen, where she would join him and Norm onoccasion for the day’s drive.
On August 8 1958, the 54’ Inishfree was launched and a week later she was headed for Toronto and the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. In her second race she won the Prince of Wales Cup, the final race of 1958. By 1960 she was racing in the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit, finishing 24th of a fleet of 135 and 8th in class. 1962, Norm’s heart called him back to 8 Meters , she was sold, continued to race on the Great Lakes during the summers and the S.O.R.C. in the winters doing well on both waters.
Her third owner, Alec Rigby, took her again south in the fall of 1973, off Elizabeth City, North Carolina, she hit a shoal and started taking on water. The severe conditions, meant that they could only lash her to the Frying Pan Texas Tower in an attempt to keep her safe. In the morning with pumps supplied by the U.S. Coast Guard, and under their tow she headed for Morehead City. She never saw land again, the damage from being secured to the Texas Tower in the weather was too much and the water came in faster than the pumps could handle.
In what was a simple request from someone who saw the light in Dad’s eyes, it sparked a revolution in the yachting world…
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