Three masted topsail schooner – Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill - Schooner

The 3 masted schooner – Sir Winston Churchill, in the Canaries March 1998

In March 1998, I was a very lucky person, getting a bursary to sail on Sir Winston Churchill in the Canaries for 10 days.  At the time I was doing a HND Leadership course when this opportunity arose, and through the fabulous hard work of my tutor I managed to get substantial funding to enable me to participate in this trip of a lifetime.  It was this trip that lead to my love of tall ships.

Sir Winston Churchill is a three masted schooner, 37 metres in length, that was launched in 1966 by the Sail Training Association (now known as The Tall Ships Youth Trust). Her sister ship Malcom Miller was launched two years later – with the only real difference being that Sir Winston Churchill had round topped doors whereas Malcolm Miller had square topped.  Sir Winston Churchill was built to take part in the Tall Ships Race at a time there was no other English vessel to enter the race.  She was built using public funding with half being raised by the Sail Training Association.  She has taken part in many races worldwide and won many awards.

Both ships, during their service with the Sail Training Association, have provided over 60,000 people, young and old, with the thrill and experience of sailing on a tall ship – giving them opportunities to develop skills such as team work, leadership, life, and citizen skills, all whilst increasing self-esteem and confidence.  I was one of those 60,000 people and will never forget my experience on board Sir Winston Churchill.

She would sail with a crew of 55, who were split into 3 watches who had to work as a team to handle the ship 24/7 whether she was at sea or in port, taking part in watches where you were on watch for 4 hours and then had 8 hours off – this happened around the clock.  The three watches were named after the three masts – Fore, Main and Mizzen – I was part of Fore Watch.  The total crew was made up of –

  • 5 qualified permanent crew – such as the Captain
  • 11 volunteer afterguard that included watch leaders and officers
  • 39 trainee/voyage crew (I was one of the 39)

The trainee/voyage crew had their living accommodation on the half-deck which is where we ate, slept, socialised and attended briefings.  This was not divided into sections, it was a case of all in together – boys and girls, young and old, sleep and eat – all in the same room basically.  There was no privacy on board apart from the male and female heads (toilets)!

The picture above shows the cramped conditions in the half deck with the table where we ate at in the foreground and then the bunks behind stacked three high throughout most of the half-deck.  I was lucky my birth was right at the fore of the ship and was only stacked two high – certainly felt more spacious than further back on the vessel.

Her rigging consists of –

  • Foremast – with one set of spreaders
  • Mainmast – with one set of spreaders
  • Mizzen mast – with two sets of spreaders
  • Crows nest on main mast

To read about my experience of going aloft to the crows nest and taking part in the ‘up and over’ then click here

Until I was doing some research about Sir Winston Churchill, I never realised that she has had some accidents in her history of sailing the seas including one before she was even launched!  Her accidents have included –

  • Toppling over onto her starboard side whilst being fitted out – breaking all three masts [1]
  • Sinking in January 1967 at Southampton [1]
  • Running aground in July 1967 at Holyhead [1]
  • and running aground again in July 1981 off Great Yarmouth [1] – at the time she had 60 female trainees on board!  No female driving jokes please.

Sadly she was sold in 2000 to company based in the Isle of Man, when she was replaced by her owners, Sail Training Association, with the brig, Prince William.  After she was sold she was refitted to create luxurious air-conditioned accommodation that had a capacity of 20 crew instead of the 55 she sailed with in the hands of the Sail Training Association.

Sir Winston Churchill Stats [2]

Built Hessle 1966
Official Number 308536
Call Sign GRZZ
Max Draft 4.9 metres
Overall Length 45.67 metres
Overall Beam 8.31 metres
Gross Tonnage 218
Nett Tonnage 61
Loaded Displacement 332.6 tonnes
Air Draft With Topmast 35 metres
Air draft Without Topmast 31.5 metres
Total Sail Area 811.8 square metres
Engines Ford Mermaid x2 202kw
Radars Racal Decca
Gyro Sperry
Echo Sounder Kelvin Hughes
Satcom C Thrane and Thrane
MF / HF Radio Marconi
Weatherfax Furuno
VHF Sailor and Furuno
Fire Detection Thorn Minerva

[1] Source – Wikipedia

[2] Source – Tall Ships Youth Trust History

Please let me know by leaving a comment if anything is incorrect or needs changing – or maybe you have some more information or photos that I can add.

Have you sailed on board Sir Winston Churchill – then why not share your story by commenting below, I would love to hear of your experiences.

At the request of Chris from Australia who sailed on Sir Winston Churchill in 1966 I tried tracking down some old footage and here are some fascinating old films of Sir Winston Churchill you may like to view






35 thoughts on “Three masted topsail schooner – Sir Winston Churchill

  1. Pingback: New page added – Three masted topsail schooner – Sir Winston Churchill | Spoons, Sailing, CRPS and Penguins

  2. 1 sailed on the sir winston churchill from southhampton i think in 1966 we sailed to la-harve in france and had a camera crew on board they made a short documentry which was shown in cinamas as a short news real i tried to track it down with no success i live in australia so it makes it a bit hard have u heard off such a movie i think the crew were from the bbc yours sincerly–chris

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Seven days of my life that I will never forget. I lost nine pound in weight even on six meals a day…..Three down and three up ! A terrific crew, from all over the World, a Vet from New Zealand, a professor from Tokyo Fumiaki Yoshiwara…we exchanged Xmas cards for twenty years…A retired Police Super from Coventry Peter McCloed, who has finished up in Rhonda SpainSome lovely ladies, two nurses, Susan, a Barrister.The retired Captain of the Canberra Liner…… What has happened to everyone..We used to call ourselves the Chain Gang ! A fantastic last night in Shoreham at the Yacht Club, where I sang the other version of Frere Jacques….How time has flown by.
    is anyone still out there ?

    Best wishes Alan Clark now in Leek Wootton Warwickshire, mile from the sea..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I sailed on the Sir Winston Churchill, in 1999 from Shoreham for 7 days, the weather was very bad,and we had to go in to the harbour Cher bourg ,we had a lady captain but I’m afraid I can not remember her name.I do remember having an experience I will never forget. Rosemary Richardson

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was on the Churchill in September 1983 . It was paid for by the rotary club and I had a wonderful time. Visited Jersey and Monte St Michael in France. The girls were on the Churchill and the boys the Malcom Miller. Have lots of photos to share one day .

    Liked by 1 person



  7. My father Captain Bob Rowe was Captain of the sir Winston Churchill and sir Malcolm miller for a number of years, possibly during mid to late seventies. In fact I was christened on the the sir Winston Churchill in 1976. I was also lucky enough to sail on the sir Winston in the mid nineties, on a trip from great Yarmouth to Amsterdam and then on to Weymouth. A wonderful trip with rough seas across the North sea, but fairer weather for the rest of the trip

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Mr Rowe,
    The reason i wanted to find out who the present owner of the ship is than many years ago i was in the printing business producing large reproduction prints many of which i kept a copy of. Having just moved home after 36 years i discovered in the loft i have a beautiful picture of the ship called Distant Isles painted by Victor Elford and printed in 1970 – the size is 40″ Inches wide X 29″ inches deep – would you be interested in it if so please e-mail me, and i can send you an e-mail of the picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was on the sir winston Churchill in 1989 we sailed from Southampton to Amsterdam and then to Cherbourg.there was a documentary made by BBC .any information would be greatly appreciated.thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I joined the RAF as a pilot officer in October 1969 and the first thing they did to me was to send me on a 3 week stint aboard the ‘Winston’. We set sail from MiIlford Haven on the early morning tide, straight into the teeth of a howling English Channel gale! It took us 5 days and nights of sailing to get to Alderney. I was so sea sick I couldn’t get out of my bunk for 3 days and I didn’t eat or drink at all until we got to the pub on Alderney. I’m told we broke the ship’s record for speed under sail and maximum angle on the deck. It was terrifying. After that we had some respite as we sailed on to St Malo where we found a pub with a Watney’s Red Barrel sign outside and a pretty blonde barmaid called Sylvia inside. We returned without stopping, to Southampton making the most of the good weather to ‘holystone’ the decks. Oh joy! we ‘manned the mast’ for our arrival but since the ship tied up in the timber yard nobody was there to see the display. I could bore you with the many minor adventures that are encrusted on my mind like sunbaked coral but in truth it was a hard, scary and pointless experience which I would not subject my sons to or volunteer to undertake again.


    • Hi Alf,
      I read with interest your story, I have a very large print in full color of the ship which if you are interested i would be prepared to sell you. If interested let me know with your e-mail address and i will send you a copy with full details.
      As far as I can find out she is now owned by a consortium based somewhere in Greece and rented out as a holiday ship.


    • Hi Alf,
      Read with interest your story, the print i describe of the ship is for sale, if you are interested please let me know & i can send you full details


  11. I sailed on Cruise 46 (November 1968) Birkenhead to Portsmouth, via Brest. Baptism of fire up aloft first night in Force 10 in the Irish Sea! Great crowd especially “Brum/Matelot” – are you still there, Brum?
    Then two stints on the Miler as Watch Leader, Cruise 16 (March 1969)London to Portsmouth via St. Malo. Another great bunch, especially Jethro and Bosun Jim; Are you out there JIm?
    And Cruise 28 (Oct/Nov 1969) Gosport to Port Talbot via Brest, Waterford, Newlyn. Another baptism (literally) on the bowsprit with Jim stowing wayward headsails – DRENCHED! Round Lands End in a big blow and sea, then bare poles up the Bristol Channel.
    Anyone else on those cruises? PLEASE, get in touch.
    I can honestly say that they taught me more about how to get on with my fellow humans than anything before or since.
    Happy days (well, not when seasick…..)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My father Sydney Barrow who lived in Gosport was quite an accomplished artist in his retirement from his job as a photographer in the Admiralty. He was active with the Gosport Art Club in Alverstoke in the 1980s. In 1982 he produced a large watercolour painting framed of the Sir Winston Churchill in Southampton Water in the Tall Ships Race. I have this painting at my home in Bollington, Macclesfield and would be willing to sell it to someone who wanted it. I have a large number of my late father’s paintings and feel that some of them should return to their native Hampshire.
    Do get in touch if you are interested.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Sir, in July 1983 or was it in 1982, I was trainee in the Winston Churchill. I was French and it was a marvelous experience, and all the crew was incredible. Britannia rules the wave.


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