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February 27, 2020 New Life for Elixir: Classic yacht restored in Mylor for global adventure

With its international reputation for creating luxurious superyacht tenders and custom-built motor launches that combine style with seakeeping, Cockwells Modern & Classic Boatbuilding is at the forefront of contemporary boat design.

When Classic Boat magazine’s 2018 Yachtsman of the Year, Max Campbell fell for a classic Swan sailing yacht in need of some of some serious TLC, there was only one place to restore her – at stepfather, Dave Cockwell’s Mylor Creek Boatyard.


As soon as Max returned to Falmouth after his single-handed Atlantic crossing in the 22’ wooden sloop, Flying Cloud in 2016, he began to plan his next voyage, to sail around the world. The only problem was that Flying Cloud was too small. Max had pushed her to her limits and he needed a more capable vessel. The hunt was on.


Languishing at the head of a Cornish creek following the sad passing of her long-time owner, and covered in moss and leaves, lay a memory of the yacht – Elixir – who had sailed the Atlantic circuit and rounded Cape Horn back in the day.


“With her gel coat cracked by 49 years of sunshine, rotten teak toe-rails, crumbling winches and bent stanchions, there was certainly a lot of work to be done, but as soon as I saw Elixir, I knew instantly that she was the boat that would take me and my friends around the world,” explains Max.


A year-long labour of love ensued. Those friends with absolutely no experience of boat restoration learned more and more from Cockwells’ artisan shipwrights as Elixir was stripped back to her hull and rebuilt, piece by piece, driven by a passion for exploration, self-fulfilment and sustainability, to experience tropical climes and ride perfect waves.


Under the banner of Un-tide, Max and his fellow ocean activists aim to document their voyage through photography, film and writing, using Elixir to guide them through a changed planet – with its warmed oceans, discarded plastic and communities at the mercy of rising waters – ‘un-tide’ from the rigmarole of traditional travel, immovable plans and endless expenses, and without the carbon footprint.


“If you are really passionate about a dream, you will do completely irrational things to make it happen,” adds Max. “Passion provoked me to work excessively long hours without a second thought, to figure things out and learn so much that I didn’t know from some of the best craftsmen in the boatbuilding business. It was a massive curve for all of us.”


Dave Cockwell was one such mentor who not only acted as consultant to the restoration project but also agreed to co-own Elixir in return for Max’s time and a chance to visit her in far-flung destinations – a spot of island-hopping in the Caribbean or searching for paradise in the South Pacific, perhaps.


“Everything I know about building and maintaining boats, I’ve learned from him,” says Max. “I invest time. He invests craftsmanship and materials. We both get to go sailing.”


Elixir has been restored to her original condition but quirks of modern-day innovation have been added to the mix. The team have glassed in some carbon fibre to the old rudder; windows have been replaced with polycarbonate glass, and an electric windlass has been fitted. Cutting-edge CNC techniques have been just as useful as archaic polishing machines that run on compressed air to refurbish and recreate deck fittings.


“One of the most rewarding things about this restoration journey is how me and my friends, who are photographers, environmentalists and outdoorsy-types, have worked so closely with Cockwells’ boatbuilding apprentices and traditional craftsmen to breathe life back into Elixir, and prepare her for an adventure of a lifetime,” concludes Max. “On the morning of the 20th January, the long-awaited day of departure dawned. We waved goodbye to our families and friends as they stood on the frosty pier at Port Pendennis, and sailed into the low winter sun, bound for Cape Finisterre. We are now on our way to cross oceans and navigate the planet!”


For further information about Cockwells’ Mylor Creek Boatyard and the range of services that are provided, click here.


To follow Elixir’s progress and for further information about Un-tide, visit their website and follow @un.tide on Instagram, @un_tide on Twitter and @untide on Facebook.

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