By William Mills
During Panerai’s British Classic Week 2016 we got to see many beautiful and interesting yachts, and none more so than former prime minister Ted Heath’s Morning Cloud.
Built of shining mahogany in 1971 and designed by Sparkman & Stephens she measures 42ft LOA.
Up until the 1960’s the Admiral’s Cup was a little known yacht race between Britain, USA, and Australia which barely made the sport’s pages of the national press.
In 1970 yacht owner Ted Heath won the General Election and everything changed. The Fastnet became headline news, especially as the prime minister was competing in it.
Ted Heath owned five yachts and he retained the name ‘Morning Cloud’ transferring it from yacht to yacht.
The second of these famous boats was in Cowes for Classic Week 2016 and has been renamed ‘Opposition’.
One of the crew showed me around and told me about the yacht’s fascinating history.
“She was sold in 1972 to a chap called Tony Morgan and Ted Heath kept the name Morning Cloud for his next yacht and tongue in cheek called her ‘Opposition’ because Ted Heath was prime minister at that time.
There have been five Morning Clouds and her successor sank and unfortunately the first one sank in the same storm which was washed off its moorings in Jersey. Heath won the Sydney Hobart Race in 1969. He was the smallest boat in the fleet and won by a very small margin and that gave him the kudos to become prime minister. It was one of the great ocean races and for a leader of the opposition to win, that it was amazing.
When he went for this boat he went for the latest technology and when this boat came out she wasn’t just a nice looking vessel, she was a rocket ship. Nobody had seen this before.
The yacht we see here today is the second Morning Cloud. When he won on this he was the only serving head of Government ever to captain an international team to victory. He won the Admiral’s Cup, he was team captain and he won the Admiral’s Cup on this boat, and he won with two other boats in the UK team, Cervantes and Prospect of Whitby.
This was built in 1971 and went into a campaign for the Admiral’s Cup selection and went on to win it.
It was sold in 1972 to Tony Morgan. He raced it until 1975 and then she came to the Clyde and was sold on and raced locally in Scotland.
The boat fell in a poor state before she was saved and the current owner has completed the restoration.
Today she only races in classic boat events. She doesn’t race in the likes of Cowes Week because she is too valuable and we are delighted to show people around her. The owner is very much of the opinion that people should see this beautiful and famous yacht.”