Carleton Mitchell, three-time winner in Finisterre (1956, 1958, 1960)
One of Finisterre’s regular crew, Bunny Rigg, put her success down to owner-skipper Carleton Mitchell’s “good admiralship” – meaning his powers of organization and leadership. Mitchell said this: “My theory was that the time to get everything right is before you leave the dock. And then, once you leave the dock, to be able to drive the hell out of the boat and never have to worry about something carrying away. And if anything did let go on you, the spares were on board with the know-how to put it back together.”
This confidence allowed Finisterre’s crew to drive hard all the time. “We have a basic tenet to keep moving at maximum speed in the wind of the moment. There must be either a trim or a shift in sails every time there is a variation.”
Mitchell was a perfectionist about navigation, but though he himself was a skilled celestial navigator, he signed on one other navigator of equal ability so a sight would be taken instantaneously when the overcast momentarily cleared.
Mitch (as everybody called him) firmly believed in the value of a well-fed, well-rested crew. After eating a fine meal prepared by the full-time cook, they climbed into their bunks with eye shades and ear plugs provided by the skipper. This approach paid off nicely in the tough final 100 miles of the demanding 1958 race, said Bunny Rigg: “These conditions called for a lot of rugged exertion in the last 12 hours of the race and many a crew was too fatigued at this stage of the game to do their best. Finisterre passed many of her competitors right there, rolling reefs in and out and changing headsails no less than 20 times with the fluctuations of the breeze simply because she had a well-rested crew.”