Crystal class

The Crystal class was a 22′ 6″ GRP sloop designed by Alan Buchanan that came into production at the beginning of the 1960’s. Hulls were produced by French Bros. as well as Seamaster and then fitted out by Stebbings. Fin and bilge keel versions were produced.

Later, the Crystal’s accommodation was modified and production transferred to Offshore Yachts of Royston, Hertfordshire, where the boat was renamed the Halcyon 23 and made in quite large numbers.

The Crystal was designed for inshore and coastal cruising but some examples have ventured further afield. The best documented of these is the journey to Aden in 1962 of Cape Albacaore, a Crystal bought by 21st SAS officer Peter de la Billiere (later General Sir Peter) in 1961 and fitted out specifically for long-distance cruising (although he couldn’t afford the optional engine). Peter’s companion for the trip, Julian Howard, a captain in the Royal Artillery, was recruited after answering an ad in army Routine Orders. General Sir Peter in his autobiography Looking for Trouble recalls, “he replied expecting a rich officer with a large yacht which he wanted positioning out there. When he found that the advertiser not only had no yacht but had never sailed and was colour blind, he was not a little surprised”.

The voyage from Falmouth to Aden via the Suez canal took over three months, although there was a three week break in Gibraltar. Storms were endured early in the voyage but later they would become becalmed in the Mediterranean, “our lack of progress was demonstrated all too well by an incident on 23 April: at 0600 we threw an empty honey-pot over the side and took a dozen abortive shots at it with the revolver which we had brought for self-defence against pirates in the Red Sea. Eight hours later, as I was on watch, I noticed something in the water, and found to my chagrin that it was our target, which had spent all day floating around in a huge circle”.

Looking for Trouble: SAS to Gulf Command by General Sir Peter de la Billiere was first published in 1994 by Harper Collins.

Photos copyright of Trevor Davies. Reproduced with kind permission.

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