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Gorch Fock (1958)
Gorch Fock unter Segeln Kieler Foerde 2006.jpg
Career (Germany)
Namesake: pseudonym of Johann Kinau
Owner: German Navy (Deutsche Marine)
Builder: Blohm & Voss
Launched: 23 August 1958
Commissioned: 17 December 1958
Homeport: Kiel
Identification: NATO pennant number A60
Call sign: DRAX
Maritime Mobile Service Identity number: 211210280
Nickname: Gorch Fock II
Status: in active service, as of 2013
General characteristics
Class & type: Type 441 student ship
Displacement: 1760 tons
Length: 81.2 m (266 ft)
Beam: 12 m (40 ft)
Draught: 5.2 m (17 ft)
Installed power: 1,220 kW (1660 hp)
Propulsion: Sail, auxiliary six-cylinder diesel engine
Sail plan: three-masted barque
Speed: 13.7 knots under power

The Gorch Fock is a tall ship of the German Navy (Deutsche Marine). She is the second ship of that name and a sister ship of the Gorch Fock built in 1933. Both ships are named in honour of the German writer Johann Kinau who wrote under the pseudonym "Gorch Fock" and died in the battle of Jutland/Skagerrak in 1916. The modern-day Gorch Fock was built in 1958 and has since then undertaken 146 cruises (as of October 2006), including one tour around the world in 1988. She is sometimes referred to (unofficially) as the Gorch Fock II to distinguish her from her older sister ship.

The ship

Gorch Fock at a pier in the evening.

Germany lost all of its school ships as war reparations after World War II to the Allies, so the (West) German Bundesmarine decided in 1957 to have a new training vessel built following the plans for the original Gorch Fock of 1933 which by that time was owned by the Soviets, and renamed to Tovarishch. The new ship was a modernized repeat of the Albert Leo Schlageter, a slightly modified sister ship of the previous Gorch Fock.

The 1933 Gorch Fock had already been designed to be a very safe ship: she had a righting moment large enough to bring her back into the upright position even when heeling over to nearly 90°. Nevertheless some last-minute changes to the design were made in response to the Pamir disaster in 1957, especially concerning the strength of the body and the bulkheads as well as the lifesaving equipment, including the lifeboats.

The new ship was built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, launched on 23 August 1958, and commissioned on 17 December of that year. Her home port is Kiel. The Gorch Fock is a three-masted barque with a steel hull 81.2 m (266 ft) long (without the bowsprit) and 12 m (40 ft) wide. She has a draught of some 5.2 m (17 ft) and a displacement at full load of 1760 tons. Originally, she carried 1952 m² of canvas sails; later, she received slightly larger sails made of synthetic materials. The tops of her fore and main masts can be lowered so that she can navigate the Kiel Canal, otherwise she would be too tall for some of the bridges spanning the canal.

Over the years, various modernizations have been applied to the ship. She was fitted with air conditioning, the asbestos used originally was removed and replaced by less dangerous materials in 1991, and in that year she also received a new auxiliary engine, a six cylinder diesel engine producing 1,220 kW (1660 hp), giving the ship a top speed of 13.7 knots under power. The interior has also been modified multiple times; technological advances made it possible to reduce the size of the galley and enlarge the crew quarters.

Verso of the German 10-Mark-banknote, 3rd series

Line art of the Gorch Fock

Officially Gorch Fock is a Type 441 class naval ship with the NATO pennant number A60. Her international radio call sign is DRAX.

The Gorch Fock was depicted on the 10 DM banknote of the third series (1960–1990) issued by the Bundesbank and is therefore one of the most portrayed ships in the world.[1]

The Gorch Fock participates in sailing parades and Tall Ships' Races, where she is in amicable rivalry with the Italian vessel Amerigo Vespucci. Other ships of the same class include the USCGC Eagle, Sagres III, Gorch Fock (1933) and Mircea.

The figurehead

Gorch Fock's figurehead (2006), the design was created by Heinrich Schroeteler, a former U-boat commander during World War II.

The Gorch Fock has lost her Figurehead on several occasions:

  • The first albatross from 1958 was lost after a few years.
  • Its replacement was made of wood, like the original.
  • In 1969, the replacement was removed and replaced by a figurehead made of polyester to save weight.
  • This albatross broke off when the Gorch Fock was being overhauled in 2000. It was replaced by a new one made of wood.
  • On 11 December 2002, the Gorch Fock figurehead was lost in a storm. The replacement was also made of wood.
  • Again, the figurehead broke off in a storm on 5 December 2003. On 24 February 2004, the ship was fitted with a new albatross, this time made of carbon fibre reinforced polyester.

The cruises

Beyond the German naval ensign, the complicated rigging of the Gorch Fock can be seen.

The Gorch Fock has been in German Navy service as a school ship since 1958. More than 14,500 cadets have been trained on the Gorch Fock.[2]

In 1987-88, she sailed around the world, with stops on five continents. Lasting 336 days, this was her second longest cruise, topped only by a training cruise in 1996-97 from Kiel to Bangkok and back that lasted 343 days.[2]

Over the last 50 years, at least six sailors have died in accidents aboard the Gorch Fock, either by falling from the rigging or by going overboard. Recent fatalities include an 18-year-old officer-candidate who drowned after falling off the training ship in the North Sea at night on 3 September 2008. On 7 November 2010, a female officer-candidate died as a consequence of falling from the rigging. The accident happened during an exercise while the ship was moored in the port of Salvador da Bahia (Brasil).[3] In the aftermath of the latest accident, naval cadets refused to climb the 40-metre mast, and four of them were subsequently accused of "inciting rebellion".[4] This was described as a mutiny in some accounts. Officers' training on board the Gorch Fock was suspended pending a thorough review of training protocols and indeed the entire training program. According to a 19 November 2010 statement by Fleet Command, the officer candidates then on board were to be flown back to Germany to continue their training[3] while the ship was docked in Ushuaia, Argentina.[4] The captain was suspended, and a commission was appointed to investigate claims of sexual harassment and improper conduct.[5] On 13 March 2011, all charges against the captain were dismissed.[6]


External links

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