One of the last great sailing-ship captains, Reuben de Cloux (1884-c.1940) commanded four different Finnish deep-water sailers between 1919 and 1933. Captain de Cloux's first command was the four masted barque Lawhill
, in which he had previously served as first mate
. de Cloux made two fast and profitable Europe-to-Australia
voyages in the Lawhill
. His success enabled owner Gustaf Erikson
to expand his fleet, and in 1921, Erikson sent Captain de Cloux to look at the German four-masted barque Passat
, laid up in Marseilles, France
, with an asking price of 11,000 pounds. On his way to Marseilles, Captain de Cloux saw the four-master Herzogin Cecilie
, also German, and bought her for 4,000 pounds instead.
De Cloux assumed command of the Cecilie, and won two of the unofficial yearly "grain races" from Australia to England in her, in 1927 and 1928. The 1928 race was highly publicized, as the Cecilie under Captain de Cloux and the Swedish four-master Beatrice left Port Lincoln, Australia, on the same day. A group of Swedish businessmen put up a silver cup, and sailor-journalist Alan Villiers sailed on the Cecilie as an able seaman. De Cloux won the race, beating the Beatrice and the several other square-riggers that made the voyage that year, with a time of 96 days. Villiers' book Falmouth for Orders is an excellent account of that trip.
Not long after, De Cloux left the Erikson line, and became part-owner of a small iron barque named Plus. When the Plus's captain proved unsatisfactory, de Cloux replaced him. A chance meeting on the London docks with Villiers led to both men purchasing another German four-masted barque, the Parma, for only 2,000 pounds. De Cloux captained the Parma, and Villiers was second mate. Parma won the grain race in 1932 and 1933 under De Cloux-- the only two voyages he made in her. In 1932 she beat Gustaf Erikson's Pamir by a matter of hours, and in 1933, set the post-WW1 record with an 83-day voyage from Australia to England.
After a short run taking Finnish timber to London, de Cloux left sailing ships for good. He did some farming, and commanded a steamer which he eventually lost on the coast of Norway. It was reputed that De Cloux could control the winds, and he did compile an impressive record of good passages with ships that were not clippers by any means, and often were woefully undermanned.