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Jack Holt, a designer for the sailor of today

by Rupert Whelan 25 May 2012 15:30 BST 7-8 July 2012
Jack Holt, with wife Iris and one of Jack's Merlin dinghies 'Fiddlesticks' © The Holt Family

With the date of the Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club Holt Centennial just over a month away (7/8 July), I thought it was a good time to look at what Holt means to the sailing scene of today, rather than looking back at what was happening 50 years ago.

A quick glance at the Nationals attendance figures for the last few years showed that Holt and his designs are still some of the most popular boats sailed in this country. No other designer comes close to the number of classes featuring in the 50+ club. In 2011, Solo (95), Cadet (80), Mirror (77), Enterprise (58), and GP14 (52) all broke the 50 barrier, whilst the Streaker and Miracle have also had 50 attendees in recent years.

This, of course, only brushes the surface of the popularity of the designs. Huge Open Meeting circuits still abound, giving some of the tightest, most skilful racing seen in the UK. The Cadet and Mirror still introduce children to the lifelong joys of sailing small boats in competitive fleets.

At clubs all round the country, Jack Holt boats, whether brand new or old enough to claim a pension, are being raced, cruised or mucked about in by people who are also either brand new (my daughter was 6 weeks old when she went in a Mirror for the first time) or, dare we say it, old enough to claim a pension – and sometimes old enough to have been claiming it for a couple of decades.

All these people (well, maybe not the 6 week old) have chosen Jack Holt boats because they still do their job so well, whether it is going for a picnic on the beach or spending a week racing hard.

So, celebrating the life of such a man isn’t just about getting the old, classic boats out. To truly see how his greatness lives on, the Holt Centennial Weekend would welcome modern, recently built versions of Holt’s designs, too. The handicap system will allow us to see just how much faster his designs have become when built from modern materials with newly cut sails, but we will also be giving a class prize to the winner of any design with an entry of 5 boats or more. So maybe get some of your mates together and pop along to celebrate the life of the man who made all this possible?

More information and entry forms can be found at and at

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