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Poole Regatta - Steeped in racing history

by Chris Jones 22 Aug 10:34 BST
Poole Regatta and Poole flying boat history © Poole Flying Boat Celebration /

The International Paint Poole Regatta returns over the weekend of the 30th April 2022, but did you know picturesque Poole Harbour has a long and rich history of racing sailing, with something to discover whichever way you turn.

Recently regatta president Andrew Pearce came across an old photo showing yacht racing against the background of flying boats and seaplanes.

It turns out that Poole was a serious airport as well as harbour during the 1930s and 40s! It was also the birthplace of BOAC, a predecessor of modern-day British Airways. It all came about when flying boat operations were moved from Southampton Water at the start of the war due to the risk of air raids.

With seven runways spread around the harbour, flying boats and seaplanes headed from the UK across to the USA and out to the furthest corners of the British Empire. It is said that up to 24 passenger flying boats were based in Poole with BOAC employing 600 local people.

During the war, the passenger fleet was joined by aircraft operated from RAF Hamworthy with 461 squadron of the Royal Australian Airforce using Sunderland Flying Boats to attack German U-Boats in the channel and then later 210 squadron, who operated twelve American Catalina aircraft in a similar role.

The harbour was a hive of civil and military flight activity, but clearly opportunities for yacht racing still existed. The image shows XODs racing amongst the BOAC flying boats. The equivalent of motor racing around Heathrow airport. How times have changed!

The X One Design was the vision of Alfred Westmacott, the Managing Director of Woodnutts Boatyard at St Helens on the Isle of Wight. The yard built small day racing boats and designs included the Seaview Mermaid, Solent Sunbeam and Victory. XOD racing first took place in Southampton Water in 1911 under the organisation of the MYC (later to become the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Poole). By the outbreak of the First World War ten boats had been built, but building was suspended, resuming in 1923 and continuing until 1939, when the fleet stood at 81 yachts. It once again stopped during WW2 and resumed in 1946 with production then running through to current day.

At the start of WW2 XOD divisions had been established at Parkstone, Lymington, Itchenor and Hamble, so it is highly likely the yachts in the above image are from the Parkstone division. The 2018 International Paint Poole Regatta saw five XODs out racing in a similar location in the harbour to those seen in the image from 80 years ago. Six races were run, with X40 "Kyperini" and David Law on helm winning the class.

She was built in 1929 so could well have been sailing out of view of the camera as well. Sadly, none of the pictured yachts raced in 2018, but the XODs class will be back at the International Paint Poole. Of the XODs in the image, we understand hulls 9 and 14 are now part of the Lymington division and sadly 28 sank and was lost in 1977.

Poole Regatta 2022 provides another opportunity for these historic yachts to recreate a part of this image. Is it in your diary yet? To find out more about the history of flying boats in Poole visit www.pooleflyingboats.comand and for information about the 2022 regatta visit

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