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Barton Marine 2019 728x90

At least 60 boats to celebrate Uffa's legacy

by John Roberson 14 Aug 09:59 BST 18-21 August 2022
Mike Dixon A1, the prototype Atalanta yacht © Atalanta Association

The Royal London Yacht Club in Cowes has already received 60 entries for their Uffa Fox 50 Celebration, a month before the 18th - 21st August event, with more arriving almost every day. From his Atalanta range of cruising boats to the humble Firefly, the breadth and depth of his extraordinary design and boat building talent will be represented.

Amongst the most recent entries is Vigilant, a 22 Square Metre, that Uffa designed and built in 1930 and then sailed to Sweden and back. The boat has recently been restored by the Elephant Boatyard and is now for sale.

This celebration of Uffa's legacy was initiated by the Atalanta Association, who approached Mark McNeill, Chair of the Classic Boat Museum, Cowes, he got the ball rolling and handed over the hosting of the event to the Royal London Yacht Club, with Peter Taylor heading the team.

Probably the most internationally known of his racing classes is the Flying Fifteen and they are the most numerous entry in this event, helped by their European Championships being hosted by Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club the following week. To date 21 of these boats are entered with entries from as far afield as Western Australia and Spain, with boat number 28 being the oldest.

The array of vintage International 14s will be stunning, with a number of boats dating back to the 1930s in the line up. This was the class in which Uffa made his breakthrough in dinghy design with Avenger, the first planing dinghy. She was designed in 1928, he went on to achieve the incredible record of 52 firsts from 57 starts, including the coveted Prince of Wales Cup. He even sailed her across the Channel, won a regatta in Le Havre and sailed her back again.

The Firefly is still a favourite amongst university and school sailing clubs and is the default boat for many team racing events. Their original hot moulded construction method was an innovation in boat building promoted by Uffa. Firefly no. 17 is amongst the six strong line up for the regatta.

Other classes represented will be the Albacore, National 12, National 18 and National Redwing. Then there are rare examples of a Flying 10, an American Frostbite Dinghy and a Harrier 20.

Amongst the keelboats will be a selection of Atalantas and the aforementioned Vigilant plus Mary Lunn, a 35 foot one-off yawl dating back to 1940. She was built in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, for Raymond Thornton. Both hull and decks are of Indian teak, which is harder than the Burmese variety. While she is 35 foot overall, the waterline is only 25 feet, with Uffa explaining the long overhangs, "it is safer for the yachtsman to have solid deck beneath his feet than to balance on the bowsprit or bumkin, conventional for a yawl".

Mark McNeill said commented on the rising entry list, "we are thrilled at the number of entries at this early stage and look forward to more people entering in the coming weeks. It has also been fabulous how the Cowes community has got behind this event, that celebrates an important part of their history."

The opening reception for the event will be held at the "Commodore's House", right on the shores of Cowes Harbour, the building where Uffa lived, had his design office and built a few boats. The dinghies taking part will be berthed on Cowes Parade when not sailing, so on view for the public to admire, while there is rumour that a very famous Flying Fifteen may also be on display.

They have received sufficient support from the local community that entry is free, Red Funnel ferries are offered half price fares, and those who bring a boat to the Island get a £100 rebate when they register. This promises to be a feast of nostalgia and some great sailing, with a full social programme. This starts with an illustrated talk at the Royal London Yacht Club by Mike Dixon, Uffa's great nephew, using material from the family archives. This is before the opening reception.

On the Friday evening there is a reception at the Classic Boat Museum, and the Saturday ends with the Regatta Supper and prize-giving at the Royal London Yacht Club. Throughout the event there are options for evening meals at the Royal London, the Island Sailing Club and the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club.

Find out more at www.uf50.org