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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Book review: Uffa - Yachting's eccentric genius

by Magnus Smith 3 Mar 17:00 GMT
Uffa - Yachting's eccentric genius by Malcolm Turner © SunRise

Last summer (August 2023) there was a large celebration in the Solent, marking 50 years since sailor and designer Uffa Fox passed away. Many of his popular dinghies and small keelboats raced, and - in some ways - this was nothing out of the ordinary, because those fleets were still going strong today! Uffa's legacy still lives on.

Not only did he design the Flying Fifteen, Firefly, Albacore, the first National 12, some unbeatable International 14s, various yachts, and more... he also invented the Airborne Lifeboat during the second world war, wrote several books, and made a record singing sea shanties. If you think it sounds like a busy and full life, then you should read the biography to see how much more crazy it really was.

Whilst I have an interest in classic dinghies and traditional yachts, I wasn't expecting to be particularly interested in a biography just because it covered the designer of such craft. But one of the delights of reviewing books is the unexpected gem that grips you. This is one such book!

I found myself chuckling out loud at Uffa's childhood exploits, and becoming more curious about his odd mix of skills. Of particular amusement was the details of his floating workshop in Cowes: how it was made, how the old features were reused, the finishing touches his wife added, and how council tax was avoided!

I really feel the pace is kept going at all times in this book. Apparently this is what life with Uffa was actually like!

It was sad to note how badly-managed his finances were, but remarkable that he managed to hit the top heights of dinghy design and wartime innovation regardless, leaving his legacy (one of many) in the form of a small keelboat racing class still considered "high performance" today.

The book ends with Uffa's ten commandments for living, which are rather focussed on eating, drinking, and how to use the toilet. What a shame that these alone won't make me into the genius that he really was! His is a fascinating story, well worth reading.

You can read the first chapter for free at:

Purchase the book (three formats) for a reduced price at:

The book is printed on very high quality gloss paper. Consequently the photos have more chance to shine, compared to most books of this genre.

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