Category Archives: Sailing boat

Thames Estuary One Design for sale

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Pssst… How about an 18ft Thames Estuary One Design for the summer?

At this time of year, many people will be thinking about what to sail in the coming season – and for someone this could be the ideal boat.

Fiona, fomerly Mercury, was built in Burnham on Crouch in 1936, and is for sale by the International Boatbuilding Training College following a major restoration. The college folks say a few minor touches would be needed to finish her off.

The story goes that in 1911 Southend’s Alexandra Yacht Club asked designers to draw up a one-design boat that would be able to sit on the estuary mud at low tide. Both Morgan Giles and May of Hammersmith submitted plans for an 18ft sailing dinghy with a lifting keel and optional rig of up to 220 sq ft. The Morgan Giles boat was adopted, but with the sail area reduced to 210 sq ft.

A number of members agreed to purchase new boats at a meeting in December 1911. Drake Brothers of Tollesbury won a tender and built ten boats, and the first race took place in May 1912. Read more history here.

More detail about the boat is available at Sailboatdata.com.

Torbay J class yachts

These photographs of the Torbay J Class 2 yachts Dolphin (ex Sonnet) and Suzette were sent in by owner Ingo Werner, who lives on the island of Usedom in the North-East of Germany, and has got in touch after meeting Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis. Thanks Marcus!

Two years ago he bought Torbay J Suzette, which was built by Louis Gale of Paignton in 1920. I think they look like very pleasant and wholesome cruising and racing boats – and I must say I’m curious about how they sail.

Here’s what he says about them:

‘About 20 Torbay Js were built, the most of them by Louis Gale.

Suzette was converted to a yawl in the 1950s.

‘Last year I had the chance to acquire another Torbay J. Her name when I bought her was Dolphin, but her original name was Sonnet, and she was built in 1936.

When I saw her in January she was in a shed, and had not been in the water for two or more years.

In February I trailered her to my workshop in Germany. Unfortunately her condition was worse then expected, but happily the rot mainly in the deck, which is easier to repair. The planking and the bent frames are in good shape, and I plan to put her back in the water the next season.

‘Next week I will replace some frames on Suzette with the help of a professional boat builder, who might also help replacing the deck on Dolphin.

‘To cut a long story short: next year Suzette and Dolphin will race against each other.

‘I have already had two really nice sailing seasons with Suzette, taking part in the Classic Week 2014 at Flensburg, Sonderborgh, Kiel, Eckernförde, and Kappeln this year.

‘I feel a bit guilty about kidnapping two of these fine small boats from UK to Germany, but both were standing two or more years in a shed or in a container, so I also felt that I had take care of them because there seemed no one else!

‘But I have an idea. It might be unrealistic but why not give it a try…

‘I’d like to revive the Torbay J Class 2. There is another boat in UK that I know of called Nautilus that was restored by Joh Iley a few years ago. Maybe it would be possible to get in contact with John Iley with the help of your weblog?

‘I also was told that there is another Torbay J around that was converted to a launch.

‘How brilliant would it be to build up a small fleet of new Js in Germany and another one in Devon and Cornwall and race against each other! One year in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, the next year in Germany and so on. Maybe it would be possible to organise a big revival regatta starting of Paignton in a few years.

Dolphin came with some historical material about the class, together with some old photos.

‘The silver model of Dolphin (photographed) was cast in 1960, and may be around somewhere – if it could be found it could be the challenge cup of the regatta!

‘It would be so great to get in contact with people who like the idea or maybe know something more about other boats.’

‘Ingo

‘PS: I have read the book Catalan Castaway a few weeks ago. Brilliant book!’

Contact me at gmatkin@gmail.com, and I will forward your messages and emails to Ingo.

PPS – Bill Serjeant has written to tell me about his time of owning a J4. His boat was Phillida, pictured below, and he has put up several posts about the boat and his adventures with her, including a trip to Alderney at his popular weblog, Bill’s Log. Oh – and he answer’s my question about the boat’s performance…

Bill Serjeant's Torbay j4 Phillida

A-raters sailing at close quarters on the Thames

A-raters racing at Bourne End on the Thames. My thanks to Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis for spotting this one!

Read about the A-raters here,