Tag Archives: uffa

‘I had a beautiful yacht… ‘

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Photos of Aerial by Phil Smith

Phil Smith has written to show us these photos, and to tell us about his airborne lifeboat Aerial, which he had in the 1980s in New Zealand.

‘In the early eighties I had a beautiful yacht called Aerial. She was 23 feet long, around six foot of beam, floated in ankle deep water, and went like the wind.

‘Her name derived from the fact that she was an airborne lifeboat designed for use in rescuing downed aircrew from the North Sea during World War II.

‘Built of double-diagonal mahogany on dozens of thin oak ribs with epoxy dynel sheathing, she was a strong but slippery boat and surprisingly seaworthy. Stability was provided by a heavy steel quadrant shaped centreplate and on either side of the centrecase were the tangs from which the parachute harness was attached.

‘The airborne lifeboats were designed by British naval architect and maritime legend Uffa Fox to fit under the hull of a medium bomber.Within the hull were numerous watertight lockers which, as well as providing buoyancy, contained food, water, first aid things and sailing equipment.

‘The boat was dropped by parachute to survivors in the sea who would rig the mast and rudder and sail to safety.

‘On my first day out I was apprehensive about going alone. It was 10 knots, gusting to15, and Aerial looked like she could be a bit of a handful.

‘A very experienced yachting friend, just returned from a solo voyage from Tahiti, came and officiated. To my horror and delight he sheeted her hard in and, with four bums on the gunwale and my friend grinning wickedly at the tiller, we took off up the harbour in a cloud of spray.

‘She tacked perfectly, sat nice and straight downwind, didn’t slam into chop and never looked like putting a spreader in the water though we tried hard!

‘Because of the strong tides and sometimes fluky winds in the area I fitted a 4hp Evinrude to a light transom bracket and she became unstoppable under power.

‘A relative of Uffa Fox’s Flying 15, Aerial was rigged like a small trailer-sailer, and while simple to launch she was a swine to retrieve due to her length and lack of any keel.’

Thanks Phil – that’s a super story. I wonder whether any of these conversions are sailing now?

Follow the link for more on airborne lifeboats at intheboatshed.net.

PS I’ve been sent these photos of an airborne lifeboat looking very like Phil’s being carried by a US Coastguard plane. My informant, a kind chap called Eric, has no idea where he found them, so if anyone feels I have infringed their copyright in putting these small images us, please contact me and I will take them down immediately. However I would be grateful to be able to leave them in place – the airborne lifeboat story is an important one and should be remembered. Thanks Eric!

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Fairey Marine boat owners have a new website

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Atalanta owned by Dominic Dobson. As usual, click on the photo for a larger image

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A white-hulled Atalanta and a teal blue-hulled Titania photographed at
the Beale Park Thames Boat show a couple of years ago

Owners of boats made by Fairey Marine have created a new website and forum at http://www.atalantaowners.org.uk.

The Atalanta light displacement drop-keel sailingl cruiser was conceived in 1955 by Alan Vines, a senior executive at Fairey. It was developed with the expertise of Uffa Fox, and made from hot moulded agba veneers using a technology originally developed for wooden aircraft during World War II.

Although the prototype was 24ft long – named Atalanta she is is still sailing the East Coast with the sail number A1 – but by the time the finalised boat went into production, the length had been increased to 26ft in order to improve her accommodation.

The company went on to produce other drop-keel sailing cruisers using the same methods, the Titania, the larger Atalanta 31 and the smaller Fulmar.

Although the hot-moulded agba veneer proved to be strong, light, durable and repairable, the designs eventually became uncompetitive compared with GRP boats, and production ceased in the early 1970s, after some 278 boats of all four types had been built. Today, over 130 continue to be owned by members of the Association.

For a post about some hot- moulded Fairey Marine-built dinghies, click here.

I gather that Atalanta Owners’ patron is ex Fairey director Charles Currey, whose airborne lifeboat converted for racing can be seen here.

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Dominic’s Atalanta on Coniston Water shows the benefit of sailing a trailer-sailer

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Emma Duck, which I gather belongs to Association member Tom Lawton. Now, is she an Atalanta or a Titania? The teal-blue hull may be a clue – or not!


A sailor for all seasons

 

Charles Stock is a national treasure to those of us who sail around the coasts of the UK, particularly those of us on a small budget.

Stock, you see, has sailed over 70,000 nautical miles in Shoal Waters, a little gaff-rigged 16-ft centreboarder he built in 1963 using a hull designed by Uffa Fox and hot-moulded by Fairey – and all without an engine.

Like the good farm manager he used to be, through it all he has kept a meticulous log of his voyaging and his costs, and written one of the best and most endearing manuals of small-boat cruising that I know: Sailing Just for Fun. This book is simply bursting with good advice and encouragement for owners of small sailing boats, and could not have been written with more authority. From the first page you know that Stock has been there and done it, and knows exactly what he’s talking about – 70,000 nautical miles in a small boat like Shoal Waters adds up to more days sailing than most people could pack into several lifetimes.

It probably goes without saying that in his home waters on the Essex coast he long ago became a legend for sailing almost all year round, often in conditions that send other, much larger boats scurrying home.

For Charles Stock’s website:

http://shoal-waters.moonfruit.com/

 

Shoal Waters