Two more Ian Proctor plastic classics: the Wayfarer and Topper

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Ian Proctor’s legendary Wayfarer


Designer Ian Proctor put it this way:

‘This is what the Wayfarer design is all about, with its robust and beamy hull, its fore-and-aft buoyancy tanks that can be used for dry stowage of cruising gear, its flat, raised, draining cockpit floor, its pivoted mast lowering in a tabernacle, its sidebenches that can be removed and swung around athwartships to provide more sleeping space on the floor as well as greater night time stowage, its sunken self-draining aft deck.

‘And when we came to think of a name for this boat I called her the Wayfarer…..a wanderer, a stroller from place to place.’

Today, the 15ft 10 in long by 6ft in beam Wayfarer is one of Proctor’s most famous designs: a boat which has successfully bridged the gap between racing and cruising dinghies. It is also very popular for teaching novice sailors, as it inspires confidence with its feeling of safety and stability. He was inspired to design the boat while working on the design of racing dinghies, and could not resist building some racing performance into the design.

Today there are many sailing clubs with substantial racing fleets of Wayfarers, and there have been some seven different versions of this classic boat, from wooden hulls through to high-tech composites, and approximately 10,000 have been built.

Perhaps the most famous Wayfarer is Frank and Margaret Dye’s much-travelled and much loved Wayfarer dinghy, Wanderer, which can be seen on the ground floor of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Ian Proctor’s popular Topper


While the Wayfarer may be Proctor’s most loved design, the 11ft 1n by 3ft 11in in beam Topper is probably his most popular design. Popular with young and novice sailors all over the world, it is recognized as a full International class by the ISAF and is an RYA approved youth class. There is a thriving junior racing class in Britain.

The boat has a theoretical maximum capacity of two people, although I’ve seen many more than two kids in these boats on warm summuer days. The Topper’s shallow design and buoyancy means it takes on practically no water when capsized and righted, which allows one to keep sailing even after numerous capsizes.

Ian Proctor’s popular Topper

In racing it is helmed single-handedly with a Portsmouth Yardstick of 1290.

The Topper was originally designed by Proctor in 1969 to be built out of glass reinforced plastic. In the late 1970s the boat was re-engineered to be made of injection moulded polypropylene, and sales then soared, as the new material was highly resistant to damage, and easy to repair.

At the time the Topper was the largest injection moulded mass production plastic component in the world.

It is easily carried on the roof of a car. The mast splits into two sections, allowing the spars to be stored and transported inside the boat. The rig itself is very simple, making it an ideal boat for novice sailors.

In 1977 the Topper won a Design Council Award and the Horner Award for achievements in plastics.

Don’t miss the Ian Proctor exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Thanks to Andy Wyke of the museum for information and photos used in this post.

For more on Proctor, follow this link:

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