30-ft stitch and glue Yachting World Diamond racer to join the Round the Island Race on her 50th birthday


Greg Dunn and his crew are to celebrate the 50th year of their Jack Holt-designed plywood racer Black Diamond by entering her in the Round the Island Race, raising sponsorship money for the RNLI as they go round (see their Just Giving page), and playing accordions at every possible opportunity.

Black Diamond is a Yachting World Diamond class racing yacht designed by Jack Holt in response to a brief from Yachting World to draw a 30ft keelboat, capable of being home-built.

Like the earlier Mirror dinghy also designed by Holt (with TV handyman Barry Bucknell), the stitch and glue YW Diamond was a deliberate attempt to open up the elitist world of yacht racing to the working man. The YW Diamond was also unusual for its time in that it is a planing keelboat – in that way it was in line with Uffa Fox’s Flying series of designs, including the Flying 15, Flying 30 and Flying 50.

But what about the accordions? Last year, Greg and partner Juliet Doyle founded a company marketing Chinese-made accordions and melodeons fitted with distinctive-sounding Italian reeds – and named it Black Diamond Accordions after Greg’s boat.

So we’re told to expect lots of accordion action before, after and possibly during the race from Greg himself and also from crew member James Delarre, a member of the popular folk-scene band Mawkin.

Greg says Black Diamond has survived until 2012 owing to a restoration that encapsulated the hull in epoxy resin, and will hopefully remain viable for the next 50 years.

Here’s what Greg has to say about Black Diamond:

‘In some ways, she is a Volkswagen, in that her design brief was a deliberate attempt to reduce the elitist image of keelboat racing in what was still the post-war epoch, although I’m sure the ‘you’ve never had it so good’ economy was starting to kick in.

‘Put simply, Yachting World recognised Holt’s use of stitch-and-glue plywood in the Mirror as having potential for a keelboats, and he was engaged to draw a lightweight keelboat capable of being home-built, that would give exciting performance on a modest budget.

‘What he created was the mother of all sportsboats. It does take the best part of a gale to make the hull plane, though, and never wanting to push my old Diamond that hard, I generally suffer by carrying the class yardstick, which definitely assumes planing conditions!

‘The keelboat Holt drew was basically a very large Mirror, but with the sheer line brought up to a bow rather than the pram we see in the dinghy. He also carried the lines including the hard chine that helps in planing well aft, also.

‘He also used the Nordic device of bringing the forestay down well aft of the bow, giving the boat a distinctive skerries-cruiser look.

‘The boats were originally called the YW Keelboat, but changed to the YW Diamond in 1967 to the Diamond. Boat number 1 was Zest, which I have recently seen in a shed in southern Holland, totally original and stripped back to the ply for repainting.

Black Diamond was professionally built (rather than home-built built) in 1962 and this is possibly the reason she’s still afloat, and was restored by a chap called Bob Rule in Portsmouth during the 90s. He encapsulated her in epoxy, and did a good job – I have only had to do a small section of repair under the port chainplates, after a hard winter in the open.

‘There is more of the story at the Bursledon Blogger weblog, more information about YW Diamonds in Australia here, and a very lively video of an Aussie Diamond sailing in 30-plus knots of wind here.

‘I have seen several adapted Diamonds, but the one that takes the biscuit is Saltash II in Brisbane, still a plywood hull, but sheathed, cabined and fenced, with a deep spade rudder, two foot aft of the rudder shown in the plans, a deep bulb keel and faired underwater section, a sugarscoop transom, narrow rigging and 6 feet extra on the mast. She holds the record for the Brisbane Hamilton race, 309 nautical miles in 31 hours!

‘There are many hybrids, as most Diamonds have been fiddled with at some time or other, including mine. The design had great qualities, but back in 1960, underwater dynamics were not then a fully explored science, and the keel and rudder are, quite frankly, disaster areas! I am planning to take the back edge down to a point next winter.

‘I did pay a small fortune to have a carbon fibre rudder designed and moved three foot aft, and this turned her into the last boat in the fleet to drop her spinny – the control we now have is utterly amazing! I’m not claiming to have had the idea: I went to Australia to research the Diamond, where they still race them as a class, with two guys on trapezes, and that was where I discovered Saltash II.’

In fact, the story of Black Diamond, Greg and the accordion business is one for the ‘small world’ file. I remember reading about the boat from Max the Bursledon Blogger’s website some years ago, and I knew Greg from his stand at music festivals and events such as Melodeons & More (some readers may spot someone familiar here). What I didn’t know was that there was a connection. How could I have guessed?

8 thoughts on “30-ft stitch and glue Yachting World Diamond racer to join the Round the Island Race on her 50th birthday”

  1. Jack Holt and Barry Bucknell made the Polycell Prout PUFFIN. “Build a Puffin in a weekend” was the sales slogan. My father bought a kit in about 1967 and built it well and we continue to have fun with it. Does anyone know if the plans are available anywhere. It would be great to build another.

  2. Goodness what a musical connection you have with this boat! The owner before Bob Rule was Baz Elms who kept it at Erith YC Baz is a muscian and used to tour with many of the big names including the Beatles. In a later life he was an important musical arranger. We used to race three diamonds at Erith. black diamond, harpoon and Zest. The ex owner of Zest still has a set of plans given to him by jack holt. Great boat, planes like mad on a reach but all the Erith boats were modified to have two people out on wires. You have a good one there – Bob rule loved epoxy – we got a 1932 snipe dinghy from him so coated.

  3. Now then. I bought a yachting world Diamond called Harpoon, around 1977 and sailed her to France. I went in to the canals and, under British Seagull outboard power , went all the way to the Med. Then on, under sail, into Spain. Then the money was more than half gone, so I came back the same way. Harpoon had to have a name change to get on the British Register, so she was called Dobbin. A guy in north Kent bought Dobbin, and said he planned to call her Harpoon again, as it was a better name than Dobbin. I now own another Diamond, called Ready..Steady, and keep her on the Blackwater.

  4. Hi Gavin, George, Iain and Paul, I have been in communication with the Yachting World Diamond Association in Victoria, Australia, which I’m told has the last active fleet of Diamonds in Australia (and for that matter, the world, as far as I am aware), which usually is six strong at weekends, with 10 boats turning out for the championships. Calum Brenan, who I think is the class commodore, sent me the following link to some fantastic pictures dating back to the 70s of all things Diamond, including how easily they broach, and how well they float, four up, after capsize (these boats are nearly all glass fibre, so their buoyancy is bonded in, but BD still has the polystyrene chunks for and aft).


    Calum also sent me news that Bristol 1 has been completely rebuilt and is out sailing in Dartmouth, so I harvested these pics:-


    So, there’s evidence that class rules allow two trapezes! I know you either have or had two trapezes with Ready … Steady, Iain, were you ever black-balled for poking torsos outside the fence?

    All the best
    Black Diamond

  5. I think ”Black Diamond” was built in Salcombe by ”Salcombe Yacht and Marine” of Island St.
    There are photos of her when she was new, and at the London Boat Show.

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