The origins of the Flash Boat

The 18’ FlashboatShara‘ built by Chris Baker three years ago and the 15’ Skiff Mary May. Mary May is about 15 years old and built in Cornwall

Chris Baker has been in touch to tell us about 15′ Skiffs, 18′ Waterman’s Boats, and Flashboats:

In brief, the 15’ Skiff is timber-built carvel construction based on the old Fal oyster dredgers and for centuries has been raced in the west of Cornwall eventually leading to the forming of the Cornwall Rowing Association in 1951.

Meanwhile in the east of the county, racing was between 18’ Watermens boats (see Ann Glanville on Wikipedia for our most famous rower), mainly on the Tamar.

In the mid-60s the east of the county rowers were invited into the CRA and regattas since then have included a full programme of races for both classes.

Back in the 1920s a boatbuilder from Calstock built a new ‘Waterman’s boat‘/ It was lighter and sleeker and more for racing than working, and was derogatorily called a ‘bloody flash boat’ by more traditional builders.

The name stuck, as did the design.

In the late 60s the Chapman family from the Lynher Rowing Club approached Plymouth boat builder Jimmy Donn to see what could be done to improve the design.

After scouring the rules they realised there was nothing to stop them building one with ply planking, within two seasons ply became the norm and the name Flashboat seemed even more appropriate.

Today the 15’ Skiffs are still traditionally built and the 18’ Flashboats are built in 3 or 4mm ply to a design that was finally settled on and written into rules in the early 70s.

For what it’s worth I believe the Cornish Flashboat racing is the oldest longest running form of rowing in England (at least) as the Flashboat is directly descended from the Watermens Boats, in fact at one time they raced in the same races while the switch from one to the other was taking place, and have raced continuously for generations. 

There are references online to a
15’ Flashboat but be warned that it’s a 15’ ply boat and doesn’t satisfy any legal racing requirement.

4 thoughts on “The origins of the Flash Boat”

  1. I’ve wanted to build a 12′ boat for recreational boating , fishing, and for transport during archery hunting trips. I thought I had settled on a garvey design by Jim Michalak, but looking at Dogsbody, the 5′ beam and double chine seemed better suited to the possible loads I might carry. I am 6’2″ and 250lbs myself, so I think Dogsbody, though certainly more complex, just based on parts count will be worth the extra effort and $$. I have the card stock in hand and will start to build the model Sunday afternoon.

    Thanks to you for the plans.

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