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.

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Sailing with the Admiral: a conversation with the past

Sailing with the Admiral: a conversation with the past, Martin O’Scannall

I’m a great admirer of Lodestar’s lovely books, but struggle to find time to read, thanks to work and the assorted complications, worries and distractions of modern life, music, Covid-19 and the rest. But I’m keen to support them even though they’re currently unable to deliver orders.

So when all this trouble is over, here’s something to look forward to, as outlined by the Lodestar website:

Martin O’Scannall loves the old, the eccentric, the offbeat — the quirky if you like; the wandering off into byways, the exploration of half-forgotten snippets of history. And Galicia, his home for the past decade or more, is ideal territory for indulging that taste.

Galicia is a time warp: rain-swept, isolated, savage and gentle by turns, as far a cry from the blazing Costas as it is possible to imagine. This book is a conversation with the past, conducted in a very old, engineless gaff cutter, armed with the Admiralty Pilot, a gallant crew, and a sense of the ridiculous.

We encounter, but in unexpected ways, the likes of Drake, Nelson, the ill-fated HMS Serpent, Celtic myth and legend, and the reminiscences of those who have gone before, all interspersed with the business of managing an old yacht in the old way: Walker log, paper charts and all. Beginning, as he says it has to be, with the dreaded storm at sea. £12.00 from the Lodestar website.