The Redwing sailing dinghy explained

Redwing dinghy scan

Redwing dinghy

Jeff Cole asked about the Redwing dinghy that featured in a post a couple of days ago. The Redwing is an Uffa Fox design created for sailing off the Cornish coast, and seems to have been designed for Looe Sailing Club.

‘Having enjoyed and endured the tumbling seas off the Cornish coast I was in full agreement with the Commodore of the Looe Sailing Club when he outlined the type of 14-footer he would like designed for their turbulent waters, and delighted at the prospect of designing such a boat,’ wrote Fox many years later in his book Sailing Boats.

What the good commodore got was a classic Fox hull with a clean run and a waterline stretched to the maximum, but with good freeboard, half-decked and with a substantial breakwater designed to cope with the rough and tumble of the local sea. In those days it also had a 132lb iron drop keel with a 5ft draught, though I gather that today it’s more likely to be of wood.

Renamed the West of England Redwing, the design became popular and was adopted as a national class by the RYA.

Not surprisingly, given its features and design aims, the boat gained a reputation for seaworthiness and for speed in strong wind conditions.

In the book Sailing Boats, Fox describes the results of the 1958 Cross-Channel Race which included a Redwing.

‘The Redwing Nimbus had sailed remarkably well. She had beaten boat for boat 16ft 6in Hornets, 17ft 6in Ospreys, all the Merlin Rockets except one, 16ft Snipes, 16ft 6in 5.0.5s, 15ft Finns, Albacores and Swordfish. She had sailed so well that world renowned sailor Beecher More was so impressed by the Redwing’s performance that he was certain that a mistake had been made, and when the committee re-checked their figures they found this was so and announced the Redwing Nimbus the winner… ‘

And finally he becomes completely misty-eyed about his handsome baby:

‘She is an outstandingly brave little boat, from which one can learn that the sea is to sail upon, in a boat in which we can enjoy the sea in all its moods and not fear it if there is a hatful of wind.’

For more posts featuring Uffa Fox, click here.

Redwing dinghies racing at Looe in 1963

Redwings racing at Looe in 1963

Spotted on Youtube: artist and filmakerStuart Armfield shot a series of films between 1958 and 1970 in and around the port of Looe in South Cornwall, including these clips of Redwing dinghies built to Uffa Fox’s design.

It’s lovely footage, but it’s a shame we can’t hear more of what’s being said in the background, as it sounds interesting. I picked out a snatch of an old boy saying ‘A Redwing hadn’t been capsized before, and I was the first one to do it.’ No doubt there are a few good stories in there somewhere…

Armfield’s original footage is held by the South West Film and Television Archive.