A regatta to celebrate 100 years of the International 12 Foot Dinghy Class

World Cup Venice_2

Sylvia - built 1920 hanneke gilissen big

Main photo: the 2011 International 12 Foot World Cup racing at Venice, attracted over 100 entries from 10 (photo: James Robinson Taylor); Sylvia, built in Switzerland in the 1920s; recent Dutch championships (photo: Hanneke Gilissen)

West Kirby Sailing Club and the International 12 Foot Dinghy Class are expecting 30 or so boats to take part in a special regatta this summer to celebrate the centenary of the class’s first regatta in 1913.

There is information about the event here.

The first recorded regatta took place on the Marine Lake at West Kirby, Merseyside, on the 4th October 1913. The club had just taken delivery of a fleet of six 12 Foot Dinghies, and decided to publicise the class by inviting representatives of twelve sailing clubs from the north west of England to take part in an inaugural regatta.

The winner was Thunderer, which represented 12 Foot Dinghy designer George Cockshott’s own sailing club, the Southport Corinthians.

Cockshott himself was present and crewed in the boat representing Rhyl Sailing Club. One of the original 12 Footers, the recently restored Royal Oak, is still at West Kirby.

Elsewhere in the UK, a number of old boats are being restored for the event and several new boats are under construction.

This summer’s regatta takes place on on the 28th-30th June 2013. Most boats will be travelling from the Netherlands, but there will also be competitor boats from Germany, Switzerland, France and Ireland. Racing will take place on the Dee Estuary and on the Marine Lake – the scene of the 1913 event.

Several members of the Cockshott family will be present as guests.

The Merseyside club is also home to another of George Cockshott’s designs, the West Kirby Star class.

Can anyone help Keith Johnston find out about his ancestor’s guano trade ships?

Chincha Guano Islands, Peru, engraving published by The Illustrated London News February, 21st, 1863, photographed by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco

This London Illustrated News illustration of 1863 shows ships in the guano trade anchored among the Chinca guano islands off Peru. Image from the Wikipedia and photographed by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco

Regular reader and contributor Keith Johnston has written in to ask whether anyone can help him learn more about one of his forebears, Liverpool shipping agent and ship owner William Cliffe, who specialised in guano.

It seems Cliffe had four sailing barques ranging from 200 to 600 tons gross, all of which are mentioned in the 1883 Lloyds Register of Shipping.

Their trade was mainly in the valuable commodity of guano, ancient nitrate and phosphate-laden deposits of the faeces and urine of bats, seabirds, and seals used as a fertiliser and as an ingredient in gunpowder. It was found on remote islands in low rainfall areas, where there is little rainwater to wash away the nitrate fraction.

In what seems to be a textbook example of how foreign policy is often decided by commercial interests rather than by any sense of right or wrong, during guano’s heyday in the mid-19th century, the United States of America passed a law permitting US citizens to claim any guano island they found for themselves, so long as the guano recovered was to be used by US citizens.

Keith says the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool has been very helpful in tracking down this information, but wonders whether any intheboatshed.net readers have come across the ships listed as belonging to Cliffe, as he would like to try and find more detail about the actual ships, crews, cargos, ports of call and definitely pictures or drawings of them so that he can make models, if at all possible.

The vessels are:

  • Boldonsailing barque, 656 tons net, 689 tons gross, 628 tons under deck; 168.1ft LOA 32.2ft beam 19ft depth, built at Sunderland by Crown in January, 1873
  • Guatemala Packetsailing barque, 201 tons net, 326 tons gross, 110ft LOA 25ft beam 16.5ft depth, built by Harrington in 1852
  • Nimroudsailing barque, 670 tons net, 693 tons gross, 135ft LOA, 30ft beam, 20ft depth, built at Scarborough by Tindalls in 1853
  • Quito, sailing ship, 503 tons net, 503 tons gross, 117.5ft LOA, 28ft beam, 18.7ft depth, built at Sunderland in 1850

If you have any information, please pass it on to me at gmatkin@gmail.com, and I’ll forward it to Keith.

PSHugh Jenkins has written in with some snippets of information about the guano trade that might be of interest. They turned up during his research into a sailing ancestor who worked for a Liverpool guano shipper. Hugh comments that the company mentioned, WJ Myers, was quite a substantial business, and yet today finding any reference to it is now very difficult.

Thanks Hugh!