classic racing dayboat, gracing the river Thames since 1911
The following essay is extracted from Stuart Readman’s splendidly written book “Four Ships- One Hundred years of the Essex Yacht Club”
Beginnings – pre-1914
The Thames Estuary One Design Class was jointly inaugurated by the Alexandra Yacht Club and the Essex Yacht Club in 1911. Designed by Morgan Giles, the T.E.O.D marked the beginning of a new era in the racing of relatively small fast boats. The boats were designed for the open waters of the Thames Estuary and were three quarter decked with a small cockpit, 18 ft. in length, clinker built of whych elm. They carried 210 sq. ft. of sail with sliding gunter rig and a spinnaker. They were of shallow draught with a large cast iron centre plate. A club rule restricted them to a maximum of three crew, including one ‘paid hand’. Five boats were on the club register in 1912, when regular racing was started, and combined races with the A.Y.C. were sailed. Three new boats were added in 1913 and one in 1914. In 1913 the first race for the Inter Club Challenge Cup was sailed by boats from the E.Y.C., A.Y.C. and Westcliff Yacht Club, and won by the E.Y.C. Cutty Sark won the points series in 1912 and 1914 and Perky Loo in 1913.
The T.E.O.D class in the club continued the tradition of one design racing, and for the three years competition was keen. The advent of war, however, and the introduction of the new Essex One Design Class in 1920 saw the demise of the T.E.O.D class in the E.Y.C., and its growth in the Alexandra Y.C., which became the headquarters of the class.
After the Great War
The Essex One Design Class
Following the success of the T.E.O.D. class in 1919 the club commissioned Morgan Giles to design a new boat, similar to the T.E.O.D. but differing in certain details. The new E.O.D. class was 18 ft O.A.L. by 6 ft. beam, Bermuda sloop rigged with 210 sq.ft. of sail, on McGruer hollow spars. The cockpit was larger and the cast-iron centre plate weighed 225 lbs, lead ballast was allowed. The lines showed a harder bilge, and the beam carried further aft with a wider transom.
The mast was short and the boom long, and to those used to gaff rig the new rig was known as Marconi rig. A short bowsprit was added and the foresail was set on a luff spar with
facilities for booming out off the wind. Although a spinnaker was included in the original design, this was never adopted.
The Club adopted the class with great enthusiasm, orders were placed with Cole & Wiggins of Leigh for twelve boats, with sails by E A. Turnidge. The cost was restricted to £100. The Club maintained control of the class, and charged a design fee of £1. 1s. Od. for the use of the drawings.
The first nine boats on the club register in 1920 were named and owned as follows:
It will be seen that all boats were named with musical terms, and this tradition has continued with E.Y.C. boats throughout the life of the class.
According to the class register, no new boats were built until 1925, when six were built for Whitstable Yacht Club and the Herne Bay Yacht Club. A strange anomaly is evident, however, as the 1920 handbook shows the following boats which are not mentioned in the register:
It is known that Presto was built with a laid deck and other irregularities and was not accepted into the class. Caprice, Carol and Glee are a mystery, so it must be assumed that as the register was only started in 1935 when boats were apparently first certified, these boats either left the area or were not accepted into the class, or were accepted later with a different name.
The boats were designed to be raced by a crew of three, and many of the early boats were owned by three members. Some employed a paid hand to prepare the boats for racing, and the work of laying up in the winter, and fitting out in the spring was usually entrusted to the local boat yard.
During the first season, races were sailed for both E.O.D.s and T.E.O.D.s, but the E.O.D.s were new and in the ascendancy, and rapidly became the premier class in the club. The Alfred White Memorial Cup was presented for points races. Soon clubs from Kent became interested, and, the Margate, Whitstable, Herne Bay Yacht Clubs and the Royal Temple Yacht Club at Ramsgate, The Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club at Dover and the Medway Yachting Association all adopted the class.
An Inter-Club Advisory Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of the E.Y.C., and much inter-club racing took place at Leigh, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Margate and Ramsgate. The annual trip to Burnham Week being the climax at the end of the season. So successful did the class become that it remained the backbone of class racing in the club for over sixty years.
Locally, Inter club racing took place annually for the One Design Perpetual Challenge Cup. The E.Y.C. sailed in E.O.D.s and the Alexandria, Nore and Westcliff Y.Cs and the Leigh Sailing Club sailed in T.E.O.D.s, and a healthy and sporting rivalry developed. The names of many helmsmen of the time are inscribed on the various cups and trophies, the most famous in the ‘twenties being Harry Walden in E 2 Minuet and in the thirties M. ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens in E 46 Nocturne.
No rescue boats were thought of in the early days, and few E.O.D.s had sufficient positive buoyancy to float, if capsized. This led to a tendency to reef in good time, but it did not stop the boats from being sailed long distances in the Thames Estuary, especially to take part in Kent Week and Burnham Week.
Memories of the E.O.D.s in the ‘thirties come from Ralph Mountstephens,
‘A few E.O.D.s, sometimes singly and sometimes in company, were used for cruising after the Saturday race. They sailed to Paglesham, Harty, Stangate and Yantlet, the crews either slept aboard, on a seawall or in a field or on the beach at Yantlet. Sunday races in those days were rare indeed, ‘In 1932 two E.O.D.s sailed to Calais and back. They were Chantey which I sailed, and Crescendo sailed by Hulford. The weather was very mixed on the way out and freshish N.E. on the return. ‘Jack Yard’ the Southend Standard Yachting Correspondent wrote an admonitory article saying ‘Now that it has been done once, let no one else try to do it’. ‘There was a hilarious sequel, when the owners of a Royal Burnham O.D. at Burnham also decided to have a go. Their wives, however, who did not know of the plan, got to hear of it rather belatedly and chased their men in a motor boat and brought them back before they had cleared the Crouch …’ E 3, Barcarolle, was lost during a race in 1930 and sank in literally a moment. As a result, buoyancy was made mandatory, and lead ballast became less popular. The occasion was a race to Hole Haven via Low-way as a prelude to the annual Whitebait Supper at the Lobster Smack. The wind was a fresh easterly ‘whole sail’ breeze. There was some talk on the Club before the start, of advising the owner, Picket, who was inexperienced, not to start. All went well as far as the Chapman where, in an easterly, the seas are bigger than elsewhere. No one knows what happened, but presumably there was a broach or an involuntary gybe, and in an instant the boat was gone. She was never recovered, although two cocklers swept for her the next day. ‘I was on Murrey’s Olive May and we picked up one of the crew, who still had his pipe in his mouth. The other two were picked up safely by Cyril Edwards in Nomad. ‘I can remember Peter Weeden sailing thirteen up in Rhapsody, and once, I understand, he cooked a hot dinner while under way. I cannot remember what the menu was!’
The EOD Class Revival
The majority of boats racing immediately before the Second World War survived the war years and were back in commission in 1945. Unfortunately the North Kent coast suffered severe northerly gales in 1945 and Whirlwind, Meteor, Swift, Inyone and Tradewind were wrecked. Fortunately no Essex boats were lost and a new generation was started in 1948 led by three E.Y.C. boats ‘Sylvo’ Sylvester’s Aria E52; Sonata E53 and Ernest and Donald Rede’s Prelude, E54.
In 1950 as a result of some rather extreme variations in rig, there having been no fixed ratio of mast and boom length, it was decided that in Future the class should be strictly ‘One Design’. Norman Dallimore, the Class measurer, produced a new set of drawings, including a sail plan and a spars plan, and these, together with an up-dated specification were adopted, and a Form of Owners Annual Declaration was introduced. The sail plan and spars plan were based on the by now famous Nocturne E46.
Six boats were built in 1948, five in 1949, five in 1950, three in 1951 and the last in 1952. Of these 20 boats, thirteen were built for EYC owners, ten at Johnson & Jago Ltd, Leigh, two at Tucker, Brown & Co., Burnham and one at Estuary Boat Building Co., Leigh. Typical of these was the author’s boat E64, Valeta, built in 1950 at a cost of £285 by Johnson & Jago Ltd, of Leigh. Completed eight weeks after being ordered, she was hand-built by craftsmen including the hollow spruce spars, and special bronze fittings.
The early ‘fifties then saw the class at its most popular, nineteen boats turned out for club races. In addition to the Kent clubs, the class was adopted by the Blackwater Sailing Club and they built three boats, one being owned and raced by a lady, Miss J.R. Scott, E68, Kittiwake.
In 1951 the five clubs with fleets of EODs decided to introduce a Championship Race to be sailed annually at each Club in turn. A handsome silver model of an EOD was made for the trophy at a cost of £50, and this was paid for by a subscription from the Clubs, the amount depending on the ratio of the number of boats racing in each club as follows’.
Essex Yacht Club £14, Royal Temple Y.C. £9, Margate Y.C. £7, Folkestone Y.C. £5, and Royal Cinque Ports Y.C. £4, and Whitstable Y.C. £6.
For many years the Championship was keenly contested around the coasts and eventually with the virtual demise of the wooden boats the trophy passed to the Estuary Class where it is still contested annually at Leigh.
A typical visit of the EODs to Whitstable Week in the late fifties is remembered by Alf Neale:
‘One of my first experiences of serious racing in EODs was during Whitstable Week. We would sail over and the boats were laid to moorings 100 yds. or so off the shingle beach,
‘The keen owners before I bought Prelude in 1960 were ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens, Dennis Knight, John Pyman, Geoff Brown, Roy Goodfellow, Eric Smith, Stuart Readman, Peter Cotgrove, Peter Crafer, Norman Cooper, David Blackburn (sincere apologies to anyone missed out) and extra interest was usually provided by the odd TEOD and a lone National 18 who carried a large spinnaker and went like the ‘clappers’ in light airs, Not that we had many light airs, if memory is to be trusted, I seem to remember mostly ‘Northerlies’ and the seas on the Kent shore built up to give some really rough rides. We had cotton sails then and double ended main sheets which came in through the coaming after traversing umpteen blocks from the end of the boom. Gybing in high winds was a definite skill which many learned the hard, wet, way.
‘My first year I crewed for Dennis in Caprice and each Dennis m Caprice and each day I was deputed to fetch the sails from the subterranean racks below the Clubhouse and convey them to the waiting tender by way of a twenty toot vertical ladder while Dennis in his famous white topped cap fetched up the unburdened rear. After each race I had to spread the cotton sails on the shingle to dry out before returning them to the dungeon.
‘A week of racing round the Kent shoreline from Pollard Spit to Columbine and Street and back to the friendliest of Clubs was often tough on the boats as well as crews. The foreshore moorings were hard and unyielding and Prelude started one race with water gaining rapidly in the bilge. A quick return to shore, Club members contacted, immediate transfer to Anderson, Rigden and Perkins the local boat-builder, 4ft. of garboard (cracked) replaced, and we were racing again the next day. How many yards could do that today?’
Essex boats sailed to Margate, Whitstable and Ramsgate for Kent Week, but the highlight of the EOD season has always been Burnham Week, and since 1920 a fleet of EODs from Leigh have taken part in the annual pilgrimage to Burnham. Usually sailing through Havengore Creek but sometimes, if tides are wrong, going ‘around the outside’ via the Whittaker, these boats are a familiar sight, and the class is one of the most regular supporters of the week. The close association with the Royal Burnham Yacht Club is largely due to the EOD class.
During Burnham Week most EODs occupied moorings owned by Tucker Brown’s boatyard, and enjoyed excellent service under the watchful and helpful eyes of ‘Sonny’ and Bob Cole. Many boats were able to continue to race after accidents as a result of their efforts. Typical of this happy relationship is the following account from Frank Drew:
‘In the middle sixties 1 owned a wooden EOD, Sara. Most of the class had musical names like Prelude, but Sara was built at Dover and there they obviously went in for more sexy handles. Anyway on this occasion we were back on the mooring just opposite Tuckers, putting the old lady to bed for the night, when Bill, who thought he had securely cleated up the centreplate, found that he hadn’t. Now I must explain that in those early days centreplates were made of cast-iron none of your galvanised steel rubbish -and consequently suffered from one major failing, they were brittle. Thus the plate, finding itself completely free of encumbrances, crashed down. The neck fetched up against the centre thwart and neatly sheered right off. Panic! What to do? Concentrate! Get the boat to shallower water, bearing in mind the four feet of plate sticking out of the bottom.
Leap out, turn the boat on its side and unhook the plate. (It weighs two hundredweight). Ever tried the mud opposite Tuckers!, you sink in up to your thighs for starters, and trying to upend the boat is far from easy, with gallons of horrible muddy water flowing into the hull of a boat you have spent weeks preparing. Nevertheless, eventually we managed to release the plate, and by this time flickers had got a trolley, and we staggered ashore dragging the plate over the mud. ‘From then on Tuckers took over. They produced a high pressure hose and directed it at us until people recognised us as human again. They said they would see what they could do. I thought this was the end of our racing for the week, but wandered over to see what the situation was next morning. Sara was on her mooring, and had been thoroughly cleaned up. About an hour before the start the plait1 appeared, the neck neatly brazed on. In about twenty minutes the job was complete.
They towed us down to the line with about two minutes to spare. I don’t think we could have received better treatment anywhere, except for one thing. They dumped us on the start line, but there was no wind, and the tide was going out, and we began to drift. Try as we may to get nearer to the shore and out of the current before the gun went, was fruitless, and there we were – over the line at the start!’ In due course, synthetic fibre sails and aluminium alloy masts and spars were introduced, and their specification carefully controlled With the spread of the class to other clubs, it became inevitable that the EYC should in time relinquish the control of the class, and this was done in 1968 with the formation of the EOD Owners’ Association. The first President was M. ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens.
In 1970 the class celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. In the words of Class Captain, Aiden Boyack:
“This has been an exceptional year for the class . . . The main event was the Golden Jubilee celebrations, everyone seemed to get into the spirit of the occasion and much goodwill towards the class was engendered. A special race for a Gold Cup offered by the Club was arranged for the week-end following the Championship, so that our friends from Margate Y.C. could join in. The celebrations were blessed with two weekends of perfect summer weather in June, the Lady Savile presented a spectacular sight along the shore after dusk, dressed overall with festoons of coloured lights, with crowds lingering over their drinks on the upper deck -just how a yacht club should look but rarely does in our fickle climate’.
The Gold Cup was won by Peter Styles in Cyclone from Margate Yacht Club. Fourteen boats took part, and all received a special Commemorative Bronze Plaque.
Over the years many boats and helmsmen had their successes, too numerous to mention individually, but records of cup winners show that in the period up to 1971 one boat stands out, Nocturne, E46 built for M. ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens and R. J. Williams by Anderson, Rigden and Perkins at Whitstable in 1938. Helmed by ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens she was the outstandingly successful EOD for over thirty years, winning the Alfred White Memorial Cup 23 times, and the EOD Championship 9 times, and the T. R. Jones Cup 15 times.
One unusual trophy competed for by the EODs is the Greenwell Salver presented in 1927 by Hubert Greenwell for the Single-handed Race. The conditions are unique, starting from anchor with sails furled and rudder unshipped, putting the emphasis on seamanship(2006 note: this race, after a hiatus of some years was raced again in 2005 to the enjoyment of all who took part and will be raced again this year).
Three helmsmen have successively dominated this race; ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens winning seven times between 1937 and 1961 in Nocturne, Stuart Readman winning eight times between 1958 and 1966 in Valeta, and Alf Neale winning eleven times between 1967 and 1984 in Prelude and other boats.
In all, 72 boats were built, including Dafila built for Brian Watling of Lavenham by Peter Wilson of Aldeburgh in 1986, at a cost of over £9,000. She may still be seen sailing in Norfolk. Three boats remain m the Club register, E70, Mallard, A. M. & A. Easton, well maintained and still racing, E53, Sonata, S Dunlo-Allen sailing at Leigh, and E71, Cadenza, A. Fairhead, being restored. EOD 7 Symphony is known to be sailing in the north of England (2006 note: Symphony has been restored to her former glory and to the club – see gallery for photos).
Sadly it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to maintain these beautiful traditional craft. Fortunately one boat is preserved for posterity in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Aiden Boyack who was Hon. Sailing Secretary 1971-1978, generously donated his boat E68, Arabesque (late Kittiwake 1951) to the Museum in 1981.
The Estuary One Design Class
By 1966 there were only 14 E.O.Ds on the club register, and no new boats had been built since 1952. The cost of building a new boat was now prohibitive, indeed there were very few craftsmen available with sufficient skill to build such craft. The old boats were proving difficult and costly to maintain and repair, and only the most dedicated owners were prepared to spend the time necessary to keep their boats in racing trim.
It became clear to the owners that, if the class was to survive, new materials and new methods of construction would have to be used. Glass reinforced polyester (G.R.P.| was by this time well established as a material for small boat construction. The T.E.O.D. owners felt the same about their class, and it was agreed between the two classes that a new boat should be designed to be built in G.R.P., suitable for racing on equal terms,, if this was possible, with the two old classes.
A new boat would be expensive to develop and there was a real danger that the old boats would be out-classed.
A joint Steering Committee under the Chairmanship of John Fisk who helmed the first successful challenge for the ‘Little America Cup’ in Hellcat the ‘C Class Catamaran) consisted of Stuart Readman and Peter Cotgrove representing theE.O.D. Class, and Mike Finch and Graham Shand representing the T.E.O.D. Class. Outline proposals were drafted.
A meeting of owners of both classes held on 28th April 1966 agreed that the design of the new boat should be based on the following:
1 Performance and characteristics to be comparative with the old classes.
2 Hull to be smooth, the lines to be a mean of the two classes.
3 Deck layout as for the E.O.D. with a keel stepped mast in a tabernacle.
4 Centre-plate to be as for the E.O.D.
5 Existing sail plans to be used.
6 Minimum hull weight to be 600 lbs.
7 Positive buoyancy to be mandatory.
A detailed specification was prepared and agreed, and with the helpful co-operation of Ray Walsh and Len Wakefield of Thames Structural Plastics Ltd of Canvey Island (later to become Thames Marine) and at their expense, the lines were drawn, and the necessary plugs and moulds constructed and a prototype produced. It was agreed that the new class should be known as the Estuary One Design Class and the insignia should be a red triangle at the peak of the sail representing an estuary or delta.
The prototype, No 100, later named Samantha, was completed too late to take part in the 1966 racing season, but four E.O.D. owners kept their boats afloat in the late autumn to carry out a series of trial races against the new boat, in which the helmsmen changed boats for each race, and five different helmsmen sailed the new boat. The results suggested that there was no significant difference in the performance of the old and the new boats, much to the satisfaction of the members and particularly of the Steering Committee
Unfortunately, one of the trial boats Valeta, Stuart Readman, was wrecked on her mooring by a local fishing boat, and she became an insurance ‘write-off. Her spars, sails and gear were transferred to a new Estuary hull and thus Tango, No 104 became the first Estuary OD class boat to race in 1967.
Despite the success of the trials and the publicity of an article in ‘Yachts and Yachting’, at the very reasonable price of £562 complete, the class started hesitantly. Of the first boats built speculatively, three were bought by E.Y.C. members, one by a Margate Y.C. member and the prototype by Bernard Charles of East Dorset Y.C. who hoped to start the class in the West country. The T.E.O.D. owners of the Alexandra Y.C. hesitated.
John Fisk’s Jazz No. 101 after starting with a flourish of four wins, was declared ‘out of class’ when she failed to receive a measurement certificate. She was later modified and accepted in the ownership of Brian Baker.
So for six years the new class survived by the perseverance of three boats, Jazz No. 101, Cha-Cha, No. 102, Frank Drew and Clement Rayne-Davis, and Tango No. 104, racing in a fleet of 13 Essex O.D.s.
By 1973 the T.E.O.D. owners became interested, and a revival took place, the moulds of the hull, deck and centre plate case (some of the smaller moulds had been scrapped] were transferred to E. R. Birch Ltd of Canvey Island and ten boats were built, five for the A.Y.C., two for the E.Y.C., two for the 3rd Chalkwell Bay Scouts and one for the Margate Y.C.
The three new E.Y.C. boats; Madrigal No. 113, Ray Davies, Barcarolle, No. 117, John Swann and Jaffa No. 118 Peter Watkins built the E.Y.C. fleet up to six, and suddenly the class ‘took off. In the next six years 21 boats were built, the last being Ptarmigan No. 139, in 1979.
As the new boats grew in numbers, so the old boats dropped out of the running. The critical years from the point of view of racing were 1969 when Tango, Stuart Readman, became the first Estuary to win the White Memorial Trophy and 1970 when Prelude E54, Alf Neale, was the last Essex O.D. to win that trophy. The heyday of the combined class came in 1979 when there were a total of thirty one boats including nine Essex O.D.s and twenty two Estuary O.D.s.
The most famous Essex O.D. Nocturne raced so successfully by ‘Buzz’ Mountstephens was eventually sold to Guy Bragard, who became affectionately known as ‘Belgian Buzz’.
In 1974 when the E.O.D. fleet were returning from Burnham Week via Havengore Creek, they were hit by the beginning of the storm which eventually sank Ted Heath’s Morning Cloud on the South Coast, also returning from Burnham Week. Heavily reefed and bailing hard, the fleet dispersed along the Thorpe Bay shore where they anchored or picked up moorings, only Cha-Cha, Staccato and Prelude managed to weather Southend Pier and Nocturne was moored near the Thorpe Bay Y.C. The wind increased to storm force over night, and it blew every day for the next week, Tango blew over on the mud repeatedly at East Beach, Shoeburyness until the mast was removed. Nocturne was reported missing, and was-eventually found wrecked on the beach against the Shoeburyness Garrison fence.
To the consternation of Guy Bragard, there was little of Nocturne left, the hull was smashed, and all gear, spars and sails right down to small fittings had been removed. What looked like the work of vandals however, turned out to be the work of a friendly yachtsman who had salvaged the useful gear, and stored it in his garage. Guy was able to use this gear in his new Estuary Belcanto No. 125.
The Estuary One Design Class Association was formed in 1977 and this has continued to control the class and issue annual certificates; the old Essex O.D. Class owners Association was absorbed in 1988. In 1972 the first owner of No. 100, Samantha, Bernard Charles designed, made and presented a Championship Trophy which is raced for annually at the E.Y.C. This was won three years in succession in 1973-75 by Brian Baker in Jazz, and in 1983, 1987, 1988 and 1989 by Clive Davison, in Requiem for Woodwind.
The Alfred White Memorial Trophy for points races records the names of no less than twelve helmsmen who were the most successful in the Estuary Class each year since 1977; of these John Swann had an outstanding record of five wins in six years in Barcarolle, No. 117, and Quadrille No. 134. More recently John Reeve has won three times in Vivace.
The class also inherited the Essex O.D. Championship Trophy, and club boats are eligible for all club Essex O.D. trophies.
Thus the new class was established alongside the old class, and the transition made relatively painlessly. Twenty two boats were on the club’s register in 1989 together with three of the old boats, one of which, E70 Mallard, [the original Blackwater S.C. name) owned by Tony and Annie Easton continues to race with the fleet.
This lengthy essay is extracted from Stuart Readman’s splendidly written book “Four Ships- One Hundred years of the Essex Yacht Club” (publishers: Essex Yacht Club, 1989). There has been a little recutting but the original was found to be unimprovable.
We reproduce it with his kind permission. Copies can be obtained from the Essex Yacht Club, HQ Ship ‘Wilton’ Leigh-on-Sea, Essex