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Now in its fourth year, the Bosham Classic Boat Revival is arguably the UK’s number one regatta for classic dinghy owners. The two day event, which took place over 6th and 7th September attracted 58 boats from 20 clubs for some close racing in the stunning surroundings of Chichester Harbour.
Given the event’s scale and popularity, I was delighted when Classic Boat used my short article, the headline image of which was taken on the second day when the wind abandoned us completely on a warm, overcast day. Whilst anchored up and waiting for the wind to appear some of the younger element decided to muck about, somersaulting off their boats and diving in. Another small group of dinghy sailors joined in, leading to a mass of bodies in the water and the headline shot. The CB article prompted me to look back through our gallery of images from the event. As I sat there gazing at various National 18s, Chichester Harbour 18s and Brightlingsea One Designs, big gutsy boats one and all, I started wondering what happened to all those other boats that were around in, say, the 1970s. I remember a plethora of great designs, such as the Unit and Marauder, which were remarkably accomplished and should really be flourishing today rather than becoming what is now knowing as ‘lost classes’. How wonderful to see a Unit hammering through Chichester Harbour with the helm flat out on the sliding seat shrouded in spray, aiming nervously for the gybe mark…
I suppose as times moved on boats that were once cutting edge started to lose their appeal and became unloved, tucked away in the darkest recesses of the dinghy park. It takes quite a while before these boats become desirable once again in their newfound status as classics. Coupled with the fact that many dinghies were built of weight-saving marine ply where longevity wasn’t uppermost in the mind of the designer, they were always unlikely to last as long as cold moulded or clinker designs.
I recall being told a story, many years ago, that had clearly achieved mythical status (and sadly without any provenance whatsoever) about an International Moth World Championship held in Australia. It may have been in the early 1970s when the Australians were experimenting with skiff designs which were great in strong winds while we were concentrating on light weather, ultra slim and highly unstable Moths. Apparently, the British contingent flew out to Oz with nothing more than masts, sails, a staple gun and sheets of marine ply. On arrival they stapled their hulls together, beat the Australians and, rather than fly the boats back home, merely created a large bonfire on the beach and cremated them! Its a wonderful story and I sincerely hope that no-one comes along with the truth to ruin it. You never know, it might just be true….
Either way, its unlikely that I’ll have the pleasure of seeing such lightweight Moths at the Bosham CBR, but there must be loads of high performance, classic dinghies out there just begging to be used once again. Who knows, at this very moment there might be someone with staple gun in hand and a look of steely determination in his eye, preparing his steed for next year’s event. If only I was five stone lighter I’d be searching for plans for a Womble Moth right now.
As it is, I appear to be of a size more suited to a National 18 and therein lies the rub. While the various classic boats might still be around, the people who once sailed them have probably gained a few pounds, not to mention the good sense not to plough around the race course on the end of a sliding seat…