A History of the Boats - by Malcolm Goodwin

 Since the first Wivenhoe One Design was built, sixteen boats are still within the locality of Wivenhoe from an original total of nineteen, representing not only a record for the Wivenhoe fleet but also one of the most complete local one design classes in the country.
On 18th March 1935 (in the “Black Buoy”!) the Wivenhoe Sailing Club committee formally adopted the Wivenhoe One Design. The boat had been designed especially for the prevailing conditions on the river by Dr. Walter Radcliffe after several existing designs had been looked at and rejected for one reason or another. The first six boats were afloat and racing during the same year and were soon followed by a fleet at the Stour Sailing Club at Manningtree and additions to the six at Wivenhoe. Boat number 10, “Brunette” was invoiced out by F. W. Mitchell of Brightlingsea, to our then local newsagent, Mr. George Slaughter, on 12th December 1935 and no doubt first raced with the Wivenhoe fleet in 1936.

 Eighteen boats were built before the war, eleven for the Wivenhoe Fleet, five based at Manningtree and a further two at Brightlingsea.

The nineteenth was built sometime after 1945 and first appeared at Wivenhoe in the early 1960’s having been for some time in or around the Norfolk Broads. She had minor differences in centreplate and mast stepping arrangements but was soon equipped like the other boats by her new owner, Mr. George Hoy, who, like everyone else, had been astonished to see a Wivenhoe One Design advertised in the “East Anglian”, especially when she turned out to be an additional boat to the original eighteen.
Five firms are known to have built One Designs and it is generally speaking possible to identify a builder by the various minor constructional features he employed. The first six boats were built, by Parsons of Leigh-on-Sea; Whistocks of Woodbridge, ‘Horlocks of Mistley, and Stanley Cook, working in the Storehouse, (next to Wivenhoe Sailing Club), each built one, and almost certainly F. W. Mitchell of Brightlingsea built all the remaining boats. However, numbers 7 and 8 show identical constructional features not present in any other boats and could possibly be the work of a sixth builder. 
Dr. Radcliffe himself had two boats from new, number 2, “Duet”, was probably the first boat built (although number 5, “Meeca” was the first to sail) and was jointly owned with Peter Pawsey. Dr. Radcliffe’s second boat, Capriol, was owned and raced by the designer at Wivenhoe until well into the nineteen fifties.


Also just after the war, the Doctor commissioned F. W. Mitchell to build a modified boat, based on the One Design. The overall length of 15ft was retained but with modifications in hull shape and deck layout and with a taller rig and lighter construction. This boat, “Windrush”, although not a Wivenhoe One Design has raced along with the Wivenhoe fleet at various times and during the mid 1960s was given the sail number 14 on the incorrect assumption that no boat had originally been built of that number.

Sometime during the nineteen fifties the Wivenhoe Sailing Club, copyright holders of the class, received a request for permission to build One Designs at Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, and as the photograph shows at least one boat was built. Whether there are more (and this cannot be assumed from the sail number of the boat in the photo) and exactly where this request came from remains a mystery since there is a gap in the Sailing Club minutes for that time and memories will so far not serve.

The Stour Sailing Club fleet became dispersed soon after the war and the last boat, number 9, left there in the early 1960s, and has since been on loan to various members at Wivenhoe by her owner (from new) Dr. John Erskine. At Wivenhoe the fleet has suffered similarly from declining numbers at various times but each time a revival has somehow set in and the fleet has never died out. Indeed since 1935, with the exception of 1939-45, an average of perhaps fifteen races for the class have taken place every year. On two occasions the number of starters has reached eleven, one of which was Wivenhoe Regatta 1982, with the average over the years perhaps a little less than half that number.

Looking at the racing results through the years it might appear that some boats have been more successful than others. But as with many a class, close examination reveals that any winning streak has invariably been the result of a well cared for boat properly set up, and indeed, well sailed. Most of the boats have been raced under these circumstances at some time or another and have then proved equally fast. Just one or two boats, even after fifty years, have remained relatively untried for racing.

  Only three boats, numbers 2, 6, and 12, are thought never to have been away from Wivenhoe. Most of the others have remained within Essex and Suffolk but “Puffin”, number 8, was retrieved from the upper Thames in 1956 and “Coretta”, number 16, was based at Gosport for nearly thirty years until recently when she was very kindly given to the Association by David Scott. Recognition is also due to the various groups of owners through the years who bought and held additional boats with their own money to prevent losses to the fleet. This before the introduction of the Association in its wider form which in turn generated the funds to accomplish this on a less personal basis.
  Of the three boats not at Wivenhoe, one, number 18, originally “Dorothy” (as is number 9) is known to have been destroyed. She had never been based at Wivenhoe but like so many boats when away from the fleet she fell into disrepair, and finally sunk. Then having been given away and stored in a garden at Leigh-on-Sea for some years, she was adjudged to be beyond repair and destroyed in about 1973. We have been able to establish that no part of the boat or her equipment remains.

  Numbers 5, “Meeca”, and 14, “Sally”, were by coincidence the champion boats at Wivenhoe and Manningtree in the first year of the class. It may well be that one or both still exist but neither has been heard of for some time. Number 5 was last known in 1942 when, sometime after a government order that all boats be moved two miles from the river, she was sold, reputedly to a Naval Officer based at Harwich. Despite various lines of enquiry the name of this Officer is still unknown.
Recent reference to 1936 Stour Sailing Club race reports in the Essex County Standard archives finally established the origins of number 14, “Sally”. The owner was the late Marcus Horlock and consultation with his son, Mr. Peter Horlock, who sailed in the boat many times established that she was stored throughout the war, with several other One Designs, in an orchard at Mistley. She was then sold away in good condition to an unknown owner and destination but probably within Essex and Suffolk in 1946-48.
This is all we know of these two boats which could now be anywhere. (It is perhaps at least as realistic to expect to find them by good observation as it is by following ancient leads. It would be useful, where possible, if budding spotters would count the planks, 12 each side, and then note the oval or tumblehome shape of the transom. Very few boats have both these features and if you see one it may well be a Wivenhoe One Design.) 
Although not all of the sixteen boats currently in the locality are afloat, the fleet at Wivenhoe is potentially stronger than at any time during its history. While several boats have already undergone major re-fits and one or two still require restoring there are none which, given the right care and attention, will not sail for at least another 50 years.
The designer and builders, together with owners and enthusiasts past, present and future can surely regard this situation with some sense of pride.