Vixen sets sail to retrace Uffa Fox’s historic Scandinavian Adventure

Vixen leaving Cowes harbour
Olle Appelberg
Three intrepid young British yachtsmen, Luke Yeats, Jack Gifford and Will Shepherd, have taken up the challenge by the Scandinavian Classic Yacht Trust, SCYT, for British classic yacht owners to retrace Uffa Fox’s famous 1000 mile, 1930 voyage from Cowes to Stockholm. Sailing the Vixen, a 1937 classic yacht, the team hope to be in Trosa, Sweden, between 3rd and 6th August 2010 for the start of the Trosa Tullgarn Royal Palace Regatta, part of a new classic series, the Baltic Classic Master Cup.

This race is unique in the challenge it offers, particularly the interesting route and heritage of the trip,' says Luke Yeats, 'the freedom it allows for people to select their own yacht, route, stopovers etc. Is unprecedented and makes it quite an appealing adventure, especially for a young crew.'

Vixen is closely related in design to the Vigilant, in which Uffa Fox made his historical journey says its skipper, says Luke Yeats. 'The attraction was obvious, ‘it felt like the right thing to do’, was my immediate reaction.' All three of the crew have grown up sailing Uffa’s designs and reading his books. As Luke says, 'It would be an honour to follow in his footsteps and to have a grand adventure to boot!'

Vixen
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Vixen was designed by Knud Reimers and built at the Kungsors boatyard in central Sweden by Oscar Schelin. Imported to the UK before the Second World War, she was one of only a handful of the elegant Square Meter Rule yachts. At the time building to the rule was prolific in the Baltic but scarcely known in the UK. As co-skipper Jack Gifford explains, 'Much finer in form and lighter in displacement than her British counterparts, Vixen and her kind were viewed with suspicion by the (British) yachting establishment and with her light and efficient construction deemed as ‘un-seaworthy.' One famous British sailor had fallen in love with the Swedish Square Meter yachts and collaborated with Reimers to build his own yacht. That, of course, was Uffa Fox, and the boat he built at Cowes was the Vigilant. So confident was Uffa in its sea keeping that he set out to sail it to its spiritual homeland of Sweden to take part in the Swedish championships.

Now Vixen is owned by twenty five year old Luke Yeats who has been passionate about sailing since his schooldays and already has a wealth of experience behind him, particularly in multihull racing. His ambitions are to become an all-round sailor capable of competing at the top level of the sport. Both skipper and co-skipper have extensive experience of the North Sea with Luke having raced F18 catamarans through the Swedish archipelago. Co-skipper Jack Gifford, is now a full-time naval architect, with the third crew member, Chemistry student Will Shepherd having notched up many miles in the Irish sea.

About Uffa Fox
Uffa Fox is not simply known as a sailor and boat designer, he was also a philosopher and eccentric as well as a media celebrity. Uffa was the father of the planing dinghy and his International Fourteen Footer Avenger won many races including the coveted Prince of Wales Cup. For many years his designs were the most sought after. It was in Vigilant, a new 22 Sq.m design with extremely light displacement that he made his famous voyage to Sweden to participate in the Centenary Regatta of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club in July 1930. Vigilant’s design and construction was substantial enough to be sailed to Sweden and back in a summer of strong winds. He made the journey in 17 days and after the racing was over, Uffa received special recognition for his sailing feat and his promotion of a Scandinavian yacht rule in Britain.

Latest update from Vixen:

Luke Yeats, Jack Gifford and Will Shepherd will be sharing one berth, so they aren't counting on much sleep. When leaving Cowes they were accompanied by Uffa Fox's 22 sq m Vigilant, the yacht sailed to Sweden 80 years ago.

The crew had a delightful champagne send-off party at the Uffa's former house. Friends and family were joined by crews arriving for the Cowes Classic Week in giving a roaring applaud at the dock. Vixen took off eastward with an impressive speed of seven knots in the strong breeze.

Vixen is the only yacht to have accepted SCYT's Uffa Fox Challenge.

The tiny 15 sq m skerry cruiser Vixen left Cowes for her 1000 mile journey to Trosa, Sweden, with the four o'clock tide on Saturday. Follow her online at marinetraffic.com. Vixen will be sailing all around the clock and her first planned stop will be in a week's time at the Kiel Canal.

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