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UF50 Celebration attracts over 1000 visitors and 80 Uffa boats

by John Roberson 24 Aug 2022 00:55 PDT 18-21 August 2022
UF50 Celebration in Cowes © John Green

The Uffa Fox celebration, marking fifty years since the death of our yachting hero, has been acclaimed as a huge success, with over 80 Uffa Fox-designed boats visiting Cowes over the weekend.

As part of the celebrations a secure dinghy park was constructed on Cowes Parade this weekend, with 40 Uffa Fox boats displayed, with some going racing on the Friday and Saturday.

These ranged from Uffa’s 22 square metre Vigilant, the Flying Fifteen Hobgoblin and the 1934 frostbite dinghy Fay with bamboo mast, which is now on display at the Classic Boat Museum. Also in the mix were National 18’s, Albacores, plenty of International 14’s, a Pegasus, National Redwings, a National 12’, a Flying 10 and a small swarm of Fireflys.

The oldest boat was Anthony Wheaton’s 101-year-old gaff-rigged International 14’ Grebe of Hampton which sadly lost her mast on Saturday. Other boats of note, and there are too many to mention, were Patricia Knight’s International 14’ K201 Daring, in which Uffa won his second Prince of Wales Cup, the first being Avenger which is at Cowes Library, and Alastair Vines Firefly 503 Jacaranda which was the GB entry in the singlehanded dinghy class in the 1948 London Olympics sailed at Torquay.

The buzz on the Parade, with crews comparing notes on their vintage boats, was as much fun as the racing. So was the buzz at Shepards Wharf Marina with numerous Flying Fifteens and Yachts, including the Atalantas, who were out in force with some coming from the East Coast and Guernsey.

To add a bit of additional interest the 1930s ‘one off yawl’ Mary Lunn, built in then Bombay was berthed on the Trinity Landing alongside Clare of Beaulieu a former Cowes Harbour Master’s launch.

Karen Armitage, a keen vintage dinghy racer from Norwich, who was out in the 1934 International 14 366 Sayonara said that she had never seen such a large collection of classic dinghies and we may never see it again.

Racing took place on Friday and Saturday with the dinghies from a committee vessel off the Shrape and the Yachts and Flying Fifteens from the RYS line. On Saturday many Flying Fifteens chose the alternative of windward/leeward racing in the Central Solent forming a practice race of their Europeans the following week.

The dinghies were launched from the Watch House slipway at the southern end of the Parade with a strong beachmaster team and support ribs waiting to escort them across the Fairway before proceeding to the race area. So successful was this that all the boats arrived a little too early for the first warning signal on Saturday so had plenty of time to check out the course. The support RIB cover was better than 3:1.

Martin Bean, Admiral of Gurnard Sailing Club and a senior Cowes Week official racing, with Mark Harrison, the 1949 Fairey Marine built International 14’ 545 Sunrise in which Charles Currey won the POW said, "many thanks for putting the UF50 Regatta together, it is many years since dinghies were launched and raced from the Parade. Mark and I really enjoyed the racing and the hospitality RLYC provided."

Racing took place with a range of forecasts showing gusts of over 20 knots which was of concern for PRO Peter Taylor about the durability of the vintage boats

However, Friday started off quite light with the first race for the dinghies being abandoned and re-raced in a light westerly breeze on a sausage/triangle course into a flood tide. The Yachts and Flying Fifteens raced in the Western Solent with the former suffering from the light winds and building tide but the latter getting in two races skillfully managed by Race Officer Bob Milner.

With a stronger forecast for Saturday the plan was to go for one race for the dinghies and get them in before the wind built, but a second short race was able to be held with the wind building to about 18 knots and all credit goes to the crews of these classic boats for sustaining this. One of the many achievements on the water was RYS member Harry Hutchinson from Lymington racing his early 50s Fairey Marine International 14’ K556 Iolanthe, with his daughters Annabel and Maisie looking very much under control.

The Yachts raced to the east ending up at Peel Bank with the option of anchoring in Osborne Bay for lunch, with the Flying Fifteens racing in the western Solent from the RYS line or out on the bank, both groups getting in two races in over 20 knots.

A total of 83 boats registered for the event with 65 racing.

Competitors, volunteers and visitors were given an Uffa Fox trail map enabling them to view various aspects of Uffa’s life, at Commodore’s House which was his last home and where Prince Philip’s Flying Fifteen Coweslip, a wedding present from the Townspeople of Cowes, was displayed. Also at the Sir Max Aitken Museum, the Classic Boat Museum Shed, Cowes Heritage and Community Group, Cowes Library, East Cowes Heritage Centre and the Classic Boat Museum Gallery in East Cowes.

Any event of this nature would be lacking without its socials, starting with the Opening Reception at Commodores House on Thursday attended by over 200 and sponsored by Dartmouth Gin, with the Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight Susie Sheldon declaring the event ‘open’ and finishing on Saturday with the Prize-Giving, sponsored by Pierclaudio De Martin, followed by the Regatta Supper attended by 100 happy sailors.

The organisers have received a lot of accolades for the event which have been summed up by Fiona and Raymond Dragonetti who have said ‘we wanted to express our sincere thanks to you for organizing the UF50 celebrations. We really enjoyed Mike Dixon’s talk, the Uffa menu, Commodores House, the classic boats on the Parade and at the Classic Boat Museum, the CCYC BBQ, the racing and the chatting about boats’.

The Royal London Yacht Club who organized the event would like to thank the competitors who had made a huge effort to attend from all over the UK and Europe gratefully assisted by Red Funnel 50% ferry discount and most generous sponsorship from members Patsy and David Franks which enabled free entry and a further ferry subsidy. Finally, a massive ‘Thank-You’ to our sixty volunteers.

We would also like to thank our other sponsors the Beaverbrook Foundation, Classic Boat Museum, Commodore’s House, Herapath Shenton Trust, Cowes Harbour Commission, Cowes Town Council, World Leisurewear, the Delphie Lakeman Trust, Dartmouth Distillery, Cowes Town Waterfront Trust, the Daisie Rich Trust and the Terry Family.

People are asking when the next UF event will take place to celebrate further Uffa’s life and achievements, hopefully in less than 50 years' time.

For full results, list of entries and boat histories go to www.UF50.org

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