Please select your home edition
RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Book review: Uffa - Yachting's eccentric genius

by Magnus Smith 3 Mar 09:00 PST
Uffa - Yachting's eccentric genius by Malcolm Turner © SunRise

Last summer (August 2023) there was a large celebration in the Solent, marking 50 years since sailor and designer Uffa Fox passed away. Many of his popular dinghies and small keelboats raced, and - in some ways - this was nothing out of the ordinary, because those fleets were still going strong today! Uffa's legacy still lives on.

Not only did he design the Flying Fifteen, Firefly, Albacore, the first National 12, some unbeatable International 14s, various yachts, and more... he also invented the Airborne Lifeboat during the second world war, wrote several books, and made a record singing sea shanties. If you think it sounds like a busy and full life, then you should read the biography to see how much more crazy it really was.

Whilst I have an interest in classic dinghies and traditional yachts, I wasn't expecting to be particularly interested in a biography just because it covered the designer of such craft. But one of the delights of reviewing books is the unexpected gem that grips you. This is one such book!

I found myself chuckling out loud at Uffa's childhood exploits, and becoming more curious about his odd mix of skills. Of particular amusement was the details of his floating workshop in Cowes: how it was made, how the old features were reused, the finishing touches his wife added, and how council tax was avoided!

I really feel the pace is kept going at all times in this book. Apparently this is what life with Uffa was actually like!

It was sad to note how badly-managed his finances were, but remarkable that he managed to hit the top heights of dinghy design and wartime innovation regardless, leaving his legacy (one of many) in the form of a small keelboat racing class still considered "high performance" today.

The book ends with Uffa's ten commandments for living, which are rather focussed on eating, drinking, and how to use the toilet. What a shame that these alone won't make me into the genius that he really was! His is a fascinating story, well worth reading.

You can read the first chapter for free at:

Purchase the book (three formats) for a reduced price at:

The book is printed on very high quality gloss paper. Consequently the photos have more chance to shine, compared to most books of this genre.

Related Articles

Things Do Change…
It's quite some time ago now: three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly It's quite some time ago now. Three decades for sure, and into its fourth, quite possibly. It was one of those unwritten laws. An adage, if you will. Posted on 21 May
Introducing Paris 2024 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team
Celebrating and introducing the sailors off to Marseille shortly For fans of U.S. Olympic sailing, the past several quadrennials have been a nosebleed, at best. Despite this history, however, the USA has fielded a young-but-hopefully-competitive team for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 21 May
The most famous boat in the world
Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd have to think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes. Right oh. Well, for just another eight months or so, she's not going anywhere. The most famous boat in the world has another, albeit short, charter with one aim. Posted on 20 May
Loads of amenity - Goes like a cut cat
As the first Cure 55 steps closer to being splashed it looked more like a Purosangue to me As the first Cure 55 steps ever closer to being splashed, I could not help thinking that it was a lot like the Ferrari Purosangue. More space than your typical two-seat hypercar, yet with the punch to dispatch distances and pretenders with complete ease. Posted on 16 May
James Clarkson on the 2024 I14 Nationals
A Q&A with James Clarkson on the 2024 International 14 U.S. Nationals Sail-World checked in with James Clarkson, president of the International 14 class, via email, to learn more about this high-level skiff regatta. Posted on 14 May
This isn't what I expected
I'm very surprised just how different the new AC75s are A month ago, when I wrote 'AC75 launching season', just three of the AC75s set to contest the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona had been revealed. Now it's five, with just the French Orient Express Racing Team left to show their hand. Posted on 13 May
Celebrating throughlines in sailing leadership
And the sailing world's newest hero Back in mid-March, Sail-World celebrated singlehanded American skipper Cole Brauer as the sailing world's newest hero. Now, I'm now happy to report that we have another sailing hero, albeit one who carries a British passport. Posted on 7 May
The Lewin-LaFrance sisters on their Olympic dreams
A Q&A with Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance on their 49erFX campaign for Paris 2024 Sail-World checked in with sisters Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance, who are representing Canada in the 49erFX event at the 2024 Paris Olympics, via email, to learn more about their campaign. Posted on 7 May
Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian. Hope everyone is as proud of their country, as I am. Most folk I know seem to be. Posted on 6 May
Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug
A Q&A with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton on the 70th annual Mug Race Sail-World checked in with Donna Mohr and Jon Hamilton, who serve as race organizers, via email, to learn more about this 38-nautical-mile river race. Posted on 1 May
PredictWind - Routing 728x90 BOTTOMSOUTHERN-SPARS-OFFICIAL-SUPPLIER-52-SS728-X-90 Bottom2024 fill-in (bottom)