The Wivenhoe One Design            

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The Wivenhoe Encyclopedia

 Sea-Change:  Wivenhoe Remembered   

The Wivenhoe One Design [WOD]

1936: The start of the Wivenhoe One Design - Pat Ellis, Joyce Blackwood, Don Smith

Anybody who’d got a boat what they thought a lot of, would take it much further inland, obviously, so it wasn’t destroyed or damaged. All the Wivenhoe One-Designs were housed somewhere, weren’t they? Because there was quite a few of them here.

1936 was when they started, local people had them, business people, like the two doctors had one each – Radcliffe, Dr Dean - Mr Slaughter, and Mr Cracknell. Mr Worsp. They all had these boats, it’s only a 15-foot boat. 15-foot dinghy, three-quarter deck, which are still about, by the way. They’re still sailing now. This was when Dr Radcliffe came here, and his yacht designing was a hobby with him. He’d actually been at university with Peter Scott, the naturalist, and that’s where he got his interest from. There was nothing new, in such, it was a smaller version of the Brightlingsea One-Design of the 1920s, wasn’t it? So it was probably more suitable for up river. They were 15 feet as against 18 feet, so they were ideal for the river, and the estuary, and that was it. They came about because, prior to that, the Sailing Club had a mixed bag of boats, so it was a question of handicaps, which always caused arguments on decisions, and being what you were handicapped. Radcliffe come up with this design, so they were One-Design, hence the name. The idea was quite common in Sailing Clubs all over the country, they have their One-Design, so they’re all racing equally.

Dr Radcliffe and the Wivenhoe One-Design - Ray Hall

Then, of course, we still had people like Dr Radcliffe on the Committee, and Mr Worsp, and people who in those days, was business people in Wivenhoe. There was George Slaughter, who had the paper shop. Billy Cracknell, who was the baker. Dr Dean. Dr Radcliffe, of course.

Dr Radcliffe obviously designed the Wivenhoe One boat, and I believe the first six boats were built at Leigh-on-Sea, for about £25 each. But there’s several been built elsewhere since then. They suspended operations during the Second World War, so he’s Commodore at ’39 through till 1947. And the next gentleman, Mr Pawsey, it was his family who supplied the old shed, the hut on the hard, which was a chicken house in Layer, and they built the piers, and put old rail lines on it to bridge the beams, which are still there!

I think the point really was that there was a lot of handicap racing. Probably, in those days, there were a lot of Clubs who were looking for an alternative to handicap racing, and obviously any particular One-Design was going to alleviate that problem of handicapping – that’s if the boats could all be built to the same design. So there was quite an interest, several people had them built. But I suppose, today, with the modern materials, obviously they’re something that will never be built again.

Reviving the Wivenhoe One-Design - Alan Tyne (with Jan Tyne)

The ‘WOD Fleet’ – Wivenhoe One-Design Fleet – underwent a tremendous revival under the influence of Walter Evans, who joined the Club, having returned from the Colonies as an administrator, some time in the late Seventies/early Eighties, I think, and he decided to make it his work to get the whole WOD Fleet back on the water again, and he virtually succeeded in doing that. He got them all restored, and got them all owned, and wouldn’t let people neglect them, and basically bullied and chivvied everyone to get it going, and it was that injection of organising skill and ability to bring people along with you that really gave a terrific fillip to the WOD Fleet. The WOD Fleet had been dispersed to different parts of the country. And they fetched a load of them back, and fetched others out of retirement, and renovated them. But subsequently, it’s gone right back downhill again. There’s only two or three sailing at any one time, at the moment, although there are probably about six or eight that are actually in commission, but there’s another six or eight that are languishing behind people’s sheds, slowly rotting away. We lack another kind of injection of organising capacity like Walter Evans’s. But there’s a Wivenhoe One-Design Owners Association, which meets regularly every year, and has a great Jazz Evening, every year! And they’re a very vibrant little Organisation, it’s a sort of a sub-Club, if you like!

You’ve only got a WOD on loan - Brian Sinclair

[When I came to Wivenhoe in 1980] I did a few odd jobs for Walter Evans, because I was quite handy with the tools, and he said, ‘You can’t possibly live in Wivenhoe, with those two delightful girls, and not go sailing,’ and, of course, at this point, I’d thought, ‘I’d love to go sailing, but (a), I’ve only ever handled motorboats,’ admittedly in all sorts of weather conditions, and landed on surfy beaches and things like that, but it’s a different ballgame here. He said, ‘I’ve got just the boat for you,’ and it turned out to be a Wivenhoe One-Design – Number 2.

So we paid for Number 2, Duet, I think at the rate of £20 a month until we’d paid for her – I think she only cost about £110 because I found out, afterwards, she’d been dropped from the first floor of the Jam Factory, and repaired, and everybody was a bit suspicious of buying her! Anyway, there we were and so Walter took me out for a half-hour sailing lesson, at which point I thought, ‘How do you stop these things?’ It’s all very well if you want to stop a rowing boat or a motorboat, there are ways of stopping it, but there didn’t seem to be any way of stopping a sailing boat! But we had a half-hour lesson. ‘There you are,’ he said, ‘nothing to it.’

The next time I went out, I found that there was a lot to it, as I crashed in amongst all the boats on the moorings, trying to stop this darned thing! And I remember coming ashore on the old hard at the Sailing Club, and feeling very embarrassed at my efforts, and a fairly high ranking officer in the Club said to me, rather coldly, ‘Hardly the place to practice sailing, in amongst the moorings, is it.’ So bit of egg on the face there!

I sold my Wivenhoe One-Design because we were collecting boats, rather stupidly, and I’d got the Wivenhoe One-Design, I rebuilt the Wivenhoe One-Design in the early 1990s, at the same time as all this other business was going on with moving the Club, and that was a two-year project to rebuild her completely, and then we started winning races, and I discovered that I didn’t enjoy winning any more than I did losing, in a weird sort of way! So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll sell the boat while she’s in fine fettle,’ and what you do, you don’t sell to the highest bidder, you sell to somebody you know can look after her. You know, money’s not the important thing with those. You’ve really only got a Wivenhoe One-Design on loan, you know, it has to stay here.

We have a small cruiser which we keep in Alresford Creek, which hasn’t been on the water for 18 months, and my wife, Jan, has a Mirror Dinghy which she races sometimes. She won the Ladies Cup this year, and we’ve just acquired a little day sailing boat to take the children, grandchildren, sailing. All these boats are old wrecks, you know, they’re all cheap things!

[Boats have] almost got a service record, the Wivenhoe One-Designs, you can trace the owners from the time they were built. And some of them have fallen into really bad repair. One young chap, relatively new to Wivenhoe, who I introduced to the Club, he bought one that was really totally unseaworthy and falling to bits through neglect. He bought her and had her rebuilt professionally, it cost him about £7,000 to have it rebuilt, and when you consider that they sell for between £800 and £1,500, it’s not a good business proposition, I can assure you! And a new suit of sails costs £600, so it’s not a business proposition, but they’re nice little boats. So, yes, we do sail still, and I occasionally crew on the sailing smacks at Brightlingsea, and we had a couple of trips on a Thames barge last year.  

Racing a WOD - Stan Fenton

I’ve got a Wivenhoe One-Design, which was built in the 1930s, and there’s still about 10, 11, 12 sailing at Wivenhoe, and racing regularly. They’re clinker-built, about 14 foot long, and they carry a spinnaker, gib and mainsail, and they’re two-man boats, which is two to crew, and they race quite competitively still today.

[To win dinghy races] you have to have a very good boat. You have to have a well tuned up boat with good sails, and you have to have a very good crew and work together as a team, because the helmsman would steer the boat, and use the mainsail, while the crewman would use the gib, and he’d fly the spinnaker. And you have to also work in tandem together to sit the boat out, get the weight right, know when to tack. So good teamwork really, is very important.

A lot of it is you have to know the wind, and look out for wind shifts, especially in the river, like the River Colne, up at Wivenhoe, the conditions can be quite fluky, so I have to judge where the wind shifts are, tack into the wind. One side of the river there could be no wind, the other side could be where the little breeze is. The local conditions, yes, you build up over the years. And also, keeping out the tide is very important. It’s a tidal river, so obviously the mainstream of the tide is in the middle, and it’s obviously a lot more advantage to keep to the edges of the river if you can, without going aground. It’s a balancing act of how you do it, yes.  

I’ve always sailed - Ken Green

I’ve always sailed, of course. I started my sailing in Wivenhoe One-Designs, because my father had Elise – Elise crops up again, of course! He had a Wivenhoe One-Design built in the mid-Thirties, 1930s, number 17 it is, so I sailed as soon as - well, as soon as I was able to get aboard there! I sailed with him, and all my brothers have sailed and we’ve always been very interested in sailing. Grandfather was a very keen sailor, and yes, sailing has always been part and parcel of the fishing scene.

Sailing dinghies was competitive, oh yes, yes. Crikey, yes! The Wivenhoe One-Design is very competitive. You sail for the Sykes Trophy and we sailed against Peter Sainty, who was a very good sailor. I think Peter had the edge on us from the point of view of expertise, he was always very good at the job. But amongst Peter, Doug and myself, quite often we were in separate boats and competing with each other. Sometimes we were together, and sometimes we were in separate boats.

Early days in the WODs - Ray Hall

Then it was not unusual to see at least twelve One-Designs out, and at the time when new classes were coming in, and especially the GP, that took on a bit. That would have gone on much longer if it hadn’t have been for the Mirror. Once the Mirror came in, and the people found that they got a lighter-built boat, but a faster boat, and a very safe boat.

But we never had rescue boats in those days! It was quite often that one or two of the One-Design owners would actually leave the boat downriver and walk ashore and walk home, and then go back on the next tide and pick it up, because if there was no wind, you just couldn’t battle against the tide, you see. We never had anybody to tow us back! And, of course, there was all cloth cap and plimsolls, and no waterproofs! I don’t ever remember lifejackets. I think the first set of waterproofs I had was in 1959, these very heavy yellow plastics. 

When I was in the RAF Air/Sea Rescue at Felixstowe, quite often, I used to come here at the weekend, and if there was racing, I used to race with Tony in number 12, Sapphire, and we could sort them out! I think Tony’s name was on most trophies for a few years. A damned good sailor was Tony. Of course, we always had the competition from people like Doug Green, and David Petter in Peewit, and his brother, Michael. We weren’t without competition, that’s true, and Peter and Arthur Sainty in Ranger, they did want some beating! There was no doubt. But Tony and I, obviously, at that time, we were the right weight. Never any arguments. He only ever said about three words to me, as, ‘Ready?’ ‘About.’ ‘Lee oh,’ and the boat was there. 

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Last updated:
05 January 2015

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