Fly­ing 15


Practical Boat Owner - - Boats -

In an era in which plan­ing dinghies were still un­usual, this 20ft plan­ing keel­boat, de­signed by Uffa Fox in 1947, stood out among her con­tem­po­raries. The pow­er­ful spade rud­der mounted well aft gave good con­trol, while the low cen­tre of grav­ity fin keel min­imised weight and wet­ted sur­face area. More than 70 years later it re­mains a pop­u­lar rac­ing class with ac­tive fleets around the globe and a well at­tended and hotly con­tested world cham­pi­onship.

Although most keel­boats of this era were heavy dis­place­ment long keel de­signs, the ideas Uffa in­cor­po­rated into the Fly­ing 15 had al­ready been suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented to­wards the end of the 19th cen­tury. Cowes based Charles Sibbeck’s 20ft half-rater Di­a­mond of 1897 and 45ft Bona Fide of 1899, for in­stance, were both light dis­place­ment de­signs with a short chord bulb keel and sep­a­rate rud­der po­si­tioned well aft.

At an even ear­lier date the pro­lific Amer­i­can de­signer Nathaniel Her­reshoff had pro­duced Dilemma in a sim­i­lar vein. This boat proved to be so fast that sim­i­lar de­signs were banned by the rat­ing rules used for rac­ing at the time and were mostly ig­nored for much of the next 80 years.

This was by no means the only time the rac­ing com­mu­nity has slowed the pro­gres­sion of yacht de­sign – many in­no­va­tions have been re­jected be­cause they threat­ened the es­tab­lish­ment, rather than be­cause they didn’t work. A boat that to­tally out­classed ex­ist­ing de­signs was all too of­ten seen as a threat to the sta­tus quo, re­sult­ing in a de facto ban. Even worse, cruis­ing sailors of­ten want boats based on what they per­ceive to be the lat­est cut­ting edge think­ing, so the de­sign of race­boats is strongly re­flected in the cruis­ing yachts of the same era.

Vamoose, an early Fly­ing 15 still in use

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