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