Today, tomorrow and throughout the weekend, Cowes will be the showcase for the town’s most famous and prolific boat designer, Uffa Fox (1898-1972) at the UF50 festival.
A four-day celebration of Uffa’s extraordinary design career will take place ashore and afloat on the Isle of Wight with races along The Green in Cowes and off Shrape in East Cowes on Friday and Saturday .
Scroll through the photo gallery above to see photos of a special yacht…
There is also an extraordinary range of exhibits and presentations throughout the city at venues such as the Classic Boat Museum; the house of the commodores; Marina Shepards; the Sir Max Aitken Museum and a sprawling static display of the designer’s dinghies and larger boats on The Parade in Cowes.
It is on Cowes Parade that the 34ft 6in Vigilant – the yacht built by Uffa Fox which led to a quantum change in offshore yacht design around the world – can be seen and purchased.
Designed and built by Uffa Fox in Cowes, Vigilant was launched in the early 1930s and as owner Uffa soon sailed her to Sweden for a summer season of racing regattas.
It was however the return voyage to the Isle of Wight and a severe storm in the North Sea that triggered a major change in offshore yacht design.
At a time when offshore yachts were slab-side, heavy, often overbuilt and of prodigious interior volume, taking a blue gale in a slender, tapered-nose ultralight boat with around three meters of forward overhang and aft and barely any freeboard – such as Vigilant – would generally be considered reckless…at best.
For Uffa, however, the way Vigilant handled the mountains of green water and the hammering blows of the North Sea storm confirmed his personal design vision and ultimately influenced the evolution of yacht design. offshore.
He then wrote: ‘[She] is just what you need for the choppy waters found along the UK coast. The volume of the ends of the boat makes it rise slightly and elegantly like a sea swallow on the waves.
Uffa Fox successfully promoted this design change in Germany and America and with his books widely read throughout the British Commonwealth, slim, sleek, light and fast boats began to appear in Australia, New Zealand, Africa South and beyond.
Vigilant was partly restored in the early 1970s, then decommissioned in 1975 until rediscovered in Norfolk and underwent extensive restoration in 1990-94, returning her to near-original condition.
WATCH: What’s it like to navigate Vigilant?
In recent years Vigilant has returned to the Isle of Wight for racing and cruising from her base in Yarmouth and has undergone extensive work at Elephant Dockyard, Bursledon.
Vigilant is in immaculate condition and ready to race.
Vigilant specifications are as follows: LOA 34’6”/10.51m; LWL 25’6″/7.77m; beam 6’4″/1.93m; draft 4’3″/1.29 m; displacement two tons; sail area 236 square feet; launched 1930; designer/builder Uffa Fox.
WATCH: Vigilant footage of the Swedish sailing regatta in 1930
- For more information on Vigilant, contact Caryl Terlezki by email: [email protected]
- For more information on the UF50 event, visit the website at: uf50.org
Do you like to read about the Isle of Wight and its characters from yesteryear? Click here to visit our Looking Back section for more interesting stories!