When preparing the design of the L class it was not the intention of Jack Giles to establish a new one-design class in any form; the boats were designed purely as deep-bodied, a roomy knock-about, intended for day cruising, fishing and picnicking, with as much room below as reasonably possible in a boat of their size to render them habitable for week-ends if required. However In 1933 Elkins’ built Isabella and their sales literature announced “That this design of a 23.25ft day-cruiser, which has come from the board of Laurent Giles & Partners, may be adopted as a One-Design Class at Lymington speaks well for the good qualities which the first two boats have already shown”.

During August of 1933 Penguin (L class number 4) was racing with the Lymington Handicap Class and showed herself to be close-winded, and in light winds repeatedly far out sailed her rivals, leading the class by as much as two minutes a mile. Such performance from the little day cruisers naturally attracted attention, and since orders for three more (L 7 Grey Jane, L 10 Malista and L 11 Skipjack) had been placed at Berthon by local owners a proposal ensued to adopt the boats as a class at Lymington. However eleven of the nineteen L class yachts were built by Elkins of Christchurch celebrated including L 6 Wavecrest for Major R. H. Gatehouse joint founder of B&G, who owned,

There were thirteen rules of the L class: among which it was required that all hulls were to have a certificate from the official measurers (Messrs. Laurent Giles and Partners) before racing in the class; that the spinnaker boom when in use, must be shipped in its socket on the mast, and must not be tacked down to the stem head. During the summer months boats may only be slipped for scrubbing once a month, and the sewer outfall boom to be treated as a mark in the course.

No data exists, to confirm that the number 13 is an unlucky number, but star-crossed rule 13 predictably messed up: All boats must be steered by an amateur helmsman, with the footnote Professional helmsmen may take the helm temporarily for the convenience of the amateur helmsman, but not when rounding marks or otherwise to racing advantage. It was conceivably an alleged infringement of this bewildering antithesis that led to an outraged owner pursuing a cause célèbre which according to the Royal Lymington Yacht Club’s archive ‘was only prevented from becoming a public scandal by the intervention of Herr Hitler’. One is to speculate whether the professional helmsman was there only to pass around the sandwiches and ginger beer.


80 years ago

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