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Uffa Fox Centenary Regatta Report

The Regatta, hosted by the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club and supported by Cowes Town Council, got off to a superb start on Friday evening when local radio presenter Dennis Skillicorn chaired an Open Forum in the Boat House of the Commodore's House, Uffa's last residence, with a panel of experts made up of Tony Dixon (Uffa's nephew), Harry Spencer (local rigger who sailed with Uffa on many occasions) and John Terry (friend of Uffa's and current owner of the Commodore's House). Tales and anecdotes abounded for two hours.

Tony Dixon read out a job application of Uffa's to Marvins dated 1925. It included such gems as: 'Well I hope I have not given you the guts ache by blowing my own trumpet so much, but if I don't who will?'; 'Well today is Friday and an unlucky day so they say but I'll bring this over, leave it with you to read and think over while I walk down to Egypt Light and then come back for your answer. A faint heart never won a fat woman. You know there are only two kinds of women. Thin and fat and fat are far the better of the two. It is all very well for people to say the nearer the bone the sweeter the meat but dammit there is very little meat on a thin woman to be sweet. And their legs are like canaries. I do hope your answer will be start on March the 5th.'

There were many contributions from the floor including Air Commodore Charles Nance, David Biles, Rodney Barton and Jack Whitehouse. We were told, amongst other things, of Uffa being caught speeding on his horse Frantic through Niton doing 34mph, but the Chief Constable at the time was reluctant to increase Uffa's notoriety by setting the precedent of making him the first to be convicted for speeding on a horse.

Twenty five boats entered the regatta. Entries were representative of the full range of Uffa's designs. In the dinghy fleet were Whirlwind, a 1935 example of an International Fourteen, Lively, a North Norfolk Sixteen (1938), the International Canoes Flying Fish and Rannoch (1937 and 1947 respectively). Post war dinghies included four Jollyboats, a Pegasus, a Swordfish and four Flying Fifteens. An unusual entry was a 1996 version of the Fairey Fox, a 24 footer designed originally for Prince Philip to be carried aboard Britannia but now sporting four trapezes and a bowsprit!

The pride of the cruisers were Vigilant, a 22 Square Metre which Uffa sailed to Stockholm in 1930 to compete in the Royal Swedish Yacht Club Centenary Races, and Mary Lunn, a 35 footer built in India in 1940. More modern examples included Atalanta 26's built by Fairey Marine in the 1950s and Uffa's last design the Foxcub from the 1970's.

The racing started slowly on Saturday when the boats joined East Cowes Regatta, but only a handful of boats managed to complete the course in a dying wind. Wins were recorded by the Jollyboat Jolly Tar sailed by Peter Lucas, local sailmaker Andy Cassel in the Swordfish Trigo and Derek Roberts and Chris Pegna on the Foxcub L'Avant Fox.

On Saturday night ninety people attended the Regatta Dinner. After the meal a toast was proposed to Uffa by Robert Veale, the chief instigator of the regatta. Tony Dixon replied, more seriously than the previous night, but did recount the story of his last attempt at helming when Uffa insisted that he took a brand new Flying Fifteen out on a blustery night and brought it back 18 inches shorter having hit South Bramble buoy! Back at the Duke of York, Uffa, unaware of the incident, rebuked Tony for several minutes for retiring from the race until the tirade eventually subsided when Tony's brother Murray piped up "you haven't seen the bloody boat". Uffa was surprisingly calm and the boat was repaired within two days and the owner none the wiser. Uffa in the meantime got the message and arranged a trial for Tony with Hampshire County Cricket Club!

Sunday saw better sailing conditions with a force 2 wind building slowly to force 4. The first race produced something not seen in Cowes in most peoples memory with the sliding seat canoes Flying Fish (Graham MacKereth, who returned from the USA on Saturday morning!) and Rannoch (Andrew Eastwood) finishing first and second respectively among the fast dinghies. The whole weekend was worth it for that alone! The Flying Fifteen Cruella dominated the slow dinghy fleet with Lively (Robert Veale) notching up second place.

In the second dinghy race of the day Bob Blake Senior and Junior, over for the weekend from Baltimore, finished first with the help of local Bob Milner in a Jollyboat loaned by MDL. They were followed home by another Jollyboat, Effy, owned by Ed Bremner. Flying Fifteeens dominated the slower dinghies taking the first four places, Cruella again leading the way home with Ffifty David Stewart second.

The cruisers had one longer race on Sunday which Vigilant, looking her elegant best in a good breeze, led from start to finish and also won on corrected time. Vigilant is currently owned by the ISCA Maritime Museum at Lowestoft. Foxcub of Beaulieu, Alan Bird recorded second, with Mary Lunn (Robin Whaite) and the Foxhound Ruby Tuesday (Chris Child) equal third.

Over the weekend the boats were reviewed in a Concours d'Elegance. Marks were awarded for appearance and originality. At the prize giving the stunning cruisers Vigilant and Mary Lunn were awarded prizes as equal best cruisers. Among the dinghies the International Fourteen Whirlwind and the International Canoe Flying Fish were honoured.

Overall class winners were Bob Blake from the USA sailing a Jollyboat, Jonathan Hill in the Flying Fifteen Cruella and the 22 Square Metre Vigilant took the cruiser class. Prizes were presented by Uffa's niece, Lucy McQueen-Mason.


Fast Dinghies
1. Jollyboat 362 (Bob Blake), 2. International Canoe 32, Flying Fish (Graham MacKereth), 3. Jollyboat 106 Jolly Tar (Peter Lucas).

Slow Dinghies
1. Flying Fifteen 3518, Cruella (Jonathan Hills), 2. Swordfish 75, Trigo (Andy Cassel), 3. North Norfolk 16 Number 10, Lively (Robert Veale).

1. 22 Square Metre 1, Vigilant (Neil Hunt), 2. Foxcub 357 L'Avant Fox (Derek Roberts), 3. Foxcub 340 Foxcub of Beaulieu (Alan Bird).

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