Three intrepid young British yachtsmen, Luke Yeates, Jack Gifford and Will Shepherd, have taken up the challenge by the Scandinavian Classic Yacht Trust, SCYT, for British classic yacht owners to retrace Uffa Fox's famous 1000 mile, 1930 voyage from Cowes to Stockholm. Sailing the Vixen, a 1937 classic yacht, the team hope to be in Trosa, Sweden, between 3rd and 6th August 2010 for the start of the Trosa Tullgarn Royal Palace Regatta, part of a new classic series, the Baltic Classic Master Cup.
"This race is unique in the challenge it offers, particularly the interesting route and heritage of the trip," says Luke Yeates, "the freedom it allows for people to select their own yacht, route, stopovers etc. Is unprecedented and makes it quite an appealing adventure, especially for a young crew."
Vixen is closely related in design to the Vigilant, in which Uffa Fox made his historical journey says its skipper, Luke Yeates. "The attraction was obvious, 'it felt like the right thing to do', was my immediate reaction." All three of the crew have grown up sailing Uffa's designs and reading his books. As Luke says, "It would be an honour to follow in his footsteps and to have a grand adventure to boot!"
In addition to the facing the vagaries of the weather, the crew have agreed to help in a scientific study related to environmental issues during their journey from the North Sea to the Baltic. The crew will record and report on visibility and the presence of seaweed, plankton and debris in the water and take water samples. The study programme has been developed by the Asko Laboratory, a marine field station which is part of the Stockholm Marine Research Centre within Stockholm University. The aim is to better understand the conditions that give rise to the annual algae blooms that adversely affect the beaches in the Baltic region.
"We are delighted to have our first challenger signed up. The added environmental element means that as well as retracing Uffa's historic journey, the Vixen crew will help scientists gather data to help them better understand the nature of the algae blooms that wreak havoc each year," says Olle Appelberg, Executive Director of the SCYT.
Luke Yeates hopes that more boats will join the challenge, particularly as he is quite competitive. Olle Appelberg adds that whichever boat makes it to the finishing line first, the current owner of Vigilant, Andrew Thornhill, will be presenting the first of, what it's hoped to be an annual presentation cup for winners to keep for one year. It is clear that the Vixen crew have their hearts set on that cup.
The Vixen and its crew
Vixen was designed by Knud Reimers and built at the Kungsors boatyard in central Sweden by Oscar Schelin. Imported to the UK before the Second World War, she was one of only a handful of the elegant Square Meter Rule yachts. At the time building to the rule was prolific in the Baltic but scarcely known in the UK. As co-skipper Jack Gifford explains, "Much finer in form and lighter in displacement than her British counterparts, Vixen and her kind were viewed with suspicion by the (British) yachting establishment and with her light and efficient construction deemed as 'un-seaworthy." One famous British sailor had fallen in love with the Swedish Square Meter yachts and collaborated with Reimers to build his own yacht. That, of course, was Uffa Fox, and the boat he built at Cowes was the Vigilant. So confident was Uffa in its sea keeping that he set out to sail it to its spiritual homeland of Sweden to take part in the Swedish championships.
Now Vixen is owned by twenty five year old Luke Yeates who has been passionate about sailing since his schooldays and already has a wealth of experience behind him, particularly in multihull racing. His ambitions are to become an all-round sailor capable of competing at the top level of the sport. Both skipper and co-skipper have extensive experience of the North Sea with Luke having raced F18 catamarans through the Swedish archipelago. Co-skipper Jack Gifford, is now a full-time naval architect, with the third crew member, Chemistry student Will Shepherd having notched up many miles in the Irish sea.
About Uffa Fox
Uffa Fox is not simply known as a sailor and boat designer, he was also a philosopher and eccentric as well as a media celebrity. Uffa was the father of the planing dinghy and his International Fourteen Footer Avenger won many races including the coveted Prince of Wales Cup. For many years his designs were the most sought after. It was in Vigilant, a new 22 Sq.m design with extremely light displacement that he made his famous voyage to Sweden to participate in the Centenary Regatta of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club in July 1930. Vigilant's design and construction was substantial enough to be sailed to Sweden and back in a summer of strong winds. He made the journey in 17 days and after the racing was over, Uffa received special recognition for his sailing feat and his promotion of a Scandinavian yacht rule in Britain.
About the Scandinavian Classic Yacht Trust
The trust's mission is to preserve classic yachts as part of Scandinavia's cultural heritage by making sure that they are sailed and seen. As a non-profit organisation the trust helps to develop a strong community for classic yachting by promoting, organising events and regattas.
About the Regatta
The Trosa Tullgarn Royal Palace Regatta offers four days of championships, parades and races, running Swedish Championships for 22 square metre skerry cruisers (A22) and four classes of mälarboats, the 15,22,25 and 30 sq.m Swedish Mälarboats, one-design yachts. On 6th August there will be a sail past in front of the 18th century Tullgarn Royal Palace to select the most beautiful yacht and the best crew. On the last day of the regatta, 7th August, a spectacular international archipelago race is planned to include the larger classic yachts such as 95 and 150 sq.m as well as 8, 10 and 12 mR and is open to all classic yacht owners.
More information about Uffa Fox and the Raid is available at www.news-lab.com/press/scyt