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Irish Etchells 22 Transformed Into International Classic

20th April 2017
It takes a bit of effort to work out that somewhere in there is an Etchells 22 It takes a bit of effort to work out that somewhere in there is an Etchells 22 Credit: Bill Trafford

Some boats are Classics from birth, others acquire Classic status over time, and there are others beyond that again which have had imaginative things done to them in order to confer a new Classic status writes W M Nixon.

Back on February 11th, we ran a Sailing on Saturdays blog about the creative and energetic boat-builders who can be found in Ireland when you move outside the self-regarding bubble which is Dublin. One who particularly captured the spirit was Bill Trafford, who works from a shed near Skenakilla Crossroads somewhere between Mitchelstown and Mallow in North Cork.

etchells classic2They’ve been busy in Skenakilla – this is how it all looked two months ago Photo W M Nixon

Bill is doing things to an old Etchells 22 which fairly takes the breath away. For although there are those who would argue that this Skip Etchells-designed slim racing machine of 1966 vintage is something of a Classic anyway, Bill has done things to this particular example to move her into a completely new sector of the Classic Yacht movement.

He has raised the topsides by small but varying amounts to give a more elegant sheer. In doing this, he has provided the most perfect teak-laid deck, with a very elegant little Scandinavian-style coachroof set neatly in the middle. And he has provided a comfortable cockpit through extending her stern, which now finishes in a sophisticated interpretation of the Friendship Sloops’ unique counter transom to be found in Maine.

Bill Trafford has form in this sort of thing, as he won international awards for his transformation of a Elizabethan 23 into a lovely little fractional-rigged sloop with mostly day-sailing in mind. He prefers his boats to be finished in a classy and distinctive dark blue, and since we were last in Skenakilla, the new boat has had this treatment, and lovely she looks too.

etchells classic2The new deck is such a masterpiece that it should be hung on the wall as an exhibit in a spacious art gallery. Photo: Bill Trafford

In fact, there’s only one word for it, and it was provided by Johnny Smullen, shipwright to Dennis Conner, Mr America’s Cup. We were exchanging photos a week or so ago when I was putting together a piece about the Golden Jubilee of the Junior Section in the National YC, of which Johnny is a graduate. I slipped in that header photo of the Skenkilla Etchells 22 knowing that The Dennis has been an Etchells ace in his day. The response from Johnny Smullen was prompt: “That Etchells is amazing!”

etchells classic2It may be sometimes overused, but “Amazing!” really is the only appropriate reaction. Photo: Bill Trafford

Published in Historic Boats

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