The 19ft–Squib keelboat is quite often raced with ferocious competitiveness which is almost frightening for those of us who bought them many years ago as handy little boats which worked as an ideal family day-sailer while providing some club One-Design racing as a useful option writes W M Nixon.
The alleged story of their origins has a certain irresistible charm. It’s said that in 1967 or thereabouts, the local GP in Burnham-on-Crouch - that total sailing place in among the many rivers and creeks of Essex - had the complete rig for an Enterprise Dinghy, but no hull to go with it.
However, having decided that his dinghy-sailing days were over, the doctor was yarning down the pub with the local small boat designer Oliver Lee, and the upshot of it was that Lee agreed to design a smaller version of his proven Ajax 23 in order to create a comfortable little keelboat which could use that redundant Enterprise rig.
You wouldn’t dream of measuring up an actual Enterprise rig against what finally emerged on the Squib, for fear of blowing that charming myth out of the water. But in any case, when the new boat soon proved so popular that classes started developing almost immediately, they were using distinctive sails in a tanned fabric such as you see on old gaffers, as it’s said some sailmaker had mistakenly over-ordered a stock of the stuff, so they were very competitively priced.
The odd boat turned up here and there in Ireland – there’s a rumour one of the first was seen in West Cork – but the first Club to seriously adopt the class was Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra on Belfast Lough. And they certainly didn’t let the grass grow under their feet – they’d Squibs racing in significant numbers by 1969, and in the years since, they’ve been far and away the most frequent winners of the Irish championship.
Admittedly it was when Howth hosted the British and Irish Championship in 1995 that the Squibs achieved a hundred boats-plus on the starting line for the first time, but down the ages it is the Cultra sailors who have most assiduously kept the faith, and this year they’re celebrating the Golden Jubilee of their fleet with a turbo-powered three day event for the 2019 Irish Nationals at Cultra on August 2nd to 4th, details here
The Squib is so broadly spread all over Ireland that we can get typical photos from many centres showing their versatility, but my favourite continues to be one taken at Dromineer on Lough Derg where the little boats are revelling in Autumn sailing at its best.
It now has added interest, as it shows a classic Lough Derg shoreline. Yachting historian Vincent Delany was referring to this background when he commented that the recently-sold Montagu Dawson painting of International 6 Metres supposedly racing on Lough Derg featured a shoreline which no Lough Derg sailor would recognise. Enough said.