The fact that the Gareloch One Design class is still complete and active after 80 years of sailing belies a turbulent history of migration from home waters after the invasion of the Norwegian Dragons – introduced to British waters by Clyde owners. At various times the class has been active on the Gareloch, the Firth of Forth and at Aldeburgh in Suffolk.
In the 1950’s the single-mindedness of John G.D. Henderson – whose family have been intimately involved with the class from its conception to the present day – brought about the return of the migrants from all points to the waters of their birth. That labour of love, together with further tender loving care and restoration by local boatbuilders over the ensuing 50 odd years has ensured the survival of these delicate and beautiful boats with a tough will to survive – and an endearing place in the social structure of the local sailing scene.
It is hard to believe that boats built down to a price – less than £160 – should have lasted so well. It says something about the skills and quality of workmanship and materials available 70 years ago.
The first mention of a proposed class in the minutes of the Gareloch Yacht club is October 22nd 1923 and by April 1924 the first boat afloat – Athene – was being trial sailed. At the club’s opening regatta of 3rd June 1924 the first batch of ten boats – Galatea, Athene, Dione, Ceres, Halcyone, Thalia, Iris, Hermes, Thia and Zoe – were racing, the owners having drawn lots for their boats in the interest of fairness.
Reputedly in the space of only 6 weeks, McGruers built 5 further boats to the same design but known as the Royal Forth Yacht Club – Spray (now Luna), Cockelroy (now Zephyrus), Fintra (now Catriona), Jean (now Circe) and Rosemary II (now Teal). The 16th boat – Juno – was built in 1928, now a mere youngster of 76.
There was some come and go between the Clyde and Forth fleets during the early years and, of course, team racing for the Barge Cup from 1934. But by 1936 on the Gareloch and 1937 on the Forth, the Dragon class began to take over.
In 1937 most of the Forth fleet was purchased – along with Iris and Athene – from the Gareloch, by members of Aldeburgh Yacht Club; the ideal answer to their search for a reasonably priced class to replace their ageing Sibbick designed Whitewings. Luna, Catriona, Thalia, Athene, Iris, Juno and Circe raced as a class on the Alde 1937-39 and 1945-1954 and finally in 1955 minus Athene. At the end of the 1955 season they were transported back to McGruers to begin the almost complete regrouping of the class in home waters.
Appropriately perhaps, when the Henderson family boat of old, Iris, was returned from Aldeburgh in 1957, the class was complete for the first time on the Gareloch.
Since 1957 all 16 boats have been based on the Gareloch, where they have given enjoyment, keen racing and pride of ownership to yachtsmen of all ages. The last time the whole fleet raced was in 1984, but most years see around 10 boats afloat with a good turn out at the first race of the season. Regular events are the matches against the Howth 17 Class from Dublin, Fairy Class from Belfast and HMS Neptune from the Faslane Submarine Base, as well as the Yvonne Armstrong Memorial Trophy which is raced for by local teams of cadets. Finally there is the Gareloch World Championship held in late July for the 50th Anniversary Cup, which was presented by the RNCYC in 1974.
The notes above were originally compiled by Iain McAllister