Huff of Arklow - Uffa Fox

Huff of Arklow is radical boat to look at. Some might be surprised that she was drawn by a famous British yacht designer, Uffa Fox, and launched in 1951.

Recently she was awarded Heritage Lottery Funding in order for Cremyll Keelboats to restore her at Mashford’s boat yard, Torpoint – Cornwall. Before this came to completion in August 2014 CYTV caught some of the stages of her restoration on camera and later went sailing on board.

Facts about Huff of Arklow:

Designer Uffa Fox
Builder Jack Tyrell, Arklow (Ireland)
Launched 1951
Bermudan sloop
LOA 45ft (13.7 M)
BEAM 9ft (2.7 M)
Draws 6.7ft (2 M)
1. 1951 Vessel launched
2. 1962 Faulkners Cup winner
3. 1964 Faulkners Cup winner
4. 2001 Purchased by EISCA

Huff of Arklow’s fin and skeg underwater profile configuration was received as a sensational design in the early 1950s. Especially, upon her initial launch in the quaint and agricultural Irish town of Arklow, 70km south of Dublin, Ireland. Fin and skeg aside, the other major feature that makes her a perplexing sight is that stepped shear. This exceeds a foot’s difference between her deck and, the lower, aft deck and cockpit. In post war Ireland in the early 1950's, the boat builders at Jack Tyrrell’s yard in Arklow must have thought they were part of an experiment building such a boat.

This design and all its strange features came to fruition by not just the yacht designer but also, the man who daringly commissioned this boat. He is the person who gave the designer, Uffa Fox an already established name in yachting, a chance to explore the physics and engineering needed to be applied in designing and building a slightly unstable, up-scaled dinghy just five years after the Second World War.

The owner Huff of Arklow was built for was ex-RAF pilot Douglas Heard, an Irishman who’s collection of Interntional 14’s (also drawn by Uffa Fox) were not enough to feed his appetite to sail fast. Douglas Heard already had a close client-designer relationship with Fox after backing a multitude of design commissions for i14’s, the development dinghy class set up in 1928. Interestingly, Heard’s boats were all named with the prefix of ‘Huff’ that was later, affectionately taken up by Uffa Fox as his chosen name for Douglas Heard.

CYTV believes Huff of Arklow is part of an important renaissance in yacht design that occurred after the Second World War. Her underwater profile is an early example of the interlude between long keel designs that were becoming less prominent in the forefoot (in their evolution) AND fin and skeg designs.

Claims that Huff of Arklow was the “first ever skeg and fin”, as well as “first mast head sloop” published in recent yachting press articles seem to exist without their references. It is hard to find a record of who designed and built the first fin and skeg on a lightly built yacht of around 30 foot (LOA). However we are aware that Dixon Kemp was writing about designs with that sort of underwater profile in the late 1800’s. Further more, Charles Sybbick was among designers using fin and skeg, for example, Bona fide 1898 (C. Sybbick design). The important point here is that we'd like to know who built a successful lightly-built 30ft boat with a fin and skeg first?

In the early 50's, light scantalings were in vogue for offshore racing events. Technology and materials had improved over the course of the war and people wanted to re-introduced yacht racing and encourage its growth after the austerity of the Second World War. Although while looking in to this era in yacht design, it is fairly clear that it took another ten years before yachts of 30 feet or so, were able to carry a fin keel while also lightly-built.

Twelve years after Huff of Arklow's launch Olin Stephens noted in his autobiography ‘All this and Sailing Too’ that he recognized Bill Lapworth’s ‘Cal-40’ as the first separated keel and rudder design in the U.S. The year of the Cal-40 launch was 1963. Interestingly in the same year, ‘Inverness’ a long keel design by Sparkman & Stephens was launched but returned to the S&S yard in 1964/5 and re-fitted with a constellation type rudder and she had her keel re-shaped.

Most likely, Inverness’ modifications were catalyzed by the brand new trend of separating the keel and rudder (fin and skeg configuration) proven in other S&S designs like ‘Palynodie’, launched in 1962 which had a very small keel and separated rudder.

Inverness’ new constellation rudder and reshaped keel was a mere simulation of the new racy and radically fast underwater profile design of fin and skeg, then taking yacht design into a whole other era. 1964 bought ‘Firebrand’, a long (but relatively short) keel design drawn by Sparkman & Stephens and, in 1966 she had her underwater profile changed by S&S to skeg and fin. 1964 also saw the launch of ‘Carillon’, designed by S&S. She was returned after just three seasons, back to S&S’s yard to have skeg and fin replacement under the influence of ‘Intrepid’ – the America’s Cup 12mR designed in 1966 by Olin Stephens, launched in 1967 for the Cup.

1966 saw the launch of the “terrible twins”, ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Clarionet’ designed by Olin Stephens and owned by two Englishmen seeking to compete boat-to-boat in the One Ton Cup. They were similar boats but not sister ships and were ordered at the same time by two owners, Derek Boyer and Sir Max Aitken who were seperately talking to Olin on all things in vogue! And both featured a separate keel and rudder. Both came loosely from Stephen’s observations of the performance of ‘Rabbit’, that won the Fastnet in 1965 and designed by Dick Carter, which had a separated keel and rudder.

The few years between 1963 and 1966 seem to be the first real push and transitional period from long keel or full keels and attached rudder designs to separate keel or fin and, skeg attached rudders in big boats and yachts. This was all solidified by the successful America’s Cup defender ‘Intrepid’ in 1967 – deemed as Olin Stephen’s "most innovative twelve".

It looks like hanging a fin keel off a yacht of 30 foot yacht design had not really been achieved before Huff, [unless anyone can suggest different!] and it is due to her cold moulded construction that she was able to carry such a substantial weight in the form of a fin. Built with two moulded skins of mahogany with the outer skin running fore and aft, she retains optimum strength because the inner skin runs diagonally – spreading the loads.

The cold moulded construction technique would have stemmed from Uffa Fox’s residence on the Isle of Wright, England. He reported in his memoirs of being saddened that his first ever design was never finished or built. What would have been a 20 foot water-line centreboard cruiser to suit an oak tree given to him by his father, Uffa Fox left redundant and half built. Due to his despondency and perhaps, slightly impatience, Uffa bought something completely different. It happened to be the first hydroplane that S.E. Saunders (Isle of Wight) had built!

Her and “Her bottom, which was double diagonal”, was Uffa’s pride and joy as he writes in the chapter called ‘Craft I Have Owned And Sailed’ from his book ‘Thoughts on Yachts and Yachting’.
Uffa turned this hydroplane into a canoe to sail around the same island that the double diagonal technique was patented on – in the mid 19th Century by John Samuel White of White’s Shipyard in East Cowes. Uffa’s apprenticeship at S.E. Saunders (Saunders and Roe) gave him many more skills that fed into his Flying 15’s, International 14 designs and the flying yachts like Huff of Arklow. At the builders, Uffa would have gained boat building skills from ‘flying boats’ and fast motor boats. His time served in the Royal Naval Air Service would have given him knowledge of the physics and design parameters applied to fast, extreme vessels and aircraft designs.

Later in Uffa Fox's life, in his own design office, he greatly contributed to the war effort by designing the Airbourne Lifeboat (built with a cold moulded construction). He received a C.B.E. in 1959 for creating this vessel to be parachuted from aircraft to save aircrew and pilots as they were shot down. It is perhaps this nature of work that informed him of the necessary skills to be able to launch a yacht of 30ft with a fin keel while retaining light scantlings.

In this film we’ve, by the help of a few people, managed to interview the second wife of Douglas Heard, who cruised Huff of Arklow to the Azores and back. Ruth Delany recalls the boat’s performance, the alterations to improve the design and of course, the interesting relationship her late husband had with Uffa Fox.

Unfortunately there is not a tangible record of Huff of Arklow reaching an incredibly high speed in a log – we hunted high and low and would like to thank RORC for their time in digging out what there is on Huff in the archives.

Huff of Arklow did receive the Faulkners Cup in 1962, and in 1964 for cruising record miles in 24 hours. She does not, however, show up on Fastnet results during the 1950s, straight after her launch. This may tell us that she was not as successful as the owner and designer would have liked.  Although, this story is important; not just because of the its place in time but also because of the relationship he client and designer had for this design number. Trust, funding, and science were all elements coming into play here, where an owner is willing to experiment with a really radical idea – which has got to be every yacht designers dream. Aesthetically, the stepped shear is problematic though, it makes the design as a whole, torn between cutting edge and practical. The two strong – mustard like features – above and below the waterline are executed from two ideologies. While we all love or hate this boat for her looks, she can definitely earn her name as a “landmark boat”. Maybe the ‘boys’ you see in Jack Tyrrel’s yard in the archive footage in this film were, after all, part of an experiment in yacht design.


‘Cremyll Keelboats’, a Rame Peninsula based charity set up to train young people in the art of seamanship and restoration work applied for funding to carry out a comprehensive and sympathetic restoration on Huff of Arklow in 2011. They (made up of a lovely husband and wife team, Dominic and Barbara Bridgman) successfully received accreditation from the Heritage Lottery Fund and started work in 2012. Dominic undertook significant work restoring Huff back to her original design and making her safe to sail. Upon the beginning of this venture, at Mashford’s boatyard Dominic found the strap floors along the centreline needed to be replaced. National Historic Ships came to the charity’s help by funding the new iron floor which were galvanised and painted with Hamerite. Hot pitch was pored to level the bilges as it used to in the old days. Every other frame underneath the floor was near enough replaced. Electrolysis, was a problem in most of Huff and stray currents near the rudder tube, inboard, existed. Forward of the mast, “maybe it was the anchor chain”, there was more electrolysis. He goes on to say, “when we took the skeg off – the fastenings were basically non existent which didn’t fill me with confidence”. Dom also scarfed in new timber near the skeg.

Dominic says she was really nail sick and her original brass screw were shot, weak and he had to replace them. It was at this stage that the charity successfully applied to the Future Jobs Fund, a Labour government scheme to ease young people into employment. So Dominic received four trainees to help refastening the hull over a six months period. He decided to rivet either side of each brass screw, 1 per plank per frame – definitely a two-man job – total rivets amounted to 8,000. Before driving all the rivets in, making the skin of Huff pretty tight, the planks had movement and so the seams were cut out between the planks and cedar splines were worked in. They found soft wood behind the chainplates and the top plank in the cockpit deck area.

Down below again, the horn timber needed attention, the centerline fastenings were steel, they’d degraded. Re-riveting the whole boat meant Dom could access everything but it also meant that he would have to start again with the interior fit out and importantly, the layout. The engine was moved forward, nearer the centre of gravity to improve for-and-aft trim. The new interior was lighter, made out of mahogany marine ply and more practical for taking people sailing commercially – part of the work Cremyll Keelboats exists for. Huff’s spars were changed, her boom was made longer and the main sheet track moved aft to give more room in the cockpit as sometimes he would take up to 6 people sailing. Rope halyards replaced wire – back to her original spec. Cremyll Keelboats, have also followed on in the foot steps of Uffa and Douglas’ decision to steer by tiller, not by wheel – watch the film for more details.



Please take note of the following people involved in the project. Thank you to David Branigan who shot the Ruth Delany interview!

Mrs. Ruth Heard
David Branigan
John Kearon
Bill Weldon
Royal St.George YC
Transport Trust
National Historic Ships UK
Worshipful Company of Shipwrights
Mashfords Boatyard
Falmouth Marine School
Maker Junction CIC
Mt. Edgcumbe Estate
The Rame Peninsula Community
The Plymouth Waterfront Partnership
All volunteers close by & far away

Recommended read:
‘All This And Sailing Too’, Olin J. Stephens (II). Mystic Seaport Museum Inc. 1999 ISBN 0-913372-89-7