Classics Lost in the Cowes Boatyard Fire

A fire which is said to have started in a car workshop on Bridge Road spread quickly through the Medina Village industrial units on Monday lunchtime. Forty to fifty firefighters battled to control the fire which was finally put out at 19:00. The harbour was distrupted - the Red Funnel car ferry and chain ferry, which operates between East and West Cowes was suspended. Worse still, significant boats have been lost in the fire.

'Witch', 1902 Charles Sibbick

Classics Lost:

'Witch', a gaff cutter that was built in 1902, designed by C Sibbick & Co Ltd in Cowes. Witch (see above) was being worked on by boat builder Martin Knott. There's more information about her here:

'Fedoa of Bute', an Alfred Mylne design originally built in 1927. The 58 ft yacht was being worked on by a team of boatbuilders at Moreton Marine and was due to be launched this year.

'Fedoa of Bute' - Lost in the recent fire at West Cowes

Another great loss is the Vere, a 1905 cruiser used in the Dunkirk rescue. She was a celebrated Little Ship used to rescue 346 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1941.

X class One Designs (XODs):

The XOD class has suffered, losing seven boats. Class captain Mike Till described it as 'an unmitigated disaster' to Yachts & Yachting.

"It's probably the greatest single loss of boats ever recorded in one place. They were all top-class XODs, old obviously, but in beautiful condition. Three of those boats are the core of the Cowes Division, so it's a huge loss. The Vice-Captain lost his boat, and I am now Class Captain of the whole fleet without an XOD.

"You can't buy a replacement. You could buy another XOD, it's never going to be the boat you've lost. You can't just walk out and buy something off the shelf. My boat was built in 1938, called 'Delight' X75, many of the others were post-war. The point about these boats, we're just guardians of them. There's a heritage here and in the XOD fleet there's a finite number of boats, there are no new ones being built at the moment. They've been around since 1911 and they've never had a loss like this in the XOD fleet before."

Etchell One Design Keelboats:

Yachts & Yachting report: Fifteen Etchells keelboats were also destroyed in David Heritage's storage facility. David Franks, the Etchells fleet captain, reported however that the class had rallied impressively within just 24 hours of the incident.

"We've lost 15 boats, which is more than half the Cowes fleet. However, there is a lot of very good news coming out of it. One is that David Heritage's new build factory is fine, so he currently building eight new boats anyway and he is going to step that up to 12, so we're going to get 12 new boats out in the next few months, which is fantastic.

"The second piece of good news is that there's been a real pulling together throughout the world, and I have now got equivalent replacements for each of the active sailors in the fleet who have lost their boats. So we have a strong plan for each and very owner, to the point that I don't expect anybody to lose a race, let alone a regatta. It's become a bump in the road, and not a big dip."

The Etchells World Championships are being held in Cowes from 5-12 September 2016, with at least 65 boats expected. David Franks says that the Worlds will be unaffected by yesterday's events, and in fact many teams have been confirming their entry in support of the class.

The Dragon class:

Five Dragons are known to have been lost in the fire, including Julia and Graham's Edinburgh Cup-winning 'Aimee', and 'Old Bailey', which was owned by Dave and Sarah Ross, having also previously been owned by the Baileys. 'Virago', and 'Excite' are also believed to have been destroyed. Martin Payne, the owner of 'Rapier K289', a restored classic by Pederson & Theusen, said that he was lost for words at the news and described the boat as 'my heart & joy'. The boat was originally built in 1956 and won Cowes Week the year after.

Martin Payne commented, "The searching I had to do to originally find it, then the hours & days of skilful restoration that has been spent on the boat, never mind the expense, is so upsetting."

Info via Yachts and Yachting

Quarter-Ton class:

The Quarter-Tonner 'Espada', whose many victories included winning the Quarter Ton Cup and class at Cowes Week, was among the racing boats lost in the fire.

Classic Boat Museum:

In addition the Classic Boat Museum, which had planned to move some artefacts from its East Cowes base into storage in Medina Yard over the next few weeks, had not yet begun its move and is unscathed.