The Sailing Season Finally Approaches!
As the days become longer and there’s a new feeling of hope that spring may eventually arrive, a boat owner’s thoughts turn increasingly to sailing. At the Whittle Marine boatyard in Thorley, just outside Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, the winter has been extremely busy, but now there’s a quickening of tempo as the sailing season approaches.
Since last autumn, there’s been a steady stream of boats arriving in the yard and within the next two months the direction of traffic will reverse with sailing boats and classic and modern powerboats leaving Thorley for relaunching.
The majority of space at the Whittle Marine yard is occupied by 20, wooden, three-man X One Design (XOD) day racers from the XOD’s Yarmouth Division and the class’s divisions at Cowes, Lymington, Itchenor, Hamble and Parkstone. All of the XODs have undergone winter maintenance and repair work over the winter, from relatively simple but meticulous varnishing and general fitting-out, to the more complex, structural tasks of replanking hulls and stem repairs.
The four-man team at the yard – Nick Whittle, Blaise Russell, Luke Brett and the firm’s apprentice shipwright, Mike Chambers – have also undertaken XOD mast repairs and the very important, but frequently overlooked, servicing of the boats’ trailers. In the yard’s western shed there’s also a local, rare and precious Yarmouth One Design (YOD), Katinka undergoing extensive stem repairs following the boat’s sinking on its mooring off the Royal Solent Yacht Club last summer. Whittle Marine organised the YOD’s retrieval and refloating from the bottom off the Solent and are currently ensuring the boat is ready for racing this season.
The growing relationship between Whittle Marine, the Fairey Owners Club (FOC) and the Classic Offshore Power Boat Club (COPC) has resulted in a mouth-watering collection of 1960s classic motorboats at the yard in Thorley including the Fairey Spearfish Merlin and Bruce Campbell-designed Christina Tic Toc from Lymington; a Fairey Huntsman Eclipse from Hamble and a second Huntsman, Star Hunter from Yarmouth.
Both engines on the 31-foot Merlin are being removed and rebuilt; Whittle Marine are designing, building and installing an aft seat arrangement on Eclipse and Tic Toc is undergoing hull repairs, cosmetic paintwork attention and improvement to her windscreen. Meanwhile Star Hunter – a Fairey Huntsman that played the leading rôle in a video shoot on the Solent last summer (view the video here) – is at the yard for a major restoration project. The 28-foot boat’s entire teak deck and plywood sub-deck are being removed and replaced by the Whittle team.
When not at the yard the team are constantly busy at Yarmouth Harbour and Cowes launching, hauling and valeting a huge range of boats including the growing number of RIBs that Whittle Marine store and manage. However, Nick, Blaise, Luke and Mike still find an opportunity to work on the yard’s flagship project: the fully class-approved, Whittle Marine XOD.
Over the past winter, the XOD has become a recognisable thoroughbred as the boat’s interior and external structure develops. Within the next few weeks, the Douglas Fir deck beams giving the boat’s deck crucial lateral support will be fitted. It is the deck beam at the forward end of the cockpit that will eventually carry the carved sail number of the Whittle Marine XOD – a moment that will be a significant landmark for both Whittle Marine and the XOD Class.
While Nick and his team derive a lot of pleasure and pride from working on a boat that will become part of XOD history and may well be winning races in 100 years, Whittle Marine are looking at the long game: “To build an XOD requires investment and to build a really special one takes time, craftsmanship and a huge amount of commitment,” says Nick. “We’d love to focus on the Whittle Marine XOD, but to generate income for this unique project, we have to keep the yard’s business growing and channel funds towards our new build,” he admits. “We always knew it would be a long and challenging project, but it’s phenomenally rewarding when we look at the boat evolving in our shed.”
Text: Oliver Dewar
Nick Whittle in the hull of the Whittle Marine XOD
Close to art - the Whittle Marine XOD
Classic powerboats and classic sailing boats undergoing work at the Whittle Marine yard
1960s British classic powerboats at the yard for restoration
Yarmouth One Design 'Katinka' at the yard for major stem repairs
Extraordinary attention to detail and craftsmanship is vital with the Whittle Marine XOD
The complex, hidden curves below an XOD's waterline
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