Development of the National 12

As dinghy sailing became more popular in the 1930s, the Yacht Racing Association (forerunner to the RYA) published rules for a simpler boat than the only dinghy raced on a national basis, the expensive ‘International 14’. The rules were simple: a 12′ clinker built hull weighing less than 190 lbs. (including floorboards), no more than 90 square feet of sail and cost less than £45! Clearly, the rules have changed over the intervening 80 or so years, but the class remains popular today.

N1 ‘Gipsy’, designed by Uffa Fox was launched at Cowes in April 1936. Over 150 boats had been built by the first  ‘Burton Week’ held the same year. The Burton Cup remains the premier challenge trophy in the National 12 class, originally presented by Sir William Burton, KBE, Chairman of the Yacht Racing Association in 1936.

Watch the documentary summarising the history of the class since 1936 until today.

Watch archive footage of National 12s racing in 1955 here.

Vintage 12s are those with clinker built hulls. The earliest, dating from 1936 -1952, are of traditional ribbed clinker construction. They are most satisfying to sail to windward, but they only plane in strong winds. In 1952 the first glued clinker boats were built, durable and easily maintained, so this method of construction became universal. In 1958 the first fully planing N12 was designed representing the most important landmark in the development of the class. In 1970, the Class adopted four plank construction and several designs of this period appeared in both clinker and four-plank form. In the early 1970’s, glued clinker construction disappeared in favour of four-plankers and here our Vintage era sadly ends.

Vintage boats are surprisingly competitive on smooth water and in lighter winds especially if they are in good condition and down to weight. The TWELVE Association encourages the restoration and use of Vintage boats by arranging special events for them.

Visit the National Twelve website to find out more