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‘Fanny of Cowes’: still racing at 150 years old!

‘Fanny of Cowes’, one of the founding boats of the OGA in 1963, was originally built as a working boat in 1872. Built by John Watts of Cowes in 1872 on the present site of Ratsey and Lapthorn’s Sailmakers, ‘Fanny of Cowes’ was a copy of ‘Star’, the champion Itchen Ferry boat in the 1860s. ‘Fanny’ was originally owned by the Poskins family in Cowes and first registered as a fishing vessel in 1902, until 1920 when she was sold.

She then had various owners until 1938, laying neglected on the beach during the war until in 1946 she was overhauled, given new rigging, transom and sails, with the Ford model T engine re-fitted. She was once again laid up in 1948 for 18 months and then sold for £70. Hauled ashore, dried out and sanded down by her new owners, ‘Fanny’ had survived remarkably well, with her longevity believed to be due to every piece of timber used in her construction being thoroughly soaked with linseed oil. A Coventry Victor motor was fitted in 1958, and she was bought by DJ Cook at Gosport in March 1959 who sailed her to the continent over Easter that year.

Renowned as a ‘fast boat’, she was winner of the Dulcibella shield for gaff rigged boats in the Harwich – Ostende Race in 1961-2, coming 10th overall out of 47 in 1964. In 1967 she came 5th overall and third in her class in the same race. Her racing success in this era was due partly to her extraordinarily successful design, and also to her owner being an ex-Navy Champion helmsman, who kept the same keen racing crew fully trained.

One of the few boats to have sailed in all the East Coast OGA area races, she won in 1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970. In 1969 and 1970 she also entered the Solent Old Gaffers Race, where she won the Emsworth Cleat each year. DJ Cook sold her in 1972 and her winning streak came to an end for a while, but she has won the East Coast Race again in recent years whilst in the ownership of Nigel Waller. In 2007 she sailed to the Netherlands and took part in the Hellevoetsluis Festival and in 2013 sailed down to Cowes to join the OGA50 Jubilee Celebrations. Following her sale by Nigel Waller in 2020 she continues to sail in tip top condition and is the oldest boat to join the OGA60 Jubilee Party in 2023.

Article contributed by Julian and Alison Cable