Waldringfield Dragonfly One Design celebrates 70 years: 2019

Waldringfield, a small village on the River Deben in Suffolk has had sailing clubs since 1921 and September 2019 saw the 70th anniversary of the Waldringfield Dragonfly One Design dinghy, celebrated with a weekend of light-hearted racing and serious partying.

Like many sailing clubs, racing before the Second World War was based around a variety of dinghies. In September 1948 Waldringfield Sailing Club decided to adopt a 14’ One Design by the Irish designer O’Brien Kennedy, and christened it the Dragonfly.

Costing £152.10s.0d (one and a half times a working man’s wage!) no less than 20 boats were ordered and delivered by Nunn Bros. & Robertsons in Spring, 1949. The first race took place on 11 June that year with no. 11 winning.

The most recent Dragonfly, ‘Phoenix’, launched in 2014.

By 1963 a total of 43 boats had been built; it was another 51 years until the latest boat, no. 46 ‘Phoenix’, joined the fleet having been traditionally built by James Palmer at Larkman’s Boatyard, Melton on the River Deben.

This year’s anniversary at Waldringfield saw 11 Dragonflies joined by three of their Irish cousins, the IDRA 14’s. The IDRA is the same design, sailed in Dublin Bay, but updated somewhat with the addition of trapezes and lots of thin coloured string which baffles the Waldringfield sailors. Nonetheless over the years the Clontarf and Waldringfield Clubs have become great friends.

The longevity of of the class is, of course, due to the great characters past and present who have sailed the boats but also because they can be used as cruising day boats. The Deben offers a range of places to visit, from the town of Woodbridge and beyond to the shingle bar at the Felixstowe entrance. With most of the older boats afloat having been restored, and more projects in the pipeline, the future of this small, entirely local fleet looks secure.

James Palmer, East Coast OGA

Classic Sailor article by Julia Jones