The first of a new class of Norfolk One-Designs – a £65 racing dinghy – was built in 1931 by Mr Herbert Woods of Potter Heigham as a protest against the price of the 14ft International Class which was soaring to 150 guineas.
The boats soon proved their worth, although they quickly attracted the attention not only of young people but also of crack helmsmen, which, while disheartening to the new hands, set a high standard of sailing which the younger school were able to emulate. Proof of their growing popularity was the commissioning of six or seven new Norfolk’s each year until the commencement of war, and they continued to be made at this rate from 1947 until 1951, with ten new ones in 1949.
In fact, numbers of new boats were lessening, for from 1951 until 1968 only nine more were built. The last was number 86 in 1968. Ted Chamberlin picked out three young helmsmen who were already proving their ability in 1951, in spite of their youth. The three young helmsmen were Ian Mackintosh, Martin Broom and Raymond Jeckells.
One change, however, has been forced upon the class since the war, and this was the replacement of bamboo with hollowed spruce for spars and masts, due to the impossibility of obtaining suitable bamboo. But there is still a few bamboo masts to be seen, as well as plenty of gaffs and booms. The boats were built of African mahogany; varnished, clench built, copper fastened, with gunter rig,with bamboo mast and spars, sail area of 125 sq.ft. made of union silk, no spinnaker being allowed, and no forestay or battens, with copper boyancy tanks.
The “B” on the sail rather than “N” for Norfolk’s is confusing until one remembers that the 12 foot Nationals, which were sailed frequently on these waters inter-war, display the letter “N”. Therefore “B” for Broads was chosen.
The year 1981 saw the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Norfolk Dinghy.
The first race held by the class was on Easter Monday 1931 and was from Potter Heigham to Hickling Broad and back. Six of the seven boats built took part and W.L Clabburn’s Swift was first over both legs.
The fiftieth anniversary was therefore celebrated by a repetition of that race on Easter Monday 1981. This time no fewer than 44 boats took part.
- File name: A Real Boat - revised edition by Vernon Penketh
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