A devastating Cowes fire that broke out in Medina Village on Monday 25 January destroyed over 30 boats, including a number of irreplaceable classic yachts. Below are the details of the Cowes fire and those boats lost.

The Medina Village site where the Cowes fire occurred comprises several industrial units off Bridge Road. The main unit affected, originally a machine shop, was used for boat storage by David Heritage Yacht Racing.

The fire, which the fire service confirmed was accidental, is believed to have broken out in a car workshop attached to the end of this building and spread rapidly through the large open building where the majority of boats lost were stored, before engulfing Moreton Marine and the two classic yacht restorations in that area.

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Thick black smoke engulfs much of Cowes as firefighters try to stem the blaze at Moreton Marine and David Heritage Racing Yachts. Picture by Rick Tomlinson

“Our shed is totally gone,” Patrick Moreton of Moreton Marine confirmed. The loss of his seven-year restoration project that was nearing completion, the 58ft Mylne ketch Fedoa of Bute, is gut wrenching (seen ablaze in the opening picture). Six boatbuilders had been working on her full time. Also in his yard was the 1902 built 36ft cutter Witch, which was undergoing a longterm restoration by Martin Nott. A Dunkirk Little Ship was also destroyed in the fire.

“We lost 32 boats under our umbrella,” said Sarah Ross from David Heritage Racing Yachts. These include 17 Etchells (over half of the Cowes fleet), five Dragons, five X One-Designs, a Quarter Tonner and a vintage steam launch. “I think it is the worst single disaster to affect so many classic boats in one event,” said XOD class captain Mike Till.

“Everything in the storage unit was a total loss,” Ross confirmed. There was enough space between the storage unit and David Heritage’s workshop to create a firebreak, but the buildings affected by the Cowes fire are now a “demolition site”.

“It was a very sad day for Cowes and for yacht racing,” said Ross, “but it could have been worse – everyone got out safely.”

CONFIRMED LOSSES

Fedoa of Bute

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One of the last pictures of Fedoa of Bute, showing her immaculate restoration before she was destroyed by the Cowes fire

 

A 58ft 6in Alfred Mylne ketch, built in 1927 by Bute Slip Co in Port Bannatyne. Heartbreakingly, she was in the final stages of a seven-year complete restoration by Patrick Moreton at his yard, Moreton Marine.

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The extent of Fedoa’s restoration was incredible and nearing completion

“I bought the boat in 2009 and sold it as an ongoing project in 2013,” Moreton said. Full details of her rebuild can be found at fedoa blogspot

 

Witch
The 1902 Charles Sibbick 36ft cutter Witch was undergoing an extensive restoration by Martin Nott at Moreton Marine. Nott owned her for nine years. “I became a boatbuilder when I didn’t know how to fix her,” Nott said.

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Witch pictured the day before the Cowes fire – “I had just been splining the topsides,” said Martin Nott

 

The restoration began in Emsworth before he moved her to Cowes in 2012 – and to within 100m of where she was built in 1902. Nott found scant documentation on her designer and builder Charles Sibbick, so compiled a list of designs on his website.

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“We were probably six months away from having the deck and last few planks done. All it needed was spars, sails and an engine. That was the disappointing thing – we were so close. As I keep saying, I feel sorry for the boat, after 114 years.”

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The extensive documentation of her rebuild is HERE

 

Kariat

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Kariat pictured off Cowes by Beken in 2011

A 34.98ft (10.67m) compound steam engine launch built in 1897 by Liquid Fuel Engineering Company in Cowes. Kariat was brought back to Cowes in 2003 by current owner John Power and selected for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012.

 

Vere

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Vere was built in 1905 as an admiral’s steam pinnace. The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships reports that in May 1940 Vere made several trips to Dunkirk and is ‘credited with the rescue of 346 British and Allied troops.’ Her present owner Ian Campbell ‘had spent £80,000 trying to bring the boat back to its former glory,’ the BBC reported.

She was one of the historic vessels featured in the ‘WW1: Britain’s Surviving Vessels’ ­– managed by National Historic Ships UK. More details HERE

 

Rapier K2389

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The classic Pedersen & Thuesen Dragon Rapier in her final resting place before the Cowes fire

 

This 1956 Pedersen & Thuesen Dragon launched as Scimitar. Her current owner, seasoned Dragon sailor Martin Payne, told me how he had spent £40,000 on Rapier’s two year long refit so far.

“Every single deck beam had been removed, cleaned, re-glued and epoxied before replacing. She would have been worth £100,000.” The keel was re-done, the floors all taken out, bulkheads replaced and all deck beams removed. She was fully sheathed and just needed the deck replacing and fitting out.

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“They’re unique,” said Payne. “Rapier won Cowes in 1957 the year after she was built. I was just looking forward to racing her on the circuit.”

 

X One-Designs

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X52 Anitra, one of five classic XODs lost in the Cowes fire, in a classic Cowes Week scene – by Hamo Thornycroft

 

X52 Anitra

Built in 1935 by Woodnutts Boatyard on the Isle of Wight – the original MD of which was the XOD designer Alfred Westmacott. Twice winner of Cowes Week Captain’s Cup, Anitra was latterly owned by Paul Kelsey, vice captain of the Cowes fleet.

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“The feeling of the owners is that we are mere custodians of these beautiful old boats, in order to pass them on to future owners,” said Kelsey. “To lose so many is tragic.”

 

X75 Delight

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Build in 1938 by Woodnutts and regarded as an example of this yard’s work at its best. “She was a beautiful boat, completely restored and immaculate,” said owner and XOD class captain Mike Tell. “It’s a terrible loss for me and the fleet.”

 

X81 Sapphire

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Built in 1946 by Woodnuts and owned by ex Yachting Monthly member Jeremy Field.

 

X99 Xin Bai

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Built in the early 1950s at Hamper, she belonged to Andrew Cooper since 2009, who’s mother Mary had also previously owned her. Xin Bai means China White – the name of Cooper’s Etchells also lost in the fire.

 

X108 Leading Wind

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Built in 1955, she had an excellent racing record, including back-to-back Cowes Week victories in 1959 and 1960. Last owned by Hamble fleet member Hamish Calder.

 

Also lost in the Cowes fire 2016

Quarter-Tonner Espada

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This iconic Quarter-Tonner, designed by Bruce Farr and built by Geoff Hunt in 1980, may be considered a classic. Class founder Peter ‘Morty’ Morton bought her in 2005, and under he and his wife Louise, Espada had many victories including three Quarter Ton Cups. The class association reports that she was sold to Julian Metherall in February 2015.

 

17 Etchells

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The Cowes Week Etchells fleet led by Exabyte V – by Rick Tomlinson

Seventeen boats were lost, three of which were inactive (Fetching, Wild Thing and Pale Tide). Four boats were less than two years old (Time&Tide, Swedish Blue, Exabyte, and Betsy). The remaining 10 were Escape, China White, Elvis, Matatu Dubh, Ray of Light, Esprit, Efreya, Tango, Matatu and High Tide.

“All the active boat owners have replaced their boats,” said Cowes Etchells Fleet Captain David Franks. “The insurance companies have been paying promptly on a total loss basis.”