Burnham boatbuilder brings Brightlingsea One-Designs back to life. Sue Pelling reports 15/3/06

A chic, hi-tech company producing world class Dragons is not really the sort of place you’d expect to find a 79-year-old old, local, clinker-built one-design class being developed. But a recent visit to Petticrows in Burnham-on-Crouch revealed all.

Tucked away in a corner in of one of the massive workshops, nudged up against a £100,000 plus, cold-moulded Dragon was a plug of an 18ft Brightlingsea One-Design being worked on by local boatbuilder John Mullins.

Mullins, who’s been involved with the design and development of the Dragons at Petticrows for over 17 years and was instrumental in building the successful Olympic Devoti Finn plug with Tim Tavinor, has quit retirement and is working full time once again reviving a class that would undoubtedly have died off had he not stepped in.

Mullins commented: “I built a BOD for myself in 1962 and decided to do some research into the fleet to see if I could build them in glassfibre rather than the expensive wood option. I had the plans all layed out and Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen saw the plans, loved the look of the boat and told me he wanted one. I then spent 15 months researching, re-drawing the old plans and bringing them up-to-date so I was at a stage where I could put forward a formal proposal to the class. Eventually they said yes and I started building the plug at Christmas.”

The Brightlingsea One-Design, or BOD as it’s better known, was designed in 1927 by Robbie Stone at Brightlingsea – just up the coast from Burnham. This pretty, classic-looking, clinker racer has a centreboard and Bermudan rig and with a total of 50 boats built the class has, over the years, enjoyed extremely close racing up and down the east coast. In 2002 the class celebrated its 75th anniversary with big party at Brightlingsea Sailing Club and yachting journalist Bob Fisher, who’s been involved with the class for many years, was the guest speaker.

The eight remaining beautifully restored wood boats still enjoy close racing but the introduction of Mullins’ glassfibre version should see the fleet kick in to life once again later this year.

Like many boatbuilders Mullins was particularly vague about the exact timing for completion of the first boat but he indicated that there should be a couple on the water by the end of the year.