There's a doubling of the Swallow entry at this year's Skandia Cowes Week, a welcome return on efforts made to keep the class healthy.

There’s a doubling of the Swallow entry at this year’s Skandia Cowes Week, a welcome return on efforts made to keep the class healthy.

This 55-year-old one-design, originally designed by Tom Thornycroft for the 1948 Olympic Games, is making a comeback despite only two new boats built in the last five years. It’s a strict-one design and those in the class are enjoying fun, competitive racing at a relatively low cost. There are two main fleets in the country; one based at Itchenor with 30 boats and a smaller fleet at Aldeburgh with six.

We caught up with Swallow class chairman Anthony Lunch to find out the reasons behind the comeback. “We have 17 boats on the start line this week,” Anthony states with a smile, “which is the biggest we’ve had for many a year and over 100 per cent up on last year. And the good thing is we have many newcomers who have never been to Cowes before. It’s great to see so many here.”

One of the reasons the class is appealing to the newcomer is the effort the association is making to encourage them. “We selected a young RS200 helmsman from the bursary scheme we set up at Itchenor Sailing Club,” Anthony explains. “We’ve elected to pay the mooring fees and the entry fee with the idea to encourage the younger generation of top flight dinghy sailors to try their hand at a Swallow sailing. Itchenor has always had a top flight group of dinghy sailors – International 14s, RS200s and Fireflies – and many of these have evolved into Swallow sailors. This is really where we see the future of the class for the next generation.”

Another attraction is the relatively low cost of buying and running the boat. “It’s an easy class to get into,” Anthony claims, “because many boats are syndicated to share the costs. To buy a second-hand Itchenor Swallow you’re probably talking UKP7,000-8,000 shared between three people, which is really not too expensive. The cost of running it is about UKP3,000-4,000 a year including sails and moorings.”

The class has only seen one major change in 55 years when the construction changed from wood to glassfibre. Fortunately it was a change that didn’t affect the performance of the boat and therefore didn’t ‘grandfather’ the older boats. In fact it happened at a time when glassfibre was relatively expensive. Some members of the fleet ‘upgraded’ but others stuck with their old, wood ones, and fortunately were able to compete on an equal basis with them, preserving the integrity of the one-design format.

The lively social side, particularly at Cowes this week, also appeals. Christine Graves, the class social secretary explains, “the social side is jam-packed with something for everyone. We’ve got a party at the Squadron on Tuesday, a dinner at the Corinthian on Wednesday and individual parties nearly every other night, so there’s never a dull moment. I’ve also set up a dating agency. I’ve collected all of the mobile numbers, sail numbers and we want photos for all those who apply and you have to buy the list!”