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Home / Fleet reports / Yorkshire One Design

Yorkshire One Design

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Such is the long history of the YOD class that it has touched many families over many decades, through sepia to digital, and has spawned more folklore than can be contained in a book let alone a report. Every yacht, every owner and every crew, past and present, has a story. Written off so many times as ancient, outmoded, slow, wet, uncomfortable and expensive firewood, YOD's have made more comebacks than Rocky Balboa. Because they are unique, interesting, somewhat beguiling, historic, difficult to sail - and there. And simply 'will not die' - to misappropriate a quotation from Gladiator.

The feelings that YOD's arouse is evident in the pathos and passion of the memories of those who live, and have lived, the class for decades, not least Lesley and Richard Armstrong whom we have now sadly lost to laying perfectly the celestial windward mark. Like many, I both liked and admired Richard in equal part and he remains a strong thread in the tapestry of RYYC history. He suffered fools badly and enthusiasts gladly and his smiling approbation was widely sought. He will be greatly missed.

And, like Jo and Greg I have a senior bus pass to the classification of class veteran having crewed in the 1960's. So, whilst Iolanthe has the signal honour of fleet captaincy as 2019 erodes away to Sinner's turn (wherefore art thou?) those readers (who have so far stoically endured) will be subjected to rather more anecdotal ramble than a simple account of a lean season. Anyway, what the hell. After all, I had my first adolescent crush on the pulchritudinous Carole (Redgate) Armstrong, of the famously lovely Redgate sisters, and whose comely frame graced Titus all those years ago.

Our family history in YOD's started in 1920 when Ronnie Gresham, fresh from Brighton College, and from losing three of this four brothers in the Great War, bought Iolanthe, by then an old yacht for the era (of 22 years over a design life of 7 years), for £50 with a loan from his father, Frank. He happily disgraced himself early on by setting off on the Grimsby Race when all but the Big Class had been cancelled due to gales. With a young (15 years old and 5 years his junior) Bob Blyth he made it there and back (eventually) with Bob's principal role having been to prostrate himself with canvas and oilskins over the front of the, then open, cockpit as an ineffectual dodger. They survived and Commodore Tom Jackson himself left the warm comfort of the club to fire a finishing gun for them before both were subjected to the shock and awe of the Mother of all Bollocking.

Ronnie married in 1923 having had a very rocky seduction route with our grandmother Mabel Lily Foreman, elder sister of Eddie. She had had an eye for Ronnie as he proudly and proprietorially bestrode the deck of Iolanthe in Bridlington Harbour and so she hatched a plan in those bold 1920's. Younger brother Eddie was persuaded, by the simple financial inducement of a halfpenny per foray, to nip down to the harbour from the family home on the South Beach, La Estanza, to see if Ronnie was on his yacht. If so, Grannie performed a 'flounce by' with parasol. Like all idiot men to this day, he was entirely oblivious to any social nuance. His subsequent, and no doubt gauche, invitation to Grannie to accompany him on Iolanthe to the Barmston barbecue having been robustly, contemptuously and rightly rejected, he sailed thence, solo on the day, towing his cockleshell dinghy and anchored off. According to Grannie he glowered for an hour at anchor as the bright young things imbibed and danced on the beach to a wind-up gramophone - doubtless the popular period Charleston and rags. The Gresham fuse blew and she recounts him rowing ashore in his dinghy, marching up the beach, assaulting her into a fireman's lift, depositing her in said dinghy and rowing back; she was forced to clamber out onto Iolanthe whereupon they stared at each other in mutual anger for the three hours before the ebbing tide threatened the further embarrassment and social opprobrium of a night at anchor outside the harbour.

The subsequent courtship appeared to embrace at least a modicum of decorum - not least because contemporaneous photos of Iolanthe illustrate Grannie in a mille feuille of heavily layered Egyptian cotton dresses that would have defeated the David Copperfield of the age. They were married on Bank Holiday Monday 23rd August, 1923 - because the church had been booked for the previous Saturday. They all had a team photo (taken from the Chicken Run) all standing on the deck of Zoraida of the 'Big Class' (she even had a ship's piano). (Note to Ed - Zoraida still survives half rebuilt and languishing in a shed on the IOW). The nemesis to yacht ownership arrived on 9th December, 1927 in the person of Josephine Mary Gresham who still graces the RYYC all these 92 years later. Of course, the familiar dichotomy of yacht versus sprog argument was won by sprog but certainly not without a robust, but ultimately doomed, rear guard action by Ronnie. In fairness you cannot sail a baby so hey both had a point.

Fast forward - no doubt to reader relief. In the 1930's Ronnie commissioned a cruiser, Aurac, from Jolle Lindblom in Finland, whence Greshams Timber sourced supply. This is not the place for that saga but Aurac arrived in [1935?] and Ronnie won the RORC Channel Race in her in 1937. What has this to do with YOD's? Nothing at all other than that he was handicapped to oblivion in Aurac and so decided to go back to one-design after the war. It was a sad day when Aurac went because Mum and her siblings Gordon and (baby) Carol had spent much of the war (Second - sorry, sorry - as Fawlty would say) sleeping aboard ahead of evacuation to Derbyshire. Mum inevitably remembers Aurac as the size of the Yorkshire Belle. She was (is) in fact 33 feet on deck. Little people with big eyes.

Come 1946, Ronnie, newly decorated with DSC for D-Day (he led minesweeping on the night/morning of June 5th/6th seconded to the US Fleet) and two MID's (Mentions on Despatches) was clearly suffering from the adrenalin overload that so affected all those who had lived on it through the war, be it subsequent mad pilots or mad powerboat racers. Ronnie commissioned Joca from Stanilands and co-designed the new (truly awful and dangerous) sliding Gunter rig - for which we have blueprints somewhere in a drawer at Mum's. Named after his girls Jo (Josephine) ca (Carol) Joca was built of larch on Canadian Rock Elm frames; no delicate flower. On the day Ronnie sold her to Eric Austerfield, Eric T-boned the South Pier flat out and it was, in fact, a fair contest. The South Pier sandstone suffered a major facies collapse (how satisfying must that have been?) whilst Joca suffered but a broken stem (or so the folklore goes ............). Ronnie went back to Stanilands and had them build Jesta (geddit JOCA - JESTA), Tito Y12, (no Y13) and Titus Y14 - and continued to sail and berate any stupid crew brave enough to risk his Krakatoa temper. Mum had to go away, marry and get pregnant finally to escape. Ronnie even an actually press-ganged her when pregnant. And so, it went and he went in and out of the class until, crewless, he overdid it one day and had a heart attack - and those was his sailing days done after Iolanthe, Aurac, Joca, Jesta, Laura and Jesta and two-handed Transatlantic with his pal (Lord) Robin Riverdale and other ocean passages. He commissioned Northerner - a whole other story and now thankfully in the safe custody of the Commodore and David Stamford.

So Jesta lay covered in green duck and forlorn at the bottom of the garden of 15 First Avenue in the late 60's/early 70's. Northerner was launched in 1973 - around the time I exposed my stupidity (again). Cue Lesley and I agree that Crispin was the first of the present generation properly to 'restore' a YOD but I have to claim first rights to timber butchery when, with the vast experience from Woodleigh of having built a tuck box (badly in fairness) I considered myself the Chippendale of boatbuilders (in fact I had designed and built a Moth at 17 years old which I accept is scant justification) and set about restoring Jesta. In fairness I made a very decent job of replacing the deck and cockpit (not I hasten to add for fear of offence to the standard of Crispin 'Grindling Gibbons' Blyth) and with the last finishing bits done by a Mr. Cook. We re-launched her and competed in Regatta Week in 1974 (?) What I remember is a very light, sunny, low water beat from Barmston where we eased inshore and Blackie, inside us, went aground on the Canch. So of course, Greg went into full Grace Darling mode and, like a total moron (no comments please) dived over to 'save' them from a gentle sylphlike grounding. Ask an astonished Mark Pennington. Jesta was an impossibility for two skint Yorkshire youngsters trying to make a career in a southern snake pit so she went and was a neglected child for a number of years (like so many of them at different periods) until 'full halleluiah' Robin came along determined to make her every bit as formidable a starboard tack opponent as her near sibling Joca. Mess with Jesta and you wear a bigger bronze tork round your neck than a Viking princess.

So nostalgia comes around again and bites Greg in the arse when Jeff, as family friend and caretaker, sells her back to the family. Now I have, here, to stifle a few smirks. Greg is not astute with money but it would be unfair of me not to share that the 'refurberation' (a borrowed term from US friends) may have cost a little more than he set out to spend. He loves the finished product as we all do long after the memory of the cost has (nearly) faded.

Mum was never really successful at marriage and had two first attempts - and married (let's be kind) 'incompatible' partners. She then met Peter and battle ensued amiably for several decades between the flashing foil of energy against comfortable obduracy. There was no clear winner until Peter, very inconsiderately, died a few years ago form the consequences of a chance accidental occurrence. Of course, Mum is still mad at this as anyone on the widows' canasta circuit will tell you (this is assuming all widowers have long since been scared off). So, we sat down as a family and tried to think of an adequately futile gesture as a response to this. It was actually quite simple and Neil sold us Iolanthe.

So, with family support (cousin Amanda and Mum on tea and orders) I spent a fair amount of time 'refurberating' and re-commissioning Iolanthe. A two YOD family which does not seem very sensible - but there we are. So where does this all take the class? Richard's and Lesley's observations resonate about current activity versus activity of yore. This period of the last decades, however, has seen greater demographic change and opportunity than the previous century. A YOD is a local class sailing in a bay that ranks with any in the country. And it remains a local class in a tidal harbour and with local supply and demand of those with lives of far greater opportunity than of yore. Time was that Bridlington served the hinterland of Yorkshire and, indeed, Nottinghamshire in the case of the Redgates. A time when driving was the activity of far fewer and a beer-induced wobble behind the wheel attracted a 'mind how you go sir' rather than a breathalyser. Kids were sent to the beach until big enough to see over a cockpit coaming whereupon they were given pumping and other menial tasks until big enough to pull a rope or lie out on the foredeck of a YOD upwind with the corroded Peter Storm badge digging in the ribs through the ineffectual bri-nylon kagoule and with marsupial front pocket full of North Sea. Funnily enough, not all modern kids want to do that now, strange as it may seem, when the Med is on offer or Dad is down on the Solent whence many RYYC members defected in the 90's. Including me. There is no easy solution but the signs are better. Robbie and gang have Patience, Crispin's gang are growing like weeds and Christian has come over to the bright side - well almost, because he still hangs a slightly disturbing appendage off the side of Dither. YOD's are expensive luxuries in that £10K buys you the right to spend a lot more and these are old boats and demand deep dive rebuilding periodically - as with those at Joe's. No longer can old nail sickness simply be ignored and an angle grinder taken to any recalcitrant item and a few more nails. So, you can spend £50K with Joe and get a stunning small £15K local half-decker. So, as a form of self-abuse it requires money at some stage. Luckily there are those who do self-harm quite happily. The good news is that Saint is planked and close to deck-on and Lady Lena is on the starting chocks. Of the longer-term restoration projects that leaves YoYo as a challenge. So green shoots are there like winter wheat.

I am sure that I speak for Greg as well but we would be only too pleased for local youngsters to sail Iolanthe and Joca if that helps re-spur enthusiasm in the class. For me it is 12 hours driving for a weekend but then I get to see Mum. If anybody has some bright ideas then let us caucus and make a plan.

Rob Gray

YOD Class Captain.

Last updated 12:49pm on 7 February 2021

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