Stuart M Roy
Naval Architect - Yacht Designer
YACHT & POWERCRAFT DESIGN SERVICES
Boatbuilders at Lymington, Hampshire, claim that scows have been built there since the late 1800s. However, the first documented design for a Solent Scow was in 1920 by an unknown designer at the Berthon Boat Company of Romsey, later of Lymington. These wooden Solent Scows of length 11' 4" with 65 sq. ft. of sail, subsequently known as the Lymington Scow, were built in quite large numbers by numerous different builders until the late 1950s, spreading along the coast as far as Christchurch (Avon Scow).
The Beaulieu Scow is very close to the Solent Scow in design but has a larger sail area of 75 sq. ft. for better performance on the quiet waters and creeks of the Beaulieu River. But the first major design variation, for improved performance in choppy waters, was the 11’ 3” West Wight Scow by Yarmouth boatbuilder Theo Smith in 1924. Apart from the prototypes, these one-designs were actually built by Bernard Hayward at Yarmouth until 1931 and by E Williams at Cowes until 1969. Further examples were also built by other Solent yards including Burnes of Bosham, who were building them in the early 1950s. The two original wooden scows in the photograph (left) have both been sailed in the creeks of Chichester Harbour for at least 50 years. “Golden Otter” (right) is thought to be a Burnham-built West Wight Scow derivative (see Burnham Scow below) from the 1950s, whilst “Flicka” has the appearance of one of the original Lymington scows.
In 1950 Bill Waight of Uffa Fox's design team redrew the lines of the West Wight Scow and these became the Island Sailing Club Scow built by Lallows of Cowes and the Bembridge Scow and the Brading Haven Scow built by Woodnutts of St Helens and others. The Keyhaven Scow (now built in GRP by West Solent Boatbuilders Ltd) is also believed to be a re-incarnation of the West Wight Scow. Also working from the West Wight Scow, famous yacht designer Alan Buchanan redrew the lines for the Royal Burnham Yacht Club's scow class, which became the Burnham Scow or East Coast Scow. Other scow variants include the Hamble Scow of the 1930s and the Portsmouth Scow, built at Forton Creek from around 1935. The rare Portchester Duck is a further variant with an unusual pram-dinghy type bow. An excellent example of this class was regularly seen sailing in Chichester Harbour in the 1960s.
Recent scow development began with the fibreglass Lymington River Scow, produced by racing-dinghy builder John Claridge from the late 1980s at the request of the two Lymington-based yacht clubs, where scow sailing had started so many years before. The idea was to produce a safe and sturdy modern version suitable for children learning to sail and race in the Lymington River. Despite these intentions the boat has been just as enthusiastically adopted by adults. The design is based on the Beaulieu Scow with its enhanced sail area, but takes the development further with increased beam providing greater sail carrying power, improved centreboard and rudder, re-faired smooth-skinned hull, reduced all-up-weight and an optional jib.
To support the dwindling scow fleet at Bosham SC, Chidham boatbuilder Flight Marine Ltd developed in the 1990s a modern smooth skin GRP version of the scow, called the Chichester Scow. This design, developed using CAD, is believed to have been loosely based on the West Wight type built in the area nearly fifty years before, but Flight Marine constructed a strip-planked prototype for extensive testing before going to GRP production. Consequently a number of improved features have been included, such as an aluminium alloy centreplate. So, as well as the increased beam of the Lymington River Scow the Chichester Scow is very much lighter with an all-up-weight around half that of the wooden types with their 10mm thick planking and steel centreplates. Weight distribution is also improved and a new interior design allows the helmsman to sit in an optimum position for windward sailing.
Whilst maintaining a similar size, shape and appearance in all its variations, the design of the scow has continued to evolve over 95 years providing the two recent types with considerably more speed potential than the earlier versions. And for my new Scow design ……..
The Scow dinghy is a particular favourite of mine, with its jaunty look and purposeful character.
Two wooden Scows at Chichester Harbour
An original wooden West Wight Scow and more modern GRP Lymington River Scows at Lymington.
Scows in America
In 2015 I was contacted by D J Mason of Burnham-on-Crouch with the story of how the scow dinghy reached America…..
“The Lymington scow dinghy was imported to USA by a Mr Ratsey in 1930 and was then known there as the Ratsey International Dinghy. They were built by H.B.Neins of City Island N.Y. The info comes from Mystic Seaport Museum Watercraft by M Bray. The measurements in the book match my model of a Burnham Scow built by S Bigmoore. The Ratsey version differs in having a thwart across the stern.
From the comments of the boat builders still alive, the Burnham Scow is a straight copy by the late Alan Buchanan of the Solent scows. The measurements of the USA one match my model. From personal experience it is a very safe boat and sails like a much bigger boat, even in a blow. The Jib was added at the instigation of one Betty Perrin to give the crew (mobile ballast!) something to do.”