Lough Erne Yacht Club

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Fleets > Fairy Keelboats

Fleet Captain:

Fairies Afloat in 2011

In 2011 LEYC's Fairy keelboats will race on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 pm from May to September. Five boats, Storm, Maeve, Cygnet, Zephyr and Petrol have been rebuilt; Paxie, Iris, Snipe and Pastime are in reconstruction. The venerable Doreen continues to be sailed although she two will be going into the workshop next year for a refit.We hope to have six Fairy’s sailing throughout the year.

Email contact: John Taylor fairy@leyc.net

History of Class

In 1905, contrasting with ancient LEYC’s Gentry’ membership on the Upper Lake, members of Enniskillen’s merchant classes set up the Enniskillen Yacht Club. One stalwart was Auctioneer, Bob Wilson. They developed Sailing again on the Lower Lake, where LEYC had begun in 1818 and was organised by the Irvine’s of Necarne for its first 50 years.
After experiments with Coleen’s, an eager band of keen new EYC members did a deal with John Hilditch in Carrickfergus to build a fleet of Fairy keelboats to the one design in the two winter of 1905/06. Their first race was on Wednesday 6 June 1906, so 2006 is the Centenary year of our uniquely historic Lough Erne Fairy Class.
The Fairy Class was designed in 1902 for the new Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra by Linton Hope, top small racing boat designer of the day. At least two other Linton Hope fleets survive in Britain, and some individual boats. Linton Hope’s Fairy innovations included the metal fittings for his then very new Gunter lug rig. The builder, John Hilditch got the job as he was trusted to build each boat exactly the same, an essential for real one-design racing.
LEYC’s Fairy boats still use Hope’s innovative Edwardian rig and fittings. EYC Sailing Committee rejected Bermudian rig in October 1929 (proposed Geoffrey Irvine, seconded Bob Wilson). Shortly after, Cultra’s fleet did modernise, with less sail area, mast moved aft and Bermudian rig – hence that teasing tale about RNIYC’s ‘interfered with Fairies’.
EYC's Fairy Class was very active up to the Second World War, and raced also for LEYC Cups between the wars. The start line was often at Rossclare, courses chosen from a course card, to port or starboard as signalled by semaphore ashore and longer than today, many hours around islands and buoys away down the lake and back again, reefed in heavy weather, which they were designed for, with hefty keels, high topsides and small cockpit opening.
After WW2, Fairy racing was organised more and more by LEYC, now again lower lake based, at Ely then Gublusk. EYC became more a social than a sailing club and closed in the 1980s with assets transferred to the EYC Trust. At the Fairies 80th Anniversary at LEYC, a half model in a steering wheel frame was put on the Bar wall with wee brass plates to record annual achievements onward and hopefully for the next 20 years to the Centenary in 2006.
Now our Fairy Class has got there in 2006: a fine fleet of original Edwardian racing yachts, built in the era of say the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, any of which left are long since in Museums. These remarkable boats with the same rig for a century, save Terylene not cotton sails today, are a unique and very valuable part of Sailing’s world-wide heritage, the heritage of Ireland’s oldest yacht racing club, and of Fermanagh, where sailing dates to the medieval Maguire’s.

© Michael Clarke, Historian LEYC, Ireland’s oldest yacht racing club

Class members - click on a boat for details

Click here to view fleet photographs

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