The Scow is
special because it offers so much to so many. It suits the local sea
conditions, offers exciting racing and relaxing cruising. It is good for
training juniors and is loved by older sailors.
Such a boat was not designed in one day but has evolved over almost a century.
From Yacht Tender to Racing Dinghy
The need for an all-purpose, small dinghy arose in the early days of yachting when tenders needed to adapt to sailing, rowing or towing. The basic shape is that of a pram with a blunt nose, rounded profile and with a lug sail. Traditional working prams would not have been so small nor would they have been clinker built.
In 1905 a Lymington resident by the name of Capt. Nicholson had a blunt nosed Plymouth Sound Pram. He found that in the choppy Solent waters the blunt nose made the pram stop. As a result, in 1912 he asked a local boat builder, Dan Bran, to build him a sharp-nosed pram. The vessel was successful and showed a good turn of speed. More were ordered and class racing became possible. In 1914 the Lymington Sailing Club was formed specifically for racing Prams from 15th May to 15th August. Sadly the First World War broke out beforethe end of the first season and the Club did not re-emerge until the 1920's.
Racing 11 ft Prams was quickly replaced by a new 14' Pram built by Dan Bran for Capt. Nicholson in the early 1920's. At Lymington, this 14' Pram Class was raced regularly until the late 1950's and the smaller version only at Regattas.
This marks the start of a whole new phase of development. Firstly, a name change. To avoid confusion the 11' Pram became known as the Scow. In Yarmouth, Beaulieu, Hamble, Portsmouth and other Solent Clubs, Scow classes were racing regularly. The design varied between the different centres but the variations were minor; two thwarts rather than one, or an inch more in length or freeboard.
Scows were still built in Lymington. Dan Bran, who used no plans, is reputed to have been the best Scow builder there was. Berthon built several hundred and as early as the 1920's was selling them in kit form. They were built by Theo Osborne Smith's yard at Yarmouth and later at Cowes. In the 1920's a Scow would have cost about £45.
Scows were not restricted to the Solent. In the 1930's Colin Ratsey opened a branch of his sail-making business in New York. With him he took his yacht and two Scows. There was casual racing between Scows and the locally built tender. This developed into the Frostbite Race. The first race was held on 31st December 1932 and the Scow won. From this winter Frostbite races spread to the Clubs around New York and eventually became inter-collegiate events. Frostbiting still takes place and a dinghy called the 1C is used. It bears a likeness to its Scow forebears.
Scows were in the Mediterranean and were built in Malta. Two English Midshipmen sailed a scow around Malta and Gozo in 1934. There are reports that Scows spread to Brittany, Italy, Canada and Australia. So far, we have not verified this.
The Modern Scow
In the 1950's, Palace Quay Boat yard at Beaulieu began to change with the times. They recognised that there was a continuing demand for Scows as tenders and as training vessels. However, clinker building was no longer cost-effective. They used the hull of a Yarmouth (West Wight) Scow to have moulds built and started producing glass fibre Scows. The Scows were decorated with mahogany strip and had wooden spars.
In 1985 at Lymington, Wednesday afternoon sailing for juniors started and the Scow was used as a training dinghy. At first the glass fibre hulls came from the Christchurch Avon Scow. This craft did not turn out to be entirely satisfactory and John Claridge developed moulds which were based on the hull of the Beaulieu Scow and to which he added greatly improved buoyancy. This boat is the Lymington River Scow.
To get boats for use on Wednesday afternoons, Roger Wilson, Ruth Evans, Roly Stafford and others worked hard to fit out Scows from hulls provided by John Claridge. Now John supplies hulls fully finished.
To many times in its history, the Scow has been built for juniors and immediately older sailors have seen its potential. This happened for the Lymington River Scow and in 1994 Roly Stafford became the first Captain of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club Scow Division and racing for juniors and adults began. In 1997 a Lymington River Scow Class Association was formed. Roly Stafford was the first 'Chairman'.
In 2000 the Class acquired RYA recognition as a One-Design Class.