1972; An Influential Boat Designer Crosses the Bar

October 26, 1972

Uffa Fox, a renowned boat designer and sailing expert, died in London at the age of 74. He had been born on January 15, 1898, on England’s Isle of Wight. Fox is widely credited with popularizing modern-day dinghy sailing and making several major contributions to that small-boat activity. 

One of these contributions was Fox’s introduction of the technique known as “planing” to the English dinghy racing world. This technique involves making the boat’s bow rise into the air while the remainder of the vessel skims along the water. Planing therefore allows less friction because of the boat’s reduced waterline length and enables the vessel to attain a dramatically faster speed. Fox first successfully demonstrated this technique in 1928 with his boat Avenger, which had been designed with a hull shape conducive to that type of lift out of the water. This boat won first place in 52 out of 57 dinghy races that year. 

Fox was also influential in promoting and facilitating the extensive use of “trapezing.” This technique entails taking a wire affixed high on the mast of a boat and hooking the wire to a crew member’s harness at or near waist level. The trapeze harness permits that crew member to remain positioned outside the hull and braced against it, and this in turn improves sailing performance by balancing the force of the wind in the boat’s sails.

Fox’s other accomplishments included designing a lifeboat that could be dropped into the water from an aircraft to rescue downed aircrew or mariners. This lifeboat, which he created during World War II, became standard equipment for Avro Lancaster and B-17 Flying Fortress planes involved in air-rescue efforts. Fox also designed the Britannia rowboat which adventurer John Fairfax used in 1969 to become the first person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Fox was buried in a cemetery in Whippingham, a village and civil parish on the Isle of Wight. His tombstone (pictured in the above photo) features a lifeboat of his design. This vessel is attached to a parachute.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on Uffa Fox, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffa_Fox

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