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Cornwall Marine Directory

Speedwell to be exhibited at NMMC

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An exciting new exhibition, focusing on the more influential boats and designers of our time, has opened at the Maritime Museum.

The first innovative boat on show, from 11 October, will be Speedwell, the second of the ground-breaking Enterprise Class to be built by famous British designer Jack Holt. In 1956 Speedwell made front page news after sailing across the English Channel with Enterprise #1 as part of a publicity stunt to launch the class.


Photo courtesy Lee Whitehead

Celebrating its 50th year on the water, the Enterprise Class shot to popularity when it was first produced and sponsored by national newspaper, The News Chronicle. Available either ready built or in kit form, which equated to the same price as a television, it was easily affordable and opened up the sport to a whole new generation of sailors.

Jack Holt was born the son of a panel beater in Hammersmith in 1912. It was this humble start that at first kept him outside the socially exclusive sailing fraternity and secondly drove him to produce more than 40 class designs. Undeterred by the social constraints he faced, he continuously designed more and more dinghies and his early advanced work won races throughout the 1930s and 40s. However, limited funds along with the perception of him as beneath the sailing classes continued to hold him back, until he met a young American called Beecher Moore.

Holt had the practical boat design and building skills, whilst Moore had the business acumen and connections to promote Holt’s work to the full. Working together for more than 40 years, these two men successfully helped to break down the social barriers surrounding sailing. Throughout the post-war years more and more people were able to take to the water thanks to their innovative and affordable dinghy designs.

The new exhibit at the Museum will follow a rotation and early next year Speedwell will be replaced by another pioneering small boat. Other prolific designers and models to feature will include Uffa Fox, Ian Proctor and Cornish boat builders Percy Mitchell and the Warrington Smythes.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall

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