In 1935 the only dinghy raced on a national basis was the expensive International 14, so to encourage dinghy sailing the RYA published the rules for a simpler and cheaper boat - the National 12. The original rules were simple:
These rules have been subtly modified over the years to take advantage of cheaper non-clinker construction methods and modern materials.
N1 "Gipsy" was designed by Uffa Fox and launched at Cowes in April 1936. The Twelve proved extremely popular and by the first championships in September of that year over 150 boats had been built. Gipsy has now accepted honourable retirement at Exeter Maritime Museum as a landmark in dinghy sailing history.
From 1936 to the present day the class has continued to develop. Rule changes have been made where necessary, for example, a minimum width rule was introduced in 1937, and a maximum width in 1980. Clinker construction went out in 1970 with the development of GRP hulls and 'four plank' wooden construction.
Ian Proctor started experimenting with metal masts to replace wooden spars in 1952 and terylene sails arrived in 1954. The minimum weight was reduced to 80kg in the 1980s.
A further reduction in late 1990s and a recent reduction in 2000 brought the minimum weight down to the currently 78kg (this includes mast & centre board), reflecting the ability of even amateur builders to build lightweight hulls..
In 1952 the first glued clinker boats were built, these were durable and easily maintained and so this method of construction became universal. In 1958 the first fully planing N12 was designed representing the most important land mark in the development of the class. The Proctor Mark VIII instantly outclassed all previous designs in open water conditions. Subsequent very successful designs were the Landamore Sparklet, Mike Jackson's March Hare and Phil Morrison's China Doll. A taste of the future was the Mr Jones hull - the first ultra-wide TWELVE. Lovely looking and fast but woe betide you if you heel this boat more than about 20 degrees - which isn't a lot!!
In 1970, the Class adopted four plank construction and several designs of this period appeared in both clinker and four-plank form, notably Phil Morrison's China Doll and Whisper hulls. In the early 1970's, glued clinker construction disappeared in favour of four-plankers and here our Vintage era sadly ends.
Anyone buying a vintage boat should be aware that although most designs have been produced with the ultimate aim of winning the Burton Cup, some have been specialised for other purposes or have by accident produced boats which are particularly suitable for certain weather conditions or types of water. The Proctor IX was an outstanding light weather hull (but hairy in a blow). The Proctor IVa and the Mike Nokes Starfish were outstanding river boats.
Also, you cannot expect a Vintage twelve to be competitive with modern boats in planing conditions. Vintage boats are however surprisingly competitive on smooth water and in lighter winds especially if they are in good condition and down to weight.
The TWELVE Association encourages the restoration and use of Vintage boats by arranging special events for them. There is a well established Vintage Section which looks after the interests of Vintage boat owners.
Help us make sailing more varied and more visually attractive by putting your clinker boat on the water. Read more about the vintage designs in the designs section.