Game-changing Uffa Fox design Vigilant for sale at the UF50 festival this weekend

·3-min read
Vigilant, the game-changing yacht designed by Uffa Fox, is for sale at the UF50 festival on the Isle of Wight this weekend. Photos: Oliver Dewar.
Vigilant, the game-changing yacht designed by Uffa Fox, is for sale at the UF50 festival on the Isle of Wight this weekend. Photos: Oliver Dewar.

Today, tomorrow and throughout the weekend, Cowes will be a showcase for the town’s most famous and prolific boat designer, Uffa Fox (1898-1972) during the UF50 festival. 

For four days, celebration of Uffa’s extraordinary design career will take place ashore and afloat on the Isle of Wight with racing along The Green in Cowes and off the Shrape in East Cowes on Friday and Saturday.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see pictures of a special yacht...

There is also an extraordinary range of displays and presentations throughout town at venues including the Classic Boat Museum; the Commodores House; Shepards Marina; the Sir Max Aitken Museum and a sprawling static display of the designer’s dinghies and larger boats on The Parade in Cowes.

It is on Cowes Parade that 34ft 6in Vigilant — the Uffa Fox-built yacht that led to a quantum shift in worldwide, offshore yacht design — can be viewed and bought.

Isle of Wight County Press: Vigilant, which was designed and built by Uffa Fox, is for sale at UF50 this weekend. Photo: Oliver Dewar.
Isle of Wight County Press: Vigilant, which was designed and built by Uffa Fox, is for sale at UF50 this weekend. Photo: Oliver Dewar.

Vigilant, which was designed and built by Uffa Fox, is for sale at UF50 this weekend. Photo: Oliver Dewar.

Designed and built by Uffa Fox in Cowes, Vigilant was launched in early 1930 and as owner, Uffa soon sailed her to Sweden for a summer season of racing regattas.

It was, however, the return journey to the Isle of Wight and a fierce North Sea storm that triggered a major change in offshore yacht design.

At a time when offshore yachts were slab-sided, heavy, often overbuilt and with prodigious internal volume, taking on a blue water gale in a slender, needle-nosed, ultra-light boat with around three metres of overhang forward and aft and barely any freeboard — such as Vigilant — would be generally regarded as foolhardy…at best.

For Uffa, though, the way Vigilant handled the rolling mountains of green water and hammer-blasts of the North Sea storm confirmed his personal design view and ultimately influenced the evolution of offshore yacht design.

He wrote afterwards: ‘[She] is just what you need for the rough waters found along the British coast. The volume in the ends of the boat makes it rise lightly and elegantly like a sea swallow over the waves.'

Uffa Fox successfully promoted this design shift in Germany and America and with his books widely read throughout the British Commonwealth, slender, elegant, light and fast boats began to appear in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and beyond.

Vigilant was partly restored in the early 1970s, then laid-up in 1975 until she was rediscovered in Norfolk and underwent an extensive restoration in 1990-94, returning her to near-original condition.

WATCH: What's it like to sail Vigilant?

In recent years, Vigilant returned to the Isle of Wight for racing and cruising from her base in Yarmouth and underwent significant work at the Elephant Boatyard, Bursledon. 

Vigilant is in immaculate condition and race ready.

Vigilant specifications are as follows: LOA 34’6”/10.51m; LWL 25’6”/7.77m; beam 6’4”/1.93m; draft 4’3”/1.29m; displacement two tons; sail area 236 sq ft; launched 1930; designer/builder Uffa Fox.

WATCH: Footage of Vigilant from the Swedish sailing regatta in 1930

  • For more information about Vigilant, contact Caryl Terlezki by email: caryl@designstuffuk.com

  • For more information about the UF50 event, see the website at: uf50.org

Like reading about the Isle of Wight and its characters in bygone days? Click here to visit our Looking Back section for more interesting tales!