History - Woodbridge Model Boat Club

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Woodbridge Model Boat Club was formed in 1982 following an article by Vic Smeed in 'Model Boats' magazine in which he described the recently completed Woodbridge model yacht pond and drew attention to the opportunity it provided for the formation of a club.

The pond to which he referred to replaced an earlier and larger pond on the same site built in 1925 to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George and Queen Mary. The original pond drew water from the adjacent tidal River Deben whereas the new pond is filled from the mains and incorporates a pumped system designed to limit algal growth. The pond measures 30 m x 13 m with a depth of 40 cm and is ideal for scale power boats and yachts up to 36r in size.

The Club is affiliated to the Deben Watersports Centre and so enjoys "club house" and storage facilities. Refreshment and public toilet facilities are close by.   

The Southwold Beach Yawl 'Black Joke'

Several years ago it was discovered that a Miss Judith Cooper had a yawl hull and spars gathering dust on top of her wardrobe. This had been given to her by her parents when she was a little girl around 1920 and she willingly allowed us to borrow it.

Soon afterwards Russell Potts and Richard Howlett (founders of the vintage group of the MYA) called and between us we re-rigged it using plastic bags for sails.

Having recently visited a Southwold Regatta with a fellow member of the Woodbridge Club we suggested that copies of the yawl, all to the same specification, would make an ideal class boat for the club to be raced roughly in accord with the Southwold Rules. This suggestion was adopted and Black Joke was fitted out with new sails and rigging.

Miss Cooper was delighted to see her boat with proper sails in action again and readily agreed to its use as a plug from which to produce GRP replicas.

Over the years some sixteen boats were built. Miss Cooper very kindly presented a cup which she had won at Southwold in 1921. It is inscribed 'Southwold Model Yacht Regatta 23rd Aug 1921'.

Racing for the cup flourished for several years but interest waned and a number of the boats were sold, some to members of the Vintage Group.

The original Black Joke along with the cup were bequeathed to the club and are now on loan to the Southwold Museum.

Black Joke was built circa 1920 by Mr John (Jack) Cragie a Southwold fisherman. It measures twenty nine inches overall with six and three-quarters inch beam. The main mast rises twenty seven inches above deck level and the mizzen eighteen inches. Both are stepped through the deck. The hull was carved out of one piece, hollowed out and decked with pine. The keel comprises a piece of iron extending virtually the whole length of the hull. The rudder is attached by three pairs of small leather "straps" originally affording limited movement but now solid with paint. Both masts have single shrouds to port and none to starboard thus permitting the yards free movement. Sheeting is achieved via fixed lines running fore and aft along the deck each carrying a sheet bowsie. The GRP copies carry internal lead ballast and have fixed rudders so that steering is achieved by the set of the mizzen.

Since 2011 there has been renewed interest in the yawls and several more have been built. The builder of a number of the early boats has very kindly given his moulds to the club and this has allowed the club to offer free-sailing yawl racing for one Sunday each month.

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