Description: Wooden, sloop rigged keelboat
Designed by: James Croll, 1937
Handicap: (Alde) 1176
Boats registered: sixty three (2016)
Draft : 588mm
Sail Area: Main 14 sq m
. Jib 4 sq m
. Spinnaker 17 sq m
Loch Longs at Aldeburgh
The Long Loch One Design (LLOD) is a timeless classic. The elegant 21ft all-wood Loch Long is easy to sail, but hard to sail really well. This racing keelboat is enjoying a terrific resurgence at Aldeburgh, attracting enthusiasts from all over East Anglia and beyond. It is ideally suited to the River Alde, as it can be sailed by one, two or three people over a wide range of weather conditions—from tranquil Wednesday evenings to blustery Force Fives and beyond.
The Loch Longs at AYC are one of the most vibrant classic racing fleets in the UK. The success of the class is largely due to the LLOD Class Rules which limit development, preserving the charm of these wooden boats while keeping down ownership costs. This is the antithesis of ‘wallet sailing’ development classes where the richest sailor wins. You can pick up a bargain-priced 70 year old beauty to restore yourself, choose a mid-numbered boat with a proven racing pedigree, or commission a brand new vessel from one of two local yards still building Loch Longs.
The fleet is known for its cameraderie, enjoying many social events during the season: yet on the water the racing is keenly competitive. There is not a great deal of boat speed difference between the low and high numbers, which places the emphasis on the skill of the helm and crew, and their knowledge of the local conditions. Timing the perfect start with a strong tide running, or short-tacking among the moorings in close company with a dozen other boats of identical speed, requires expert skill and judgement!
If silverware is what you’re after, there are over 60 race starts available to Loch Long sailors between April and December, including the annual Summer Regatta which features morning and afternoon series of intense competition. It is not unusual to see over twenty-five Loch Longs on the start line. We have our own Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening series starts, along with numerous spinnaker-optional Cup races, a pursuit race, and singlehanded and crew races. Some courses send us up to picturesque Iken, or down past Orford Castle and around the nature reserve at Havergate Island.
The meandering Alde provides uniquely challenging racing. The river offers steady and unobstructed winds from the North Sea and over the marshes to the West, and generally flat water—though when wind is against tide and the chop kicks in, the Loch Longs are more than equal to it. In light winds the Loch Long is responsive and comfortable to sail, yet in a blow this is a remarkably sturdy boat, designed as it was for the Atlantic storms and swells in the Firth of Clyde. Currents on the Alde and Ore are strong, and the best route through the crowded moorings at Slaughden is not always obvious. A canny helmsman can coax the Loch Long (with her 2’9” draft) into the shallow reaches of the river to exploit secret eddies and cheat the adverse currents; but venture too close and you’ll end up on the mud. (Get out and push yourself off, you’ll soon rejoin the race!) At high tide, a large expanse of open water up river at Blackheath allows for exciting windward/leeward or triangular courses with a committee boat start.
The LLOD is now approaching its 80th year. The class has been widely reported in publications such as Yachts and Yachting and Classic Boat. Aldeburgh Yacht Club now has the largest single fleet of Loch Longs anywhere and its popularity continues to grow, as do the links between the East Anglian club and those at Cove SC and the other clubs we visit. The last few years have seen anything up to ten Loch Longs being towed over 450 miles to Scotland to compete in the annual Loch Long week, an event contested almost as fiercely in the bars of Cove and Kilcreggan as on the water. As the fleet in Aldeburgh grows it has become usual to hold the event at AYC every three years and representation from Scotland has been excellent every time. Recent years have also seen road trips from AYC to Cowes Classic Week, and to the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany; in 2017 a trip is scheduled to Lake Como in northern Italy. Sailors help each other launch and crane out the boats, and often travel in a convoy. The Loch Long can be towed behind a typical large family car or small 4×4.
Its classic lines, seaworthiness and above all the love and dedication it instils into its owners has made this small yacht an enduring tradition on the Clyde, and now in Suffolk.
Loch Long History
The first five Loch Longs were presented to the world on George VI’s Coronation Day, Wednesday May 12th 1937. They were built from oregon pine on elm timbers by Robert Colquhoun of Dunoon and proved to be a star attraction at the Cove and Kilcreggan regatta organised to honour the new king.
At a cost of £66 they were in the league of a sailor on the tightest of budgets, the same holds true today with rules that strictly limit expenditure and rigging variations, perhaps one, but certainly not the only reason that the Loch Long has thrived for so long and still competes in races on the Clyde and also at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The origins of the first design can be traced back to 1936, when the Loch Long Sailing Club looked for a one design to replace their fleet of handicap dinghies. A Mr Ian D. Campbell came back from Scandinavia with a likely candidate in mind, the Stjarnbat, designed by Janne Jacobsson sometime before the First World War.
However, the craft wasn’t deemed suitable until James Croll had worked on the plans and came up with the first design Loch Long. Colquhoun of Dunoon was commissioned to supply the first five boats with Croll providing all the finance.
2012 saw the 75th anniversary of the Loch Long and the celebrations were exceptional. Sail-pasts took place on the Clyde and at Aldeburgh and even the Queen Victoria Cup (courtesy of RLYC) was raced for at Cowes Classic Week. [See the video of the 75th year sailpast celebrations.]
If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating vessel and its history there are three books available:-
Loch Longs – The First 50 Years
Researched by John Mcmurtrie, edited by Ruth Wishart – Price £10 from the Secretary
Loch Longs – The Third Quarter Century 1987–2012
Jamie Bruce-Lockhart – Price £15 from the Secretary
Aldeburgh Loch Longs: 50 years on the River Alde, a record of the Loch Long class at Aldeburgh Yacht Club 1962–2012
Jamie Bruce-Lockhart – Price £10 available from the Secretary’s Office, AYC