Class: Howth 17

The oldest one-design keelboat class in the world.

The plans of the ‘Howth 17’ class were originally drawn up by W. Herbert Boyd in 1897 for Howth Sailing Club. Designed to endure the local rugged conditions that many of the keel-less boats of that era would have avoided and often struggled with, they were to be a miniature of the giant yachts of their day such as Britannia and Satanita. The gaff-rigged design with jackyard topsail provided the first enthusiasts with an immediate challenge when the first five boats raced from Carrickfergus, where they were built by the renowned John Hilditch, and set out for Howth – a 90 mile journey that would confirm the robust design and build of these boats in the spring of 1898.

Hera and Aura reaching past the mouth of Howth Harbour in 1898

Hera and Aura reaching past the mouth of Howth Harbour in 1898

On Friday April 29th at the HSC Spring General Meeting, the class rules were finalised in preparation for racing the following day although inclement weather postponed their race until the following Wednesday 4th May 1898. This was to be their first ‘official’ race of what is now recognised as the world’s oldest one design keelboat which is still racing today as originally designed.

The original fleet of 5 comprising of Rita, Leila, Silver Moon, Aura and Hera was increased in 1900 with the addition of Pauline, Zaida and Anita. The growing class treated its sport with proper seriousness, and after each race the winner was hailed with three cheers by each of the other competing boats – a tradition that is still respected today – treated with some amusement by Howth Fishermen who nicknamed the new boats ‘The Hip-Rays’.

Information Courtesy of the Howth 17 website.

The Howth 17 Line Drawings

Rig: Gaff Sloop
Built By:
LOA m / ft: 6.88m / 22'6"
LOD m / ft: 6.88m / 22'6"
LWL m / ft: 5.18m / 17'
Beam m / ft:
Draught m / ft:
Sail Area
Construction: The basic specification was for a stem and keel of oak and elm, deadwood and frames of oak, planking of yellow pine above the waterline and red pine below, a shelf of pitch pine and a topstrake of teak, larch deck-beams and yellow pine planking and Baltic spruce spars with a keel of cast iron. Other than the 'luxury' inclusion of teak, the boats were designed to be built of materials which at that time were so common as scarcely to be worthy of comment. But today yellow pine and pitch pine are scarce, their properties of endurance and longevity much appreciated and very much in evidence on the original five boats.
Boat List: Anita
Silver Moon