Introduction to the 30s in South Africa

Introduction by Olle Madebrink.
Go to the main article (PDF) by Craig Dalgarno.
More information by Mr Kaj Siik.

As mentioned in the "Outline of the Skerry Cruise Rule", the 30s have been spread all over the world. At present they can mainly be seen in the Baltic and on some of the great lakes in Europe, such as Lake Constance, Lake Starnberg and Lake Balaton.

Although long passed, the moments of the great 30 era in South Africa are still remembered by many sailors. It was the best of the modern European yachts that were sold down to Africa in the 50's and the 60's. Interest in the class was decreasing in Sweden when off-shore racing became the more popular type of sailing amongst more affluent people. In Germany the class had not yet recovered after the war and people had other things in mind than to build new and expensive boats. And so, for more than 15 years, South Africa was the place in the world where 30 racing was most intense. After that, at the time when the boats were worn out in South Africa, the class got a renaissance in Europe. New boats were being built in Germany, and later in Sweden where a new generation of young sailors had started with cheaper old wooden boats (the fibre glass era had now started) and when they grew older they wanted something newer and better, but to the original rule and the classic designs.

All the great designers of the time had at least one yacht in South Africa. Knud Reimers, who perhaps produced the most beautiful drawings ever made of square metre yachts, had several. Harry Becker, who is the designer that has the most different series of designs, had two representatives. Rapid, a huge boat from his "big hull period" in the late 30's, and Tintomara, the first of his post-war designs, the one that he, with small variations, used for the rest of his life. Arvid Laurin was the calculator, his boats were always built to the limits of the rule and speed was his most important design goal. Erik Nilsson who, like Knud Reimers, is known not only as a designer, but also as an artist who liked the rounded harmonic shapes more than the straight lines and small curves, had three boats of his design in South Africa. Uffa Fox needs no introduction to the international public. His drawings for Sea Swallow was unfortunately his only 30 design (he also designed the first British 22 Square Metre, Vigilant 22 K1). It was a beautiful but small boat, probably too small to be competitive, especially in the open Atlantic and Indian Ocean waters.

It is by the way notable that Arvid Laurin more or less destroyed two classes (the Swedish Koster class and the Nordic R5 class) with breakthrough designs, but he never succeeded in making faster Square Metre Yachts than any other designer. His Skerry Cruisers were good, but not faster than the other ones. Neither have modern designers, such as Ian Howlet or Peter Norlin, produced new faster boats. This indicates that the Rule, despite its inveigle liberal formulas, is a very good one. It is one of the oldest design rules still in use and although the yachts may look different they seem to have about the same speed capability in a series with different winds. A great challenge to all designers.

Craig Dalgarno, a South African living in Germany, has written the article about the South African 30s. It was first published in 2002 and Craig is still looking for further information about the old yachts. His address is Please contact him if you have any further information that could be of interest.

I have myself just a little remark to start with. Hamish Campbell says about the photo from Durban Harbour that the yacht in the background on the left is Mariquita. I do not think so. The boat does not at all look like a Laurin design. I would rather say that it is probably one of the Nilsson yachts.

We do not know much about the 30s in other places such as Australia, New Zeeland or the Great Lakes in the USA and Canada. If any readers are willing to write some words about it we will gladly publish it.

Olle Madebrink,