“Talking Sailing” from my Archives. RCYC Launches its One-Design

Black Soo.

Zeeslang.
From the archives of Richard Crockett & Sailing Publications (www.sailing.co.za)

by Richard Crockett

I was intrigued by the headline when I saw it in the May/June 1961 issue of SA Yachting magazine, as this was the birth of what ultimately became the Royal Cape One Design (RCOD) Class. Confirmation of this comes from Roger Hocking’s book entitled “Yachting in Southern Africa” as he said: “Van de Stadt was asked to provide plans of the latest development of Zeeslang, his Black Soo, and it was not long before a one-design fleet was on the water”.

The opening paragraph to this article was also intriguing as so often committee enthusiasm commences just as this did – and then dies a quick death once the enthusiasm wears off. But this boiled for four-and-a-half years! It reads as follows:

“We shall have to promote a one-design keel boat class for the Club” . . . ” l think you are dead right, let’s give it a go!” These words were exchanged between a chairman of the Sailing Committee and his secretary, at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, 4-1/2 years ago. But easier said than done! Much work and thought, and a following Sailing Committee produced a handy little design by Loren of Sweden, but lack of response brought no result.

It’s not surprising that the name Zeeslang came into the mix as she was turning heads locally, and judging by a letter to the Editor in this same issue of SA Yachting, so too was a similar vessel, named Black Soo – in Europe.

Black Soo features prominently in the 1958 Yachting World Annual, with her first reference being: “Black Soo, a small light-displacement Dutch-designed hard-chine plywood craft, showed a fine turn of speed, particularly off the wind.”

Another reference reads as follows: “A few years ago there was a strong tendency among many designers to produce lighter and lighter yachts, but this trend has been stopped, if not reversed, although designers and yachtsmen are more weight-conscious than they were a few years ago. This year there is one great exception, Black Soo, designed by E G van de Stadt, is the latest in a long line of hard-chine sloops and she has proved herself in a full season’s racing to be fast and seaworthy. She is the nearest thing to a planing boat in the RORC fleet. Yachtsmen who are not used to juggling with dimensions may not notice that a displacement of 1.57 tons on a 26.1 ft waterline length is remarkable: but when Black Soo started the Fastnet Race carrying an International 14 ft dinghy mainsail as a heavy weather sail and even then had to take it down because it was too big, it can be appreciated how light and easily driven this extreme type of boat can be. She races in Class II although the whole yacht weighs less than the ballast keels of some of the smallest yachts in Class III.”

So if this indeed was the birth of the RCOD, it was a highly successful project that created a large fleet of boats, and many happy owners. Plus, crew to this day tell of those magical fast downwind sleigh rides that the RCOD built a reputation for providing, especially when the chips were down.

The RCOD was initially built of plywood, but as fibreglass boat building became the norm in latter years, the fibreglass RCOD made an appearance with those still alive and active today, especially in False Bay.

This article will be followed at some stage soon by more on the RCOD.

READ THE FULL SA YACHTING ARTICLE HERE:  1961 – SA Yachting – 05-06 – pgs 29&29 – OCR 16

SEE ZEESLANG’S LINE PLANS HERE:  zeeslang plans – S&A

SEE MORE ABOUT BLACK SOO HERE:  black soo – lines plan

What is “From My Archives” About?
After many years, in fact decades, of collecting material on our sport and wanting to sort and organise the information into an archive that was more user-friendly, I started with many boxes of newspaper cuttings I had. This entailed digitising and scanning every single one, and saving them in a chronological date order – a daunting task as there are in excess of 20 000 cuttings.

While doing this I decided to share my material in the form of “On this Day. A Newspaper History of Sailing”. That was at the very end of September 2019, and it ran daily with several newspaper cuttings per day for an entire year.

In between archiving the newspaper cuttings I was also delving deeper into my photo and magazine archives which span a period of some 60 years from about 1957 to 2017. These too are being digitised.

So much that is interesting has caught my eye, I have decided that now is the time to start sharing this information too.

I have only just begun scratching the surface of my archives, but the joy I get from them every time I do some digging makes me determined to preserve the history of our sport and share it as far and wide as possible. It’s become a personal crusade – maybe even an obsession.

My Plea – Please Share Your Sailing History
If you are interested in preserving the rich history of sailing in RSA, my plea to you is to please assist me by sharing your personal archives, pics, press cuttings and whatever with me, committee records and more so that I can scan them and share them widely. My promise is that I will treat them with the utmost care, and get them back to you safely. So far Don Pfotenhauer; Richard Bertie; Dudley Dix; Dave Elcock; Frans Loots and others have shared their scrap books and files with me.

There are big gaps in my archives, so should you have material that you are willing to share please make contact (editor@sailing.co.za) and let’s chat.

What is Possible
As each newspaper cutting and article is text-searchable, I am able to create presentation packs personally tailored to a person’s exact requirements – ie. Rothmans Week, the NCS Regatta, the Rio Race, Mauritius Race, Vasco da Gama Race and more – or simply by the name of an individual (like Ant Steward and his open boat exploits) – for those who want a record of his/her sailing career for the family archives.

I have already created a stand-alone 4000+ page PDF document of Voortrekker – from idle chatter, to concept, to the formation of what ultimately became the South African Ocean Racing Trust (SAORT), to the fruition of the 1968 OSTAR Race in which Bruce Dalling and ‘Voortrekker’ excelled – and even beyond that.

The possibilities are endless – and exciting.

Sharing From These Archives
Should you wish to copy, forward or share material from here, PLEASE acknowledge the source as: Sourced From the SAILING Mag Archives & Historical Records (www.sailing.co.za)