“Talking Sailing” From My Archives. L26 – Her First Public Appearance

Making her first public appearance at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club’s Kadett Week was the new Lavranos L26 Electron, the forerunner of an intended one design class at present taking shape in Durban and on Vaal Dam.

by Richard Crockett

How could I have missed this milestone?

It was 40 years ago that the L26 was first launched and sailed in anger, and she certainly performed beyond the wildest dreams of her designer Angelo Lavranos, and her promoters being David Cox and John Gordon-Thompson. The proof of the pudding was in the eating, and the report of her racing in Kadett Week off Port Elizabeth in 1980 proves that.

Her launch was less spectacular as on the way from Durban the trailer jack-knifed causing some damage to the boat and breaking her mast. But bullet-proof she was and she made the start line on time – and the rest is history.

The L26 certainly caught the imagination of yachties countrywide as numbers grew rapidly up to the 80-boat mark as it provided the kind of one-design racing that people wanted – at an affordable price.

Peter Hishin and his crew churning up the sea off Durban in big westerly breeze.
pic by Richard Crockett

The fact that the L26 quickly became the Lipton Cup choice of boat added value, but in many ways probably led to its downfall as a class. As the years progressed so the competition became hotter and the will to win that coveted cup became really intense, that loads of tweaking was done to get that extra little bit of advantage. The class rules were not robust enough and were constantly being challenged, as were discrepancies between boats.

And as the years progressed, her performance compared to more modern designs left a lot to be desired, and with L26 numbers on the race course falling annually, it was inevitable that it was dropped as the Lipton Boat.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a magnificent boat in its heyday and one which filled a gap in the market and fulfilled what people wanted from their sailing. It was forty-plus years ago when she was designed, so naturally more modern and more slippery hulls caught the imagination and were hankered over.

Dave Hudson and his crew aboard Halcyon taking control of the big westerly breeze off Durban.
pic by Richard Crockett

Those who brought her to the market did sailing in this country a massive service.

While no longer sailed as competitively as these boats have been pushed, especially on the Lipton Cup race track, the L26 now provides a bullet-proof youth training yacht which will be around for many years to come.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE:  1980 07 – SA Yachting – L26 first

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, photos, 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, Len Davies 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. Rothman’s 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)