15 January 1898 – 26 October 1972
It is appropriate that this museum holds so much material on this robust local character, known world wide as a designer of genius, as well as holding a number of his own boats. There are about 1,000 photos from his own collections dealing with the 14 ft. dinghy, with canoes, with sea cadet activities, with the building of the Airborne Lifeboat. Additionally there are account books of his wartime dealings with the Air Ministry, a whole year’s correspondence covering the build of an International 14 ft for Douglas Heard, his many books and even his sea shanties!
Uffa Fox was born on the Isle of Wight and was raised in East Cowes
He was responsible for many of the developments which have contributed to the modern popularity of Dinghy sailing. He first introduced the technique of planing to dinghy racing, and was influential in the introduction of trapezing.
In about 1943 he designed a 27 ft lifeboat to be dropped from Vickers Warwick aircraft when rescuing downed aircrew or mariners. An example of this craft and of others built and/or designed by Fox are in the collections of the Classic Boat Museum at East Cowes, Isle of Wight. These boats could be released from under the aeroplane retarded by six 32 ft diameter parachutes. Although initially adapted for the Warwick, the lifeboat was subsequently also carried by Air-Sea Rescue Lancasters and B-17 Flying Fortresses. The museum also holds a large collection of photographs by and about Fox.
He became a friend of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1949 and they raced together at Cowes Week on many occasions. They raced on Fox's Dragon "Fresh Breeze" or the Duke's 'Royal' Dragon "Bluebottle" He also took the Royal children sailing at Cowes.
Apart from having a highly successful racing, cruising and sailing career, he ran successful boat design and boatbuilding businesses in the south of England. He designed many of the significant classes of boats around today, including the planing International 14, the Foxcub and Super Foxcub, the Flying Fifteen, the Flying Ten, the National 12, the National 18, the Albacore, the Firefly, the Javelin, the Pegasus Dinghy, the Jollyboat and the Day Sailer. Many of his designs exploited the wartime developments of moulded plywood, extruded aluminium, Tufnol etc.
In addition to dinghies he designed several keel boats all loosely based on the same concept as the flying fifteen, with separate fin keel and rudder. They were very light weight compared with other boats of the era. Huff of Arklow for Douglas Heard was 30'-0" on the waterline and Flying Fox for Fred Brownlee was 35'-0" waterline length.
Uffa Fox designed the Britannia rowboat, used by John Fairfax, used for the first solo-rowing expedition across the Atlantic Ocean in 1969.The Britannia was described as "the Rolls-Royce of rowboats, made of mahogany." It was self-righting, self-bailing and partly covered. He also designed Britannia II , used by John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook to row across the Pacific Ocean in 1971 through 1972.
His character is perhaps best indicated by an escapade whereby he led a group of Sea Scouts, without their parents' consent (they thought it was a weekend sailing camp), across the English Channel and up the Seine to within a few kilometres of Paris in a 25 ft open boat.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in January 1963 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Colston Hall in Bristol. He was also among the crew of the Typhoon, an account of which was written and published by William Washburn Nutting in "In the Track of Typhoon" (1922). Fox joined the crew in England for her transatlantic return via France, Spain, and the Azores into NYC.