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Vigia - Special project to rebuild 

Tenacity - a restored Cat boat

Historic Catboat - Vigia


Vigia was built by C Corke, of Birmingham Road, Cowes, in 1872, and gifted to the Museum by Paul Sainty, whose family had owned her for many years. She is an English version of an American type popular in the UK in the 19th Century,

Just under 24ft long, 8ft 4ins beam, of shallow hull form with a centreboard, her original rig had one mast set far forward and a 440 sq ft gaff sail, with a 28ft boom. American Catboats, which inspired her design, were originally for commercial fishing, then taken up for pleasure sailing and racing.These boats were built lighter and the designs were developed as yachts, for which there remains an enthusiastic following.



In the mid 1880's Vigia moved from Cowes to the East Coast to race against similar craft. She outlasted her sisters and continued in use for many years, in a number of guises. Boats of this type had a reputation of being tricky to sail and it seems she did much better on the Essex rivers than in the Solent. The one-sail rig was changed to gaff sloop and later to Bermudan sloop. For much of her life a cabin was fitted, a box like with large glass windows down both sides. She nearly sank in 1978 and serious repairs became necessary, the hull eventually being sheathed with GRP. This made her usable for a few more years, until final laying up in 2003.

Restoration details

VIGIA, reputed to be the oldest sailing boat on the British register, was in a waterlogged condition when given to the Museum in 2006, and, after failing to restore the vessel, it was decided to build a replica to show off her sailing and handling qualities. The original construction had carvel softwood planking on oak centreline, garboards lodged into the rebated keel. The stem was apron type, not rebated, with planted-on block on its forward face. Framing, it is thought, was mainly steamed with some grown members by the mast step and supporting the centreboard case. The deck was laid, on beams, and the cockpit was finished with an oval coaming. At first the plan was to restore Vigia using as much old wood as possible, but this proved impractical when the GRP was stripped. With only the topsides suitable for restoration, it was decided this could not be done without completely destroying the hull, leaving nothing of interest for future display. So, it was decided to build a complete sailing replica. The hull will be of hog and keel construction and built upside-down, as visitors can see. She will be strip planked and then epoxy coated to resist drying out while stored inside.

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