The Shearwater Class Association has an enviable reputation for friendliness, and a professional outlook on how a Class Association should be run. There is a "Travellers Trophy" series held at a variety of clubs throughout the season. Always well attended, and hotly contested. There is also a National Championships which has been held annually for over six decades.
A mid-winter get-together is held at a hotel over a weekend, where various prizes are awarded, including the coveted Travellers Trophy. There is also an award for the "Shearwater Spirit", given to those individuals judged to have given the most help and advice to both new and old Shearwater sailors alike. Owners and their families regard the Nationals and "T.T." weekends as an integral part of their social life, and many life long friendships are built up. If you have not tried a modern Shearwater before, don't delay any longer-you may be missing out on the thrill of a lifetime. To keep up to date with events, boats for sale, and the latest news, why not join the Association, and secure your copy of the NSCOA magazine.
The Shearwater Catamaran was first developed in the 1950's by Roland and Francis Prout who experimented by lashing their two Kayaks together with bamboo poles, erected a mast and sail thus created one of the very first sailing catamarans. Realising the potential of this configuration, they designed and built a racing version - Shearwater I - which, in 1954, won the Burnham-on-Crouch Dinghy Regatta, much to the surprise of many of the top sailors of the day. By 1956, following further development and rapid growth of interest, Shearwater III was entered in the first ever Cross Channel Dinghy Race and beat the best competition of the day (including the legendary Uffa Fox) by over one hour!! With rapid growth in the numbers of Shearwaters being sailed, the Class was granted National status in 1956, followed by it's first National Championship in 1957, won, perhaps not surprisingly, by Roland Prout with brother Francis, third. Much of the development of boat and sail plan that has ensued ever since was due to the foresight of the original "Gang of Four" (Roland and Francis Prout, Jim Ballard and Ken Pearce) by making the Shearwater III a "Restricted Development Class." Basically, other than hull shape and size, total sail area and black band height, one could develop ones own ideas - a concept that has benefited not only the Shearwater but much of catamaran design over the ensuing decades - thanks to the ingenuity and inventiveness of so many in the Class whose creative abilities were unhampered by "One Design" restriction so prevalent among today's dinghy catamarans. A typical example of this was the introduction, in 1972, of the spinnaker and it's associated layout - a good decade before a third sail began to appear on other catamaran classes but which nowadays is an integral part of any modern catamaran. Whist the original boats were wooden, this freedom of choice has meant that boats are now made from any of today's modern materials such as carbon fibre, foam sandwich, wood/epoxy resin composite and of course, GRP.
This freedom of choice is greatly enhanced by the fact that the Shearwater Association is now the sole owner of the hull moulds thanks to the kindness and lifelong support of the Prout family. In terms of sail plan the Shearwater rig has seen constant development both in sail material and shape with later boats sporting ultra high aspect, square top rigs as advances in sail design and materials make this possible. Perhaps the most enduring feature of the Class's history has been it's ethos of camaraderie, sailing for enjoyment and the involvement of all the family. Emanating right from it's original designers, the concept of fun for everyone involved has become a Hallmark of the Shearwater fleet whose reputation for friendliness, enthusiasm and "Class Spirit" is recognised throughout the Catamaran fraternity. In today's cut throat world where nothing seems to matters except winning we feel our values and ethos have much to offer.
Shearwater - the boat as it is today...
FRANCIS PROUT (1922 –2011) - Former Life President NSCOA
The Association is sad to report the passing of it`s much respected and admired former Life President and Co-inventor of the Shearwater, Francis Prout, on 23.02.11 at the age of 89. It was in the early 1950's that Francis, with older brother Roland, both of them Olympic canoeists, famously lashed two kayaks together and created the first ever sailing catamaran. Working in the family business of building folding dinghies and canoes they initially developed the Shearwater Mk1, the first racing Catamaran and quickly established it`s performance capability. Following further development, resulting in the now legendary Shearwater 111, the concept of catamaran sailing was becoming recognised and popular world wide. In 1956, as the numbers of boats and fleets continued to rise both at home and abroad, the RYA granted the Shearwater 111 National Class status, the first catamaran ever to be accorded this recognition. Francis, as indeed Roland, both Life Presidents of the NSCOA, were greatly respected and admired by the Shearwater fraternity, not simply because of their status as the instigators of the boat and it`s Class but as role models in their approach to sailing and the concept of “ family involvement “. It is no coincidence that the Hallmark of the Class is it`s emphasis on full family involvement whether on or off the water as this philosophy had been generated over the years by the influence of the Prout family. It is also felt to have been one of the main reasons for the Class having weathered the impact of a proliferation of catamaran types over the years. Francis underscored this family`s support for the Class when he donated the hull moulds to the Class to ensure it`s continuation free of any commercial pressure.
But Francis and his family were not just involved in building Shearwaters – they designed and built much larger ocean going cats – including the first sailing catamaran to circumnavigate the globe in 1964. Such was the success of the Prout Catamaran brand they were awarded a “ Queens Award for Industry “, Francis was made a “ Freeman of the City of London” in 1979 and at one time was President of the Ship & Boat Builders National Federation ( Nowadays the British Marine Federation ). The esteem in which Francis was held was not so much a reflection of his impressive achievements but more of his jovial personality, enthusiasm and love of the sport. Even when his active sailing days were over he and his beloved wife Erica were always to be seen at the various Shearwater events, both sailing and social. Their last such event was at the 60th Anniversary of the Class held at Stone Sailing Club in 2006 when they were Guests of Honour. Francis leaves behind a legacy of sailing innovation and experiences enjoyed the world over. Without his contribution, the multi-hull sailing we have known and loved for the past 60 plus years would not have been ours to enjoy. He and his family will long be remembered.