Canoe Sailing History 1860 to present
From time to time we meet sailors and canoeists who think that a canoe is an unsuitable boat on which to put a sailing rig and that the attempt to combine canoeing and sailing is a modern and misguided idea.
They are wrong. Canoes have been sailed in South East Asia for perhaps thousands of years. These were double canoes and canoes with outriggers. The modern sport of canoe sailing began along with a surprising number of sports and pastimes, in mid-Victorian Britain. In 1865, the same year that Edward Whymper climbed the Matterhorn, John McGregor wrote "A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe". With this and his subsequent books McGregor started a craze for canoeing which lasted for thirty years and nearly all those early canoes had sails (and decks).
Until the invention of the planing dinghy in 1927 canoes were the fastest sailing boats. Unfortunately, the quest for speed led to craft which were increasingly expensive and difficult to sail and unsuitable for anything except racing. Interest in canoe sailing declined in Britain though it continued in Scandinavia and Germany and, in a different form, in America.
After World War II there was an attempt to revive interest in the UK with the BCU C Class. This was a cheap and easy to sail racing canoe. Unfortunately it was overshadowed by the upsurge in dinghy sailing and never enjoyed the popularity it deserved.
Canoe paddling flourished in the decades after the war and although sailing rigs were often drawn for these canoes, they were not promoted with any conviction.
Towards the end of the twentieth century interest in canoe sailing revived in Britain, Scandinavia and America. Solway Dory is proud to play a part in that revival.
Solway Dory was started in 1981 by John Bull at Kirkbride on the Solway Firth. Originally he designed dories but he soon became interested in sailing canoes and went on to become the main instigator behind the current revival in canoe sailing. John was the founder member of the Open Canoe Sailing Group
John retired from Solway Dory in 1998. It is now a partnership of the three of us; Dave Poskitt, Dave Stubbs and Jan Poskitt.
Our main interest now is in cruising. We like racing and it has taught us to sail better but what we really like doing is setting out for a week long camping trip and the design of our boats tends to reflect this, though most of them will win races as well.