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A Brief Fairy History

In 1905, contrasting with ancient LEYC’s gentry membership on the Upper Lake, members of Enniskillen’s merchant classes set up the Enniskillen Yacht Club. One stalwart was Auctioneer, Bob Wilson. They developed Sailing again on the Lower Lake, where LEYC began in 1818 and was organised by the Irvines of Necarne for its first 50 years.

After experiments with Coleens, an eager band of keen new EYC members did a deal with John Hilditch in Carrickfergus to build a fleet of Fairy keelboats to the one design in the two winters of 1905/06/07. Their first race was in June 1906, so next year will see the Centenary of our uniquely historic Lough Erne Fairy Class.

Doreen Rigging at LEYC

The Fairy Class was designed in 1902 for the new Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra by Linton Hope, top small racing boat designer of the day. At least two other Linton Hope fleets survive in Britain, and some individual boats. Linton Hope’s Fairy innovations included the metal fittings for his then very new Gunter lug rig. The builder, John Hilditch got the job as he was trusted to build each boat exactly the same, an essential for real one-design racing.

LEYC’s Fairy boats still use Hope’s innovative Edwardian rig and fittings. EYC Sailing Committee rejected Bermudian rig in October 1929 (proposed Geoffrey Irvine, seconded Bob Wilson). Shortly after, Cultra’s fleet did modernise, with less sail area, mast moved aft and Bermudian rig – hence that teasing tale about RNIYC’s ‘interfered with Fairies’.

After WW2, Fairy racing was organised more and more by LEYC, now again lower lake based, at Ely then Gublusk. EYC became more a social than a sailing club and closed in the 1980s with assets transferred to the EYC Trust. At the Fairies 80 th Anniversary at LEYC, a half model in a steering wheel frame was put on the Bar wall with wee brass plates to record annual achievements onward and hopefully for the next 20 years to the Centenary in 2006.

Now our Fairy Class is going to get there in 2006: a fine fleet of original Edwardian racing yachts, built in the era of say the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, any of which left are long since in Museums. These remarkable boats, same rig for a century, save terylene not cotton sails today, are a unique and very valuable part of Sailing’s world-wide heritage, the heritage of Ireland’s oldest yacht racing club, and of Fermanagh, where Sailing dates to the medieval Maguires.

Michael Clarke, LEYC Historian, February 2005