Way back at the start of the Sailcraft story, I looked at the tale of Bob Fish’s little catboat Una. Along with her contemporaries, the big schooner America and the sandbagger-type Truant, she caused a sensation in British sailing in the 1850s. Una introduced the beamy catboat type to British waters, where they briefly became a must-have item among the trendy aristocracy as well as many middle-class sailors. Una became so famous that for decades after, “Una” was the standard British term for a mainsail-only rig. She is also the earliest small racing boat for which we have detailed information.
A few years ago, Massachusetts sailor Garry Sherman became fascinated by Una. He steeped himself in her history, built a model, and then started to build a full-size replica from the lines in Dixon Kemp’s “Manual”. Along with an appreciative audience on the Wooden Boat magazine forum, I watched Garry’s beautiful work, which extended to making the patterns for the cast fittings.
Looking at the photos on Garry’s build thread I was struck by the size of the timbers. She was designed in the era of heavy sawn timbers; before boatbuilders honed the art of steaming lighter frames. Looking at her heavy structure, the slack bilges, fine and deep forefoot and the bare foot of freeboard makes one understand why Unas were seen at their best in light winds and flat water.
In June Garry launched Una, complete with her 1852 sail number. He reported that she floated dead on her lines – an impressive feat considering the lack of information about the details of her construction. On 4 July 2018, the new Una became what must be the only design of the great Bob Fish to sail into the 21st century. A minor structural issue with her mast caused some problems in her inaugural event, the Small Reach Regatta, but overall Garry appears to be understandably delighted with his creation.
Garry has now celebrated the Una project with a self-published Blurb book. I’m sure he’ll keep in touch as Una stretches her legs and gives us an insight into the state of the art at the dawn of small boat racing.