A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WATER WAGS 1886-2016 In 1887, Kingstown was a vibrant yachting centre, with plenty of opportunities for young gentlemen to go yachting. When young men wanted to buy a boat for themselves they found that yachts became outdated very quickly due to technical developments, and to frequent changes in the rating systems used to equalise all the yachts in a race. The gentlemen of The Shankill Corinthian Sailing Club realised that there was potential to freeze yacht design, to a particular date, so that all the yachts in a race would be built to the same ‘model,’ and that a race would be a test of skill. In order to test the theory, they decided initially to build boats to the smallest possible size, and if the idea worked that they would apply the same idea to larger yachts. Specifications were discussed among interested parties, who settled on a double-ended clincher built boat, 13ft. long overall, 4ft.10in. beam, a pivoting centre-plate of iron, and 75 sq. ft. of standing rig and a modest spinnaker. Thomas (Ben) Middleton prepared a sketch plan to reflect what was required. This sketch was sent to boat builders for quotations, including Robert McAllister of Dunbarton, Scotland. It appears that McAllister redrew the plans, with more detail, and he consulted with yacht designer G.L. Watson to finalise some of the details. Messrs. Lapthorn & Ratseys of Gosport were asked to make a proposal for the most efficient sail plan for such a small boat, so they opted for a single lugsail supported on a mast with a curved yard. The first boat ‘Eva,’ costing about £14 delivered to Kingstown, was launched on 1 January 1886, the year of Queen Victoria’s jubilee. The first event for the new boats was a cruise in company to Vance’s Place at Blackrock on Easter Monday 11 April 1887. The boats were deemed to be easily handled. The first race was held on the following day. The race management in Kingstown Harbour consisted of the Officer of the Day anchoring his boat off the third lamp standard on Victoria Wharf, where he took entry fees of 1s per boat. Eva, Yum Yum, Brenda, and Dot competed. Oof Bird failed to pay her entry fee. Instead of using a cannon or starting gun, the start time was set at 12.30. The Town Hall clock chimed on the quarter hours, so the Water Wags had a preparatory signal at 12.15, and started on the chime at 12.30. The number of boats increased quickly with thirteen being built in the first year. By 1899, it was realised that the rules were not strict enough, and that double ended boats were expensive to build. A modified design 14’-3” long with a transom stern was prepared by James Doyle costing £15. Strict regulations were prepared as to materials of planking, and how the sail area would be deployed between a mainsail and a jib. It is this boat which is sailed today.
Design In 1886 the Water Wag was designed as a one-design sailing and rowing boat by Thomas B. Middleton of Shankill Corinthinan Sailing Club. Water Wags are silver spruce planked boats with a sloop rig and 75 sq feet of main sail, and with a 60 sq ft spinnaker and no jib. The boat is open decked, with single mast close to the bow . Middleton who was not a professional yacht desiger prepared a concept sketch for the boat which may have been developed into a construction drawing by Robert Mc.Allister of Dunbarton Scotland. it is probable that Mc.Allister reviewed his drawing with the eminent Scotch designer G.L. Watson before constructing the first boat 'Eva' for Thomas B. Middleton.
In 1900 a new design which differs from the earlier design by being 1'-3" longer, having a transom and flying a jib, which was designed by James (or Maimie) Doyle from Kingstown was introduced. The new design was subject to some minor adjustments of sheer line and rudder size over the years 1901-1902 before the design was finalised.
The Class has never been tempted to adopt construction materials other than wood. Traditionally the sails were made of calico, cotton, and subsequently silk. In recent years Terylene and nylon have been used with the effect that coloured spinnakers are now used by most boats.
A variant of the original design, with its double-ended hull, found its way to Herne bay Sailing Club in Kent, and during the 1920s and 1930s several boats were built locally and the class was actively raced during the 1930s and 1940s. These boats, however, were not built to the strict one-design principle of the originals and as well as differing from the original in several respects (foredeck, bowsprit, mast position) they also differed slightly from each other and so raced as a handicap fleet. By the early 1950s most of the boats had been sold out of the Kent club and racing ceased. One of the last boats to be built in Kent, by E and B Gammon at Herne Bay in 1947, Zander is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
A variant of the 1900 design was adopted by many clubs in India and Sri Lanka, the main difference being the use of Teak planking which being heavier, resulted in the boat requiring more freeboard. A small foredeck was added to assist in keeping the boat dryer.
20th century hull update In 1900 the Water Wag design was changed to a transom stern, lengthening the boat by 15 inches and making the stern of the boat much larger. The outward angled transom was designed to improve the aesthetics of the boat, and to save building cost. The sail area was increased from 75 sq. ft. to 110 sq. ft. by adding a jib.
The current fleet was built by the following boat builders: