1. Peter Rhodes’s Jolly Boat Sally Gee (foreground) and a Drascombe Driver
  2. Three Drascombes heading for Holcot


The Drascombe Association’s sixth annual Pitsford Rally will be held in the half-term break on Wednesday and Thursday, May 29-30th 2013.

Traditional gaff-rigged Luggers, Dabbers, Scaffies and Coasters will bring that rarest of inland spectacles, red sails in the sunset.

Why not come along, meet the Drascombes and their proud owners and take a turn crewing one of these traditional sailing boats? Enjoy the sensation of gibing a loose-footed sail (no boom worries). Watch grown men getting hopelessly excited at hitting five knots.

The Drascombe Association is one of the biggest boating clubs in Britain, founded in appreciation of one of our nation’s finest boatbuilders, John Watkinson. The Drascombe story began in the early 1960s with Watkinson, a former Royal Navy officer, building a boat for himself and his family. He wanted a daysailer, capable of being trailed, stable (to counteract his wife's tendency to seasickness), and safe; but capable of giving an experienced sailor a lively and exciting sail. The boat that John hand-built in a barn on his farm at Drascombe Barton was inspired by the working boats of England's North-East coast, which themselves can trace an ancestry back to the Vikings.

The first Drascombe Lugger was an immediate success and its obvious commercial potential prompted John to initiate production of the boats in GRP. Other models followed, but all following the original philosophy of safety, robustness, and fun. The Drascombe Association is a group of enthusiasts dedicated to these traditional-style sailing boats. Over 5,000 Drascombes of all types have been built since the first Lugger was launched in 1966. As the sales pitch puts it, they are “simple, rugged, and seakindly.”

The Drascombe Association is not an exclusive organisation. It is open to all, whether boat owners or not, who have an interest in the Watkinson ethos. While the majority of Association members own Drascombes, some have moved on to other traditional boats. These days a Drascombe Rally will be dominated by Drascombes with a scattering of other traditional English vessels such as bass boats, whammels, whilly boats and smacks.

Some are built of traditional timber but most are of GRP. Drascombes, built by Churchouse Boats of Hampshire, still come with spruce masts but some owners have adapted their Drascombes with lightweight alloy spars. The new kid on the block is the Deben Lugger from Anglia Yacht Brokerage in Suffolk which looks every inch the traditional lugger but is fitted with feather-light masts and spars made of carbon fibre.

My current boat, frequently mistaken for a Drascombe with its red sails, is a Jolly Boat, a 15-ft ketch designed by the great yacht builder Laurent Giles.

The Drascombe Association doesn’t have an official motto but its guiding principle comes from the hero of Kenneth Graham’s immortal tale, The Wind in the Willows: “Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

*The Drascombe Association website is at