When we headed to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight at the end of last summer to shoot the new Aqua Compressors, we didn’t know what was in store for us. We planned to meet up with the founder of the Classic Offshore Powerboat Club
, a very nice chap called Mike James, who had organised a weekend regatta of around thirty beautiful, vintage powerboats. The event celebrated the life and work of powerboat designer Renato ‘Sonny' Levi and attracted some of the most brilliantly restored British classics.
On board one of those boats, called Star Hunter (all be it a Fairey Huntsman rather than a Levi) was local Yarmouth boat builder Nick Whittle. Nick had recently finished restoring the 1962 Huntsman and allowed us on board to admire the design finesse of these boats and their awesome power.
This year, in preparation for the launch of the Ponting II
we headed back to see Nick in Yarmouth - to shoot our new watch sailing on an XOD yacht. An X One Design is a 20’8” wooden racing keelboat, originally designed by Alfred Westmancott in his yard on Isle of Wight and first raced in 1911. The hull shape has remained entirely unchanged since the original design and of the 197 XODs that have ever been built, about 140 are still sailing today. Nick’s business Whittle Marine
have spent the past 40 years servicing, repairing and refitting these beautiful classic yachts in their boatyard in Thorley, just outside of Yarmouth.
So we boarded the ferry at Lymington and paid Whittle Marine a visit with the Ponting II GMT. Nick met us at the marina and we jumped in the back of his trusty Land Rover to the workshop. A small collection of farm buildings soon opened up to reveal a number of vintage boats in various phases of restoration. A couple of large Fairey Huntsman (including Star Hunter) being stripped back for repair, at least four or five XOD yachts being prepped for the summer and a tiny little Albatross sitting in the corner - not the bird but the vintage British racing boat
However, the real highlight of what Nick and his team are doing is building a brand new XOD at the workshop, from drawings on paper plans as the only guide. Constructed using traditional classic boat building skills and techniques, with timber sourced from Gabon, Canada and Britain. It will be the first new XOD built since 2007 and the first on the Isle of Wight since 1989. Recently given approval by the XOD Class Association, she will be assigned an official number once the deck beam is fitted, with the aim to launch her this season and race her at Cowes Week 2019.
Finally, having appreciated the skill and hard work of the Whittle Marine team, it was time to climb aboard an XOD and head out for a sail ourselves. We headed to the famous Royal Solent Yacht Club
, where we were briefed on what to expect from our XOD debut. Although not blessed with the sunshine we have become accustomed to on recent Farer shoots, we persevered on board Westwind - the beautiful 1929 XOD 4 - skippered by a very talented, local young sailor called Freddie Davies. However, given the high winds and rough seas we soon found shelter in The George pub and left Freddie and Westwind to race without the burden of a camera crew on board.
Many thanks to Freddie and the Royal Solent Yacht Club - and to Nick Whittle for hosting us, looking forward to seeing the new XOD on The Solent soon.