Contender, a 10 Rater from the 1920s

ROBERT HOBBS restores this classic model yacht

One evening in October 2008, my wife Eva took a telephone call from a lady asking if Robert looked after wooden boats. The accent was Australian and Eva’s heart sank as she thought: ‘Oh no, not another yacht!’ The following day I returned the call and talked to Carol, who was in the UK tidying up a relative’s home. Carol had made contact with me after asking both the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Discovery Quay, Falmouth and the MYA if they knew of a skipper interested in old yachts, both of whom gave my name. Initially I thought that Carol was asking me to help her to sell the yacht, but she made it clear that she actually wanted me to have the yacht. As she was in Cornwall and I live in Hampshire we agreed to meet at Exeter Services on the M5, a half way point for us both a week or so later. The day before setting out I tried phoning to confirm the meeting and found that I had written the number down incorrectly, so further contact was impossible. However, having agreed to meet, off I went hoping that all would be okay. Carol arrived with the yacht that we now know as Contender. The name Contender was found on the stern plate and when checked against the 10 Rater Register, no obvious match could be found. There were no numbers on the sails, therefore it is unlikely that the yacht was ever registered.


The hull, Photo 1, was in a reasonable condition except that the interface between the lead and the hull had deteriorated and the varnish on the deck had the usual crocodile skin effect indicating old French polish, Photo 2. The spars were in an oilskin bag which also contained the sails. I left Carol with some reprints of my earlier restoration work and set off home with the boat and her email address in Australia with the promise to keep her up to date with any information on the history of the yacht that I could find and its ongoing restoration.

In my workshop I found that the oilskin bag had completely protected the spars and sails from deterioration and subsequently found that these had not seen the light of day for over 40 years. To my surprise within the bag there were also three sets of King Rig sails for 21 inch Triang yachts, Photo 3. Discussions with Trevor Smith of the Vintage Model Yacht Group revealed that these were of German origin and were produced between 1918 and 1938. Two sets of these King Rigs were Gaff and one was Bermuda.
Returning to Contender and looking at the hull, it was obviously a 10 Rater and when checking against known designs the hull profile fitted XPDNC, a Bill Daniel design from the early 1920s. Checking the waterline in the carp pond and using the sail area it was doubly confirmed that this was indeed a 10 Rater. There were two sets of sails for Contender in the bag, a Bermuda rig and a Gaff rig, both in beautiful condition with all their lacings still intact.
Work was commenced on the hull by removing the lead and re-fixing it with a screwed stud and fairing in the join, Photo 4. The hull was rubbed down and found to be of very nice bread and butter construction from yellow pine planks. The fittings had turned black, but with a little persuasion from a brass brush they soon cleaned up, which you can see in Photo 5 and also in the pictures of the finished yacht. The deck was cleaned with spirit and the old button polish removed, which also removed most of the deck lining so that had to be reinstated, Photo 6. The hull was varnished and painted cream below the water line. Discussions with Martin Bandey, the Editor of the Vintage Model Yacht Group magazine ‘Turning Pole’, when the boat was nearing completion, led us to believe that this yacht was probably a special order 10 Rater from Bassett Lowke from the early 1920s, and as it is known that Bill Daniels was building for Bassett Lowke this may even be by his own hand. However we will never really know, but the craftsmanship and the fittings certainly have that quality feel. Contender is shown fully rigged in Photo 7 with the Bermuda sail configuration while Photo 8 shows the Gaff rig and sails, which I think are the most pleasing of the two. During the ongoing work, photographs were sent to Carol and her husband David in Australia to keep them up to date with progress. Such was their interest that in June 2009, David whilst on a visit to England came to see the yacht in its completed state. David was extremely pleased with the work and was happy that Carol had found a good home for Contender.

This is not quite the end of the saga as Photo 9 shows the construction of two 21 inch hulls, planked using strips from reclaimed oak laminate flooring, to suit the King Rig sails. This project is still ongoing and by the Spring of 2010 I hope to have all three yachts sailing in their natural environment at the Walpole Lakes, Gosport, Hampshire.

Deck lining

As an addendum to this restoration, if readers are wondering how to line the deck then this is done with a simple tool as shown here. Photo 10 is of the individual parts and Photo 11 is of the assembled tool.

As you can see, the carriage has two sets of wheels with the small ones running on the deck and the large ones (black) on the hull side, thus the lines follow the deck edge contour. The pen is held in a collet clamp with the top section screwing into a plastic unit and gripping just like a compression pipe fitting. The hole spacing on the bar should be pitched as accurately as possible because the eye is very sensitive to irregular line spacing. It is best to test the tool on a spare piece of shaped wood before using on the model and it is also most important that the hull be very securely clamped.