Home » Welcome to the Sprite Class
The Sprite was designed by Robert N Stone, this 14ft one-design is a native of the East Coast rivers. It was launched in 1934 by West Mersea Yacht Club in Essex as their main dinghy class and, over the past 75 years, has enjoyed a healthy following, with a half of the fleet still in good sailing condition today.
The family yard of D Stone & Son of Brightlingsea built the majority of the fleet between 1934 and 1949 and, although the precise number launched is not known as many ended up at Burnham Overy Staithe, near Brancaster on the North Norfolk coast, approximately 70 were built for members of West Mersea Yacht Club and Blackwater Sailing Club. A further 12 were built in 1949 by James & Stone of Brightlingsea.
Twelve were launched in time for the first racing season at West Mersea Yacht Club in 1935, and proved to be a well-balanced design that could be happily sailed by a crew of two. By 1945, 37 boats were based at the club, 28 of which were being regularly raced, and they had also caught the attention of Blackwater Sailing Club at Heybridge on the River Blackwater.
Although originally designed to be sailed off Brightlingsea on the River Colne, the Sprite proved more suited to the sheltered and less choppy waters of the Blackwater and in 1949 was adopted as the club’s main racing one-design, succeeding the Uffa Fox-designed, Fairey Marine-built Firefly.
Seven were built by James & Stone that year, with a further five the following, in time for the first season’s racing that summer. The class continued to grow in popularity in the 1950s, by which time annual Sprite Weeks had been set up at both clubs. By 1960, however, the home of the class had moved to the Blackwater, with over 60 based on the estuary, 40 of which lay to moorings off the Blackwater Sailing club.
As with many classic one-designs, though, the introduction of glassfibre and the flood of new dinghies had severe repercussions on the Sprite and during the 1970s the class steadily declined in popularity. The 1980s also saw little interest, but by 1990 a move to re-establish it had been made by Blackwater Sailing Club members.
Since then, numbers have increased gradually, and, following the restoration and epoxying of many Sprites by class captain Chris Nichols, there are now 35 based at the club, around 25 of which are in good sailing condition.
After having a World Championship in 2009 with 20 Boats racing It is hoped that the class will continue to grow with the re-introduction of Sprite Week, racing for the Heron Cup in June and the annual Club Week with a further 3 Cups to Race for.