At 3am, on 09 January 1956, two small dinghies set off to sail across the Channel in the middle of the night. In one boat was the Olympic helmsman, Bruce Banks, crewed by his wife Rosemary.  The other was sailed by Bobby Pegna and his crew Mrs Flavia Nunes, who usually sailed on the Thames.  The boats were lit by torches, lashed into the rigging.   

This was the official launch of the Enterprise Class, a new boat which had been designed by Jack Holt and sponsored by a national newspaper, the News Chronicle.  The newspaper wanted to popularise sailing amongst people who could not afford an expensive boat and bring dinghy sailing to the masses.   

The name Enterprise was chosen after the winning boat in the Americas Cup in 1930.  The blaze of publicity following the front page report of “Family dinghies cross the Channel’, followed by an official launch in London with the Enterprise dinghy on display for ten days in Selfridges, the class took off.  With the ability to buy a ready-made boat from boat builders throughout the country, or to purchase a set of plans and kit of parts for home construction, Jack Holt’s design proved to be the perfect combination of size, price and performance for the majority of sailors and sailing clubs in the UK.  The Enterprise soon became the fastest growing class with over 3,000 boats registered within the first three years.  

Enterprise today

Today the Enterprise remains as relevant as ever, offering tight tactical racing at modest cost with over 23,400 registered boats worldwide. 

Two of the latest designs of Enterprise from Peak Dinghy Spares Ltd and Rondar Raceboats Ltd will be on display at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show, 5-6 March, Alexandra Palace, London, stand F4.   

The Rondar Raceboats model is built from the new interior mould, known as the Mark 3.  Whether a Mark 3 or Mark 2 model, all Enterprises are built to the strict one design rules which control the external shape and weight of the Enterprise, which is still much the same as the first boats built 60 years ago.  This adherence to the original measurements ensures even the most modern boats have the same performance characteristics of older boats.

The Peak Dinghy Spares Enterprise, using the Mark 2 mould, has been made with foam reinforced plastic (FRP) and vinylester resin, using a long established Nationals winning mould. Critical areas of the boat have been strengthened to remove the problem of the centreboard becoming pinched when rig tension is applied and the wooden knees have been replaced by flanged GRP ones to create a better deck to hull bond.  Peak Dinghy offers a Championship winning package which includes North sails, Sélden spars, Milanes foils, Allen hardware and carbon fibre rudder stock and tiller – all for an on the water price of £7500.00 in VAT.   

The Rondar Raceboats model features the new Mark 3 mould with self-draining epoxy hull.  The aim was to provide a more comfortable self-draining epoxy boat which requires less maintenance than wooden versions.  Whilst all the areas of the boat that affect speed remain unchanged - such as hull shape, weight, rig and foils. 

Paul Hobson’s E23411 from Rondar includes fittings by Harken and foils by Milanes together with a Cumulus mast from Sélden, and the latest sails from North Sails.   Paul has included a new style of jib sheeting, designed to make the jib sheet loads much easier to handle, making it more suitable for sailing with young crews.  He has also opted for a centre mainsheet with a split bridle and the fall is led internally within the boom. In addition he has incorporated a 2:1 jib halyard to reduce load on the wire and reduce compression in the mast. A complete boat from Rondar costs around £8,000 inc VAT. 

Friendly and welcoming fleet

Renowned for being friendly and welcoming, Enterprise fleets can be found all over the country, racing and cruising on rivers, lakes and reservoirs and the sea.    As well as club sailing, there is an active Open Meeting circuit, with regional events, Masters (helms over 40) and Youth sailors under 25) Championship.  Each year there is a National Championship held on the sea.  Enterprises can be found at many regattas such as Salcombe, Abersoch, Bass Week and Carnac.  

Winning major events is always challenging and this attracts many of the country’s most able helms and crews to come and take part including representatives from the leading boat builders and sailmakers including Rondar, Peak Dinghy, North Sails, Pinnell & Bax, and Hyde Sails. The Association supports all major events with great sponsorship and prizes throughout the fleet’s Gold, Silver and Bronze divisions with prizes to encourage newcomers as well as the youth and lady helms and crews and the ton up (combined helm and crew age over 100) trophy.  The silverware reads like a “Who’s who” of yachting, with almost every top sailor from the last 60 years having competed in the class.  

The 2016 National Championships will be held at Brixham YC from 23-30 July where the class will celebrate its 60th anniversary in sparkling style.  Why not come and sail an Enterprise in this anniversary year?  

For more information – Enterprise Class Association