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Home / Cardiff and it's Bay / On the Water / Flying Fifteen Origins
Flying Fifteen origins- Pensive Temptress 108

Flying Fifteen Origins

Cardiff Bay is home to 2 sailing clubs, Cardiff Bay Yacht Club and Cardiff Yacht Club, they both feature the excellent Flying Fifteen keelboat who’s origins go all the way back to the first Olympics after the Second World War.

Today the one boat that everyone know was designed by Uffa fox is the Flying Fifteen, but in 1948 Uffa Fox was putting together ideas in his head for a boats design for the 1948 Olympics.

The YRA as it was then know was commissioning designs for a 2 man keelboat, Uffa Fox drew up his plans and put them forward under the name the ‘Pensive Temptress’.

Flying fifteen origins- National Swallow
Flying fifteen origins- National Swallow competed with and beat the Pensive Temptress for the 1948 Olympic spot.

In the pot for selection were other boats, designer, Alan Pape proposed the Harkaway and Tom Thorneycroft another designer of the time suggested a boat that was later to be recognised as the National Swallow. This was the winning design. The decision being taken after they were sailed against 2 other keelboats, the Sunbeams and the Dragons.

Two British sailors Stewart Morris and David Bond won the Olympic Gold medal in the new Swallow design.

Ironically it was this failed Olympic design, the ‘Pensive Temptress’, that would lead to the development that would be the origins of the Flying Fifteen.

The ‘Pensive Temptress’ was a half decker yacht with a wooden hull 26 foot in length that had its origins in the Norfolk Broads. She currently resides at the National Maritime museum.

Pensive Temptress, proved to be too unorthodox for the YRA. They were looking for one design keel boat with about 200 square foot of sail, she was declined because her cast iron keel was not the specified wood and lead keel.

Birth of the Flying Fifteen

The origins of the Flying Fifteen are in fact based in the International 14. The fact that the Flying Fifteen has the same height, size and weight mast and the same mainsail and jib as the International 14 footer, the only exception in the rig being that the jib is 18 in. higher on the mast and is spread 18in. forward from the mast, having less overlap but breathing more air.

The lines and shapes of the Flying Fifteen hull show that she is 15 ft. long on the waterline and 20 ft. overall with 5 ft. beam so she is six ft. longer than the International 14 footer overall with approximately the same beam.

It is almost as though the Flying fifteen origins were to create a boat that had all the thrills of an international 14 but with the added stability of a keel. This is undoutably the reason why the boat is so loved, who can resist planing with three sails in a breeze, even if the plumes and gushes of water soak those on board!

Flying Fifteen origins- Pensive Temptress 108
Etchells 108 ‘Pensive Temptress’, named after Uffa Fox’s Olympic prospect.


No where on the boat are the origins of the Flying Fifteen more defined than in the shark fin of the keel. This 400 lb. mass of cast iron was famously removed and put in the back of his Humber super snipe!


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