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The History of the National Scorpion Dinghy
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The National Scorpion Association organises racing events and events to promote the class every year. The Silver Scorpion Travellers' series of Open Meetings sponsored by CraftInsure are spread over the season and over the country. The annual highlight is the National Championships, which were hosted in 2023 by Eastbourne Sovereign Sailing Club in Sussex. The 2024 Championships is at Castle Cove SC in Weymouth.

Class History

2020 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Scorpion class. From modest beginnings in 1960 the Scorpion has grown to almost 2,050 boats and is sailed at numerous clubs around the UK. We continue to go from strength to strength with new boats under construction (wood and FRP), very strong interest in the secondhand market, the undisputed winner of the prestigious Concours d’Elegance trophy at the 2020 RYA Dinghy Show (Scorpion 2044 ‘Tallulah’) and a fully subscribed 75 boat Nationals at Looe SC in July 2022.

National Scorpion Archive

The Championships history of each Scorpion Class boat and sailor - over 4,000 web pages - so far as the information has been assembled, from 1960 to the present day can be accessed here or click/tap on the Archive button above.

In each listing you can click through to the relevant boat or sailor's own record be clicking or tapping on their name. These pages are all republished each day to include any additional information added to the archive.

Contributions to the archive, stories, photos, corrections and new information should be emailed to webmaster@sailscorpion.co.uk

Sixtieth National Scorpion Championships 2021

Sadly we were not able to celebrate our success at the Penzance Nationals, the 60th Scorpion Championships, in August 2020 as planned (that had to wait until the same time same place a year later because of Covid-19) but we could reflect on the development of the class over the past 50 years thanks to Prof. Paul Barnes excellent research.

Originally written to celebrate the Scorpion's Diamond Anniversary in 2010 Paul’s work draws on archive materials and verbal accounts to create an incisive history of the boat that we all love to sail! Enjoy!

The Scorpion dinghy - the first fifty years
Paul Barnes
open pdf

Dorling v Honnor in the High Court
In 1963 a legal dispute between the designer and Major Honnor of Honnor Marine ended up in the High Court. The details of the origins of the class are faithfully recorded in this law report

Past Class President Carol Haines crewed by Jon Haines sailing 1952 "Carte Blanche"

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Here is an article written by Sue Pelling and originally published in the May 2010 issue of Yachts & Yachting magazine.

National Scorpion Class
By Classic Boat
April 24, 2012

The one-design National Scorpion celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, Sue Pelling discovers the class’s enduring appeal…

As anniversaries go, the event held on a bitterly cold day in January in Porthpean this year to celebrate the launch of the first ever Scorpion has to rate among the most significant of the class’s landmarks. It marked not only 50 years of the class existence, but more importantly marked 50 years of success.

The late Taprell Dorling – the designer – would undoubtedly have been proud to see so many turning up, including Chris Davies – the young sailor pictured holding the bow in the famous Porthpean launch photograph — who was at the launch ceremony on the tiny Cornish beach in 1960. Davies, who later went on to win a gold medal at the 1976 Munich Olympic Games crewing for Rodney Pattisson in the FD, spoke affectionately about the class that he believed turned him into a committed sailor.

‘I crewed sometimes in the early boats at Porthpean, and on one memorable occasion my younger sister and I were loaned a Scorpion for a race in Fowey Harbour during the Regatta in 1961,’ he recalled. ‘This was my first race in command of a full-size racing dinghy, aged 15 years, and it made a big impression. With hindsight I see that it changed me from an interested dinghy racer, to fully committed as we flew around the harbour that day.’

While there are many other similar one-designs from that era still in existence, there are few that can match the Scorpion in terms of continuous popularity. Dorling originally designed the Scorpion ‘for easy amateur building’ at a relatively low cost so it wasn’t surprising that the new lightweight, quick planing performance dinghy made an instant impact in the dinghy world in the early 1960s. Also, her qualities as an all-round, easy to handle performance dinghy weighing in at just 81kgs were appealing, and her attractive lines and well constructed hull meant she was versatile enough for open water coastal sailing as well as river and inland sailing. She also carries a relatively large optimum crew weight range between 18-27 stone, allowing heavier weights the opportunity to race competitively against featherweights.

The name game

At a special 50th anniversary black tie dinner held at Warwick at the end of January, it was evident just how much of an impact the Scorpion has had on so many sailing careers over the years. Guests including Olympic, world, European and national champions from other classes were among those who were there to celebrate the success of the class.

Although he was unable to attend the dinner, Lawrie Smith – one of the many talented racing sailors to have cut their teeth in the Scorpion – was keen to pay tribute. While he never actually won the championship, he notched up some respectable results including a race win, before he moved on from the class when he was just 16 years old. Smith says he owes a big part of his future racing success – including an Olympic medal in the Soling, and numerous world, European and national championship titles – to the time he spent in Scorpions:

‘It was a fantastic class because it was so competitive which meant if you got a good result, you knew you’d sailed really well. It was also an exciting one-design and I learnt a lot about the tactical part of sailing at championships, and also at my home club, Elton SC, where we had a very active and competitive fleet.’

Andy Barker, Kevin Driver, Zeb Elliot, Mike Holmes, Tony Wetherell, Adam Bowers, Richard Parslow, Mike Lennon, Jon Turner, Mike McNamara, Dave Wade, Chris Turner, Jamie Lea, Tom Jeffcoate, Pete Harper and Phil Morrison are just a selection of the many other notable names who have raced Scorpions successfully over the years.

Stevie Morrison, who spent several years in the class in his Speed Sails work boat before he went on to represent Britain in the 49er class at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, said he really enjoyed the time he spent in the class: ‘The Scorpion class is fun and extremely social and I really enjoyed the competitive sailing. I suppose my only real regret was I never really got to do a lot of the open meetings, only the championships with my best result second overall.’

Phil Morrison and Nick Lightbody sailing 1675 "The Woofer" dominated the unusual shore started race at Hythe & Saltwood in 1978 going on to come 2nd overall beaten by Tony Wetherell & Steve Hanby. Tony dominated the class at that time winning the Scorpions 4 times in 5 years. Both his sons Henry & Jack are top class International sailors as is Phil's son Stevie who sailed Scorpions for several seasons, also coming second in 2001.

Survival of the fittest

Competitive and exciting to sail are obviously two highly attractive qualities but it takes something special for a good class to become great. Given the many obstacles thrown at it over the years, including the influx of new glassfibre dinghy designs that flooded the market during the 1980s and ’90s, it’s quite astounding how this simple, one-design has managed not just to survive, but thrive.

While versatility, longevity and affordability have undoubtedly played important roles, the single most important key factor to the success of this or any class is the skill of the people involved – those who make it happen. The Scorpion class has, in that respect, been fortunate to have had a consistent string of highly enthusiastic members over the years who have not only acted as ambassadors but have also been key players involved in managing the technical development of the class by maintaining a healthy balance of progress without grandfathering the older boats. The careful development of a class is crucial to its success because it means that anyone coming in on a low budget can pick up a good, older boat at a sensible price and still be competitive.

Newcomers to the class Ryan Buchanan and Hannah Burke, from Notts County SC, didn’t have a large budget but thankfully a combination of good class publicity, and advice, led the young sailors to pursue the Scorpion route. Buchanan said: ‘We hadn’t sailed for ages but managed to buy a boat within our budget for £2,000, and went on to do well at the nationals which really lifted our spirits. On reflection, it was probably the only class we could have stepped into and been competitive within our budget and weight range.’

To ensure the survival of a class, changes are inevitable even in so called strict one-designs. Thankfully, with its relative flexibility with layout and sail construction, and the sensible management of subtle development over the years, there have been few cases of boats being out-classed.

The first significant change, in terms of widening the appeal to make it more manageable to sail in a breeze, came about in 1979 with the introduction of the raking rig. Then came the tweaking of the hull shape in the early 1980s when Jon Turner built his first boat – No. 1812 ‘New Wave’. Turner and Phil Morrison flattened off the section just aft of the bow, which improved upwind speed in waves. Although Morrison went on to fine tune the hull shape further, all new boats from then on were based broadly on the Turner/Morrison lines.

Turner, who won the national championship on the three occasions he entered (1982, ’83, ’86), produced some of the highest quality boats the class has ever seen, and in doing so really raised the build standard. He started building Scorpions in 1980, and 30 years on, most of the Turner boats are still in exceptional condition. He may have done a lot to raise the profile of the class but Turner hasn’t forgotten how the Scorpion helped him in his career. ‘I have a lot to thank the class for and my first job in particular gave me the opportunity to make my name in the boat building world.’

Prior to this, Westerly, and Trevor Stewart from Ireland were some of the most prominent and successful builders. But it was Kevin Gosling at Gosling Dinghy Craft and Nigel Potter’s Paintcraft who, like Turner, helped to develop the build process and in doing so produced some exceptionally highly crafted wood boats which are still in race winning condition today. Gosling, who’s been building fine wood Scorpions for over 25 years, said that the introduction of glassfibre seriously affected his business. ‘I haven’t built a wood boat for over two years now but I’m now building a composite version similar to the Solos I build which comprises Sapele veneer on 10 millimetres of foam lined with glass. This produces an extremely stylish wood-look finish but with the same attributes to glass.’

Former class chairman Steve Walker was instrumental in the introduction of foam sandwich in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t really until 2002 with boats produced from a mould by Chris Turner at Specialized Marine that epoxy foam sandwich really took off and became a serious contender alongside traditional wood constructed boats. Now, eight years on, the Chris Turner Scorpion is a popular championship-winning option supplied by Pinnell & Bax.

The most recent change happened in 2008 with the adoption of laminate sails giving some of the current, leading Scorpion sailmakers such as Pinnell & Bax and Speed Sails the chance for further development and to really bring the boat into the 21 century.

Young and old

Although there are numerous members of the association to whom the class owes its success over the years, but perhaps the class owes its greatest respect to former champion John Mursell, who’s been involved for over 35 years. Mursell has won the national championship a record nine times and the Europeans twice, in his immaculate 20-year-old Gosling boat (1936) ‘Bottyburp the Barbarian’, and is still one of the class’s greatest assets. He served as chairman of the association for five years through a fairly challenging period from 1995-2000 but, just as with his sailing, he skilfully steered the class through a potentially harmful squall and survived. Mursell added: ‘It’s true that times were tough during the period of my chairmanship but I’d like to add that one of the reasons we got through it was because of my hugely supportive committee who worked incredibly hard, including William Jeffcoate who was my secretary and a key component to the success.’

And the reasons why he continues to support the class? ‘Accessibility,’ says Mursell. ‘At 17 years old we were all able to go out and buy second-hand boats that we thought we could win the nationals in and compete on a huge open meeting circuit at a relatively low cost. Basically they were, and still are, fun, affordable and provide the perfect opportunity for youngsters to learn the important art of boat bimbling.’

With so many fine qualities it’s easy to understand why championship attendance during the 1970s and ’80s reached record levels, with 161 boats at Saundersfoot in 1974. Often numbers reached 130 during the early 1980s but, like many classes, championship attendance has since suffered, and over a nine-year period between 2000 and 2009 the average attendance was 61. Hopefully this year’s big celebrations at the class’ favourite venue – Looe – will see numbers increase with an estimated 80-plus boats expected.

Knowing how important it is to attract new blood into the class, particularly young sailors, there are several events aimed specifically at youngsters including the Scorpion Junior Championship. The class also runs regular training events throughout the year.

With championship attendance maintaining a healthy levels, and competitiveness continuing to thrive, it’s no great surprise to learn that club racing is also buoyant. There are a total of 48 clubs throughout the British Isles running active racing with one of the largest clubs, Notts County SC, regularly attracting good weekend turnouts.

The future

According to Mursell, the hull development in terms of shape is pretty much there for the Scorpion, but as materials improve moving with the times will be crucial.

Probably the next big change, affecting not just the Scorpion but most similar era one-designs, will be the introduction of carbon fibre spars because it won’t be too long until alloy masts become relatively expensive and difficult to source.

Mursell concluded: ‘It will, undoubtedly be the biggest turning point in the history of the class and whether we like it or not carbon fibre is going to come because that is the way materials are going. Whereas all previous changes have been incremental, the difference a carbon fibre mast is going to make to performance is going to be huge. The boat will feel very different, and of course it will be quicker, so for a one-design that is bad news, and that’s why the change will need to be managed very carefully. The one thing we will have to do, however, is to give everyone plenty of warning.’

Champions

All the champions

Here is an analysis of all the Scorpion Champion Helms & Crews, where they are known, up to 2019.

The first column is sorted by their total Championship Points (based on the number of boats that they beat so winning a bigger championship scores higher than winning a smaller entry nationals). The second column sorts the champions by their average points.

Whilst for example John Mursell has won nine championships in 40 attempts, Jerry Hannabus has won twice in 44 attempts.

Much of the class history is engraved on our National Championship Trophies some of which has been transcribed and recorded in this document as of 2012.

Current Class President John Mursell sailing 1936 "Botty Burp the Barbarian"

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Scorpion web site from 1999 - 2008

The Internet archive has copied the old web site from that period here - the pages load slowly so be patient.

Scorpion web site from 2008 - 2014

The Internet archive has copied the old web site from that period here - the pages load slowly so be patient.

Scorpion web site from 2014 - 2022

The Internet archive has copied the old web site from that period here - the pages load slowly so be patient.

Archive of Championship Results

Going forward we aim to keep our unique heritage alive by migrating all legacy documents and data (from the ‘old’ paladin Scorpion website plus printed paper documents) across to an interactive online resource. The precise presentation format is still to be finalised but a massive amount of the core ‘behind the scenes’ work has already been done by life-long Scorpion enthusiast and sailing legend, Nick Lightbody (Scorpions 1759 & 1929).

Ably assisted by Carol Haines, Ann Whitfield, Tessa Groves, Peter Rose, Colin Keogh, John Purdie, Dave Walker, Steve Walker, Dave Elston and Andy Service, Nick has spent six months building a relational database which holds virtually all of our boat data including builders, helms, crews, clubs, class racing results and championships statistics going back to 1961: including numerous photos of Scorpions past and present, along with our many class trophies. You can check the individual championship histories of more than 2000 Scorpions and 2,500 sailors here

Sailors are alphabetical by surname and first name whilst boats are by registered number.

The archive team’s work is truly awesome and something of which every one of us can be justifiably proud. We will continue to add to the archive as we collect more information and are grateful for any additional information and/or corrections that you can provide.