spartan - 27ft cutter, a g l watson gem

I bought Spartan knowing very little about her other than that she was a G L Watson design - reason enough. But over time, and as interest in Watson has increased, her provenance has got more and more exciting. She is of great age being built in 1886, and is thought to be the oldest surviving G L Watson design in existence.This is the view of Martin Black,
whose meticulous researches have recently been published in a monumental book on Watson;

G.L. Watson, The Art and Science of Yacht Design.

Spartan was built at  Wivenhoe on the River Colne in Essex and delivered up to Great Yarmouth by the owner’s paid hand in May, 1886. In the Autumn of that year she took part in the Oulton Regatta and G L Watson himself came aboard for the day. This is proudly recorded in the  owner’s log.   

She is of moderate beam  - not the plank-on-edge type encouraged by the rating rule at that date -  with Watson’s straight stem and well-rounded forefoot and a counter stern. Her lines are sophisticated, and there are stories of legendary speed...

She still retains her channels and deadeyes for the shrouds, tiny pin rails for making fast the gear for her jackyard topsail, and a very low, round-fronted teak coachroof provides accommodation below.


There is more information and photographs in the log of the second owner, and then a gap until she reappears at Pin Mill, Suffolk, in 1932, to where Squadron Leader Bill Collett would fly from Hendon (RAF pilots could use their planes at weekends in those days), to enjoy a weekend’s sailing with his wife Kitty (who had to drive!). 

Spartan has not been afloat since the 1970s, and is in need of a pretty extensive rebuild. However, her condition is remarkably original, and she represents a  delightful and virtually unique opportunity to commission the restoration of a Victorian small yacht by perhaps the most renowned designer of them all. She holds a very special place in the history of yacht design, and warrants only the most painstaking and authentic restoration.

Spartan will repay her new owner’s commitment handsomely, not only with the experience of sailing a yacht by one of the world’s most innovative and successful yacht designers, but also as a yacht to ‘add scale’ one might say, to the most prestigious classic yacht regatta, or simply as a very pretty and fast cruising boat in her home waters.



As an essential first step in the restoration, when time permits I will take the lines off Spartan, and hope to add them to this page.

A view which shows Spartan’s original counter stern has been cut back -  a common ‘quick fix’ solution to decayed archboard and hood ends. 

Spartan heading for new pastures. Her original round-fronted teak coaming and the fine entry of her bows, both Watson trade marks, are evident.

This photo of SPARTAN was taken from the deck of the spritsail barge Edith May in the River Orwell, Suffolk, in 1932

Spartan, a hidden gem patiently awaiting her renaissance 

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