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East Coast featured boat: ‘Ariel’

In celebration of their 100th anniversary this year, our featured boats for April and May will be from the Deben Cherub fleet. Everson & Sons Yard on the River Deben, Suffolk produced one of the first series production yachts on the English East Coast, the 21ft. ‘Cherub’ Class, of which 18 were built between 1924 and 1937. On 25 October, 2019, Deben Cherub ‘Ariel’ was relaunched at The Woodbridge Boatyard, Everson’s Wharf, the owner being Tim Everson, great-grandson of The Woodbridge Boatyard’s founder, Alfred A Everson. The following year she received the Classic Boat Restoration Award (under 40′).

Boatbuilding at the Everson yard in Woodbridge, Suffolk on the English east coast began in 1889. As well as building boats and running the yard, Alfred Everson was the official Starter and Timekeeper for the Deben Yacht Club, 1889 – 1933, starting many races from the end of the old jetty with a 12 bore shotgun and (usually) blank cartridges. When his sons, Cyril and Bert, joined him, they became Everson & Sons Ltd. as the yard was called until 2010. The current boatshed is believed to date from 1912, presumably after the original structure burnt down, since it became known as ‘Phoenix Works’. Indeed some of the charred timbers are visible in the supporting structure. The reconstruction involved materials from a number of sources including ships spars and telegraph poles. Although a ‘temporary’ structure, it has somehow survived two world wars and the 1987 hurricane.

Built between 1924 and 1937 by Everson & Sons of Woodbridge, the Deben Cherub has come to represent the yard for many. Strong, affordable and appealing to families they were constructed from oak and Canadian rock elm with planking of larch or pitch pine, everything fastened with copper. The classically East Coast gaff-rigged cruiser-racer is ideally suited to the confines of river and estuary sailing and became a model for many pocket cruisers to follow. Now, over half a century since the Cherubs were last seen in large numbers, racing from the Deben Yacht Club under the starter’s 12 bore shotgun fired by Alfred Everson, they are regaining momentum on the River Deben. Everson & Sons, which in 2010 was renamed The Woodbridge Boatyard, is once again home to a flock (or is it a chorus?) of Cherubs with racing now a regular summer series following the first race in 70 years taking place in autumn 2022.