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A heavenly battle: five Deben Cherubs

Deben Cherubs first raced in Woodbridge almost a hundred years ago, back in 1924 when Mr. Rhys Curjel’s and Captain Pitt-Miller’s boats, ‘Cherub’ and ‘Etonia’, were first built and launched by Everson & Sons Boatyard. The fleet grew and through the 1920’s and 30’s Everson’s built 17 of the pretty pocket cruisers that they and Mr. Curjel had designed together. The Deben Cherubs competed regularly, starting and finishing their races from the neighbouring Deben Yacht Club or from Everson’s own jetty where Alfred Everson would use his shotgun to signal to the racers. Over the years the racing fleet of Deben Cherubs waxed and waned until it eventually died out around 1950. Individual boats were still active and raced or cruised actively amongst other little wooden boats but the home fleet in Woodbridge had been dispersed and lost. In mid-November 2022 the fleet was re-born. 

On 13 November, 2022, following the local Remembrance Sunday Service, crews headed down to Everson’s, these days known as Woodbridge Boatyard, to race a fleet of Deben Cherubs for the first time in 70 years. With paint and varnish gleaming the little boats pushed away from the jetty gliding gently across the mirror-like calm waters. The glassy waters were the result of the almost complete lack of any wind but with occasional, barely discernible breaths of breeze and considerable focus and patience the race was begun. ‘Lindy Lou’, built in 1931, got the best start but quickly had ‘Lynette’ (1937), ‘Cherub’ (1924) and ‘Jubilee’ (1935) hot on her heels. Unfortunately ‘Ariel’ (1934) never recovered from a slow start and spent her afternoon very leisurely pursuing the other four boats who all had a very close race with positions regularly changing. The boats headed downriver from Woodbridge, around Loder’s Cut Island, past Kyson Point and back in to the town by which point ‘Lynette’ and her crew had managed to break away slightly, a lead that the others could not quite recover. Competition for second, third and fourth was very tight with changes right up to the line resulting in ‘Cherub’ leading ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Lindy Lou’ all within a boat’s length of each other. There was some concern that ‘Ariel’ may have run aground such was her relaxed pace at the back of the fleet but when Tam Grundy’s tugboat ‘Fury’, acting as a press-boat for the day, went to check upon her they found her afloat and her crew to be enjoying freshly brewed coffee and sandwiches. All boats finished and their crews headed back to the Woodbridge Boatyard and Deben Yacht Club for refreshments and the awarding of a winner’s plaque to ‘Lynette’s crew who thoroughly deserved their win.

Deben Cherubs ‘Lindy Lou’, ‘Lynette’, ‘Cherub’, ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Ariel’ passing the Woodbridge Boatyard and Deben Yacht Club to start racing Photo: Charmian Berry

Such was the success of the day that all five boats have committed to a quarterly race series in future and plans are already being made for more classic and traditionally-rigged boat racing from the Deben Yacht Club, in collaboration with Woodbridge Boatyard, in 2023.

Report and photos: Matt Lis
Woodbridge Boatyard