MAIDIE was a gaff rigged racing yacht built in 1904 by Ernest Collins and Sons Ltd. of Wroxham, Norfolk; she was originally named NATHALIE. She was built to race in what was then a restricted class (via rating measurement) on The Norfolk Broads, where such boats were professionally crewed and raced by gentlemen owners for significant prize money. This was racing in the Victorian and Edwardian A&B fleet of “Big Class” Broads racers, and in terms of winnings, MAIDIE was renowned for recouping her build costs in her first season.
Originally launched with 1,250 sq ft of sail area, MAIDIE was quickly modified with the addition of another 400 sq ft of sail to remain competitive; she became dominant on what was then a semi-professional racing circuit. She ultimately flew 1,650 sq ft of sail overall with her “square headed” topsail, a massive sail area on a hull with barely 8ft of beam, but none the less achievable on the flat sheltered water of the Broads.
In May of 1904, the year she was launched, she began her racing career at Oulton Broad, with victory in her maiden race. In 1910 she was sold to Sir Thomas Cook, and her name was changed to MADGE. Over winter 1913/1914 she was purchased by Sir William Mallinson, and her name changed again, this time to MADIE. But this idyllic lifestyle ended abruptly with the outbreak of the First World War. Professional racing ceased and many of the young men who crewed the yachts went off to war. MAIDIE was laid up for the duration.
Nevertheless little changed on the Norfolk Broads regarding holidaymakers, who still came in their droves during the summers of the war years. A diary kept by E.L. Champness, who honeymooned in the summer of 1918 on the yacht FROLIC, reveals a quite idyllic setting, with little worry of war just a stone’s throw from the Norfolk coast.
After the end of the First World War MAIDIE was again raced for prize money by a string of wealthy owners, until falling into disrepair in the late 1970s. Once professional boat racing resumed it initially centered on the emergent ‘One Design’ classes, which were strictly amateur with no professional watermen allowed to compete. The Broads ‘Big Class’ of racing yachts rapidly became obsolete as the prize money dried up. So too did the boat building programme that saw each successive design vie for supremacy over the last.
In 1946 MAIDIE was converted from her original gaff rig to Bermudan rig. In 1981 she was dismasted in a collision on Wroxham Broad. In 1984 she was purchased by a syndicate, and the spelling of MADIE was altered to MAIDIE. In 1985 she underwent a complete rebuild and restoration in her old boat shed at Oulton. In 2004, her centenary year was marked by re-instating her gaff rig. Unfortunately in 2008 she sank in Wroxham Broad whilst taking part in a race, but was later raised by her owner. In May 2008 a new carbon fibre mast was fitted.
Where is she now?
MAIDIE is currently located at Wroxham on the Norfolk Broads where she is privately owned and sailed.
Johnstone-Bryden, R. (2004) ‘Maidie Heaven’, Classic Boat, 14-18.
Short films of the vessel are available on Youtube, compiled from footage taken in 1989 and 2012. They include snapshots of the restoration work and a race in the Oulton Regatta.