A Short History of the Seabird Half Rater
In the autumn of 1898 West Lancashire Yacht Club passed a resolution favouring the founding of a new One Design Class boat, not to cost more than £35 complete.
The class owes its inception and inspiration from the design by Mr. Herbert Baggs in collaboration with Mr. W. Scott Hayward. The first eight boats were built by Latham of Crossens at a cost of £34 17s 6d each. The boats were named after Seabirds and their ratings were assessed at 0.5 hence the term Half Rater.
The first race was sailed off the Southport Pierhead on 13th June 1899 when eight boats participated over a ten mile course and Goshawk No.2 took the winning gun.
Within a year or two the Class was adopted by the Donaghadee SC under the name of ‘The Seashells’ and by Gourock YC under the title of ‘The Gaels’. Inter club racing was held on the waters of Belfast Lough during the summers of 1902 and 1904 and in the Menai Straits in August 1903.
There was great enthusiasm at this time and the 1902 August edition of the Yachtsman reporting on the Menai Strait Regattas states “none of the Threequarter Raters which generally give good sport at the Regattas were able to sail down but the Seabirds managed to arrive by rail in time for the first day at Caernarvon”.
In 1902 Caernarvon SC adopted the Class and the boats were known as ‘Cariads’.
Some years later the Class was adopted by West Kirby SC, Liverpool YC and Wallasey YC. In the autumn of 1905 the Seabirds, Seashells and Cariads O.D. Association was formed to keep the One Design concept and in 1908 R. Perry & Son, Birkenhead were appointed sail makers, their price being £3 19s 6d for a full suit.
In 1910 it was agreed that the Association Burgee be a “White Seagull” on a red background. Prior to the First World War, 41 boats had been built and were racing regularly and the cost of a new boat had risen to £60.
1922 saw Trearddur Bay SC officially adopt the Class and in 1924 the newly formed South Caernarvonshire YC offered races in June for Seabirds. The 60’s saw a revival in the building programme of ten new boats and the Association became affiliated to the RYA.
The present day fleet is based in North Wales at Trearddur Bay and Abersoch and on the Mersey at Wallasey. 1979 saw recognition by the Guiness Book of Yachting that the Seabird Half Rater is the oldest One Design Class still racing in Britain and the Liverpool Maritime Museum hold the Association documents on loan.