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Sutcliffe Boats

Sailing Yachts - 1934 to 1936

By 1932 Sutcliffe had extended the range of boats quite considerably. There were the three 12” to 20” clockwork speedboats, MINX, METEOR and the unnamed boat, the two battleships, VALIANT and NELSON, the two 9" hull boats, RACER 1 and the Sub Chaser, as well as the mighty 24” electric speedboat - eight boats in all. At the time, pond sailing yachts were an extremely popular toy, so it probably seemed an obvious boat to add to the range; so that is what Sutcliffe did, in its own typical way....


The yacht is Extremely Rare so images of any size yacht are very limited;  if you happen to have one of these yachts (in any condition) please do get in touch if you would like to 'share'!


All the other yachts on the market at the time were made from wood; these ranged from the rather basic Star and Bowman toy yachts with their simple ‘blade’ keels to the more sophisticated and expensive Bassett Lowke and Gamages model yachts with detailed adjustable rigging and carved wooden hulls and working rudders. Sutcliffe was a metal pressings company, so of course their yachts would be made of metal!


The basis for the yachts would be the three speedboats that were introduced in 1930. These came in three lengths - 12”, 16” and 20”.  The hull pressings were trimmed  (see fig. 11.2) to reduce the height and a deck soldered on. The deck was flat and featureless apart from the oval ‘Sutcliffe’ logo embossed near the bow (just like the speedboats). The mast, which in each case is approximately the length of the hull, is attached to the hull by means of a ‘U’ shaped bracket which is soldered to the hull.

The keel is a very simple construction; it is two flat sheets of tinplate, soldered together at the edges, the whole assembly being soldered to the hull, with a plate either side of the flange which runs the length of the hull. The keel is approx. 1/4” thick. The rudder is also very basic; a swinging rudder pivoting around a simple hinge, again all soldered together. Despite being soldered on, the rudder is quite a fragile design and the rudder is often missing as the wire ‘hinge pin’ pulls away from the keel.






















The mast, boom, jib, sails and rigging are also very basic. The mast is tapered (from about two thirds up), but the jib and boom are simply straight lengths of dowel.  The sails are made from pin striped cloth; the foresail pin stripes running vertically and the mainsail stripes running diagonally.  These sails are sewn to the boom and jib therefore there is no adjustment in the rig. The bowsies (used to tension the rigging) are unusual; they are made from red vulcanized fibre board. This is the same material used heavily for insulating in the 30’s (and still is to a lesser extent)  and until fairly recently was used to make the cable clamp on plugs! Is that what Sutcliffe used? If so, it would be typical of Sutcliffe, who used miniature whisky bottle bungs to plug the winding hole on the clockwork boats!

Fig 11.1 - Sutcliffe Advert circa 1932. The model illustrated is the 16" version.

The mast is secured to the hull by means of a ‘U’ shaped bracket which is soldered to the deck. A pin secures the mast to this bracket; there is a hole through the base of the mast. This arrangement makes the boat simple to rig; once removed from the box, the mast is simply raised, secured by the pin and two lines (shrouds) running down from the mast to the sides of the hull, and the line from the top of the foresail (forestay) were tensioned using the simple bowsies to hold the mast vertically upright. This was clearly a toy, not a ‘model’ so it had to be simple for children to set up, and it was!

Fig 11.2 - Sutcliffe 20" yacht along side its sister boat EMPRESS, also 20" with which it shared the same hull pressing. Both Circa 1935, although yacht was introduced before EMPRESS. Note the difference in hull 'depth'.


Fig. 11.4. Close up of the rigging arrangement.


Fig 11.5 -The yacht's rigging can be folded down flat for storage in a couple of minutes by losening off the shrouds and removing the pin securing the mast.

12" Yacht

The 12" yacht was the baby of them all, and used the 12" MINX hull pressing.

Fig. 11.6 - 12" Yacht circa 1934.

16" Yacht


Fig 11.8 - 16" yacht, circa 1934.

20" Yacht

The middle sized boat used the METEOR pressing.  See the section 'Clockwork Speedboats' to see various examples of the 16" Speedboat, later called 'METEOR'.

The 20" yacht was the grandest of them all and used the same hull pressing as the equally grand 20" Speedboat. It's essentially just the same thing scaled up again, although a sutble addition is a small eye just infront of the base of the mast which secures the foot of the foresail. It's not clear why the smaller boats did not have this feature.

Fig 11.9 - 20" yacht, circa 1934.  The stand is not an original Sutcliffe item.

The example shown below used to belong to Joan Sutcliffe, the wife of Kenneth Sutcliffe. Ken was the son of the founder and ran the business from the 1950's up until the factory closed in the early 1980's. It looks to be in original condition but the mast is raked back too far (hence the boom is almost touching the deck) and the rudder looks to be on upside down!


Fig. 11.9 - 20" Yacht, circa 1934. Photo Invaluable Auctions.

The yachts were not made for long. It may be that they were too expensive or simply poor sailing boats, or (probably) both! By 1936 Triang was making a range of very sophisticated model yachts with automatic steering gear;  there was simply no comparison!

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Apart from the size, there is a slight difference between the 12" yacht and 16" yacht. The 16" yacht has the sail secured to the mast by means of several split rings. Some examples of the 12" yacht have been seen without this.

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Fig. 11.7 - 12" Yacht circa 1934.


Fig. 11.3 - Simple yacht instructions pasted to the inside if the box lid.