Partridge is documented as being the world's oldest, still fully operational classic racing yacht.
"Partridge" was built in 1885 at the Camper and Nicholson boatyard in Gosport, Hampshire, England, 'the oldest leisure marine company in the world'. The company was originally a shipyard in Gosport, today Camper and Nicholson has become a yacht and marina management company.
Partridge is recognised as a UK National Historic Ship and was designed by John Beavor-Webb and launched on 2 June by Miss Nora Lapthorn. To put things into historical perspective, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor during the same month, on 17 June 1885.
John Beavor-Webb began his career in England but worked in the U.S.A. after the 1880s. In 1885, when Partridge was launched, his cutter Genesta competed in the America's Cup and he was working on the designs of a 90-ton cutter for a Lt. William Henn. Galatea (yacht) which also challenged for the America’s Cup in 1886. There is every chance that at some stage the designs for these yachts will have been together on the designer's drawing board. Their elegant lines, size apart, are very similar.
Nora Lapthorn was the daughter of Edwin Lapthorn who was in charge of the Ratsey and Lapthorn sail loft in Gosport at the time. Edwin Lapthorn's Mother's name was Mary Partridge. Partridge was typical of the many Victorian yachts that were popular at the time and would have been used primarily for cruising and occasional amateur yacht racing.
She was built to Lloyds 100A1 and subsequently appeared in the Lloyds register up until 1923. Her original first entry certificate and survey report, including a midship section drawing, are to this day still in the Lloyds archives in London. Unfortunately, virtually all other records of her were destroyed during the Second World War during bombing raids; in particular Camper and Nicholson’s and Ratsey and Lapthorn lost many plans. Beken of Cowes have a photograph of her sister ship, Polyanthus, rigged as a yawl and built a year earlier.
Lloyd's Register has Partridge on its records until 1923 during which period, she had three name changes. These were: 1886 name changed to Rupee, 1889 name changed to Pollie  and 1921 name changed to Tanagra. Her last entry in 1923 states that she was sold to a Belgian and converted to a houseboat. Hunt’s Yachting magazine reports from a race held by the Royal Torbay Yacht Club on 17 July 1886: "in a steady south-westerly breeze the race produced capital competition". Yachts were to be steered by bona fide amateurs and only regular crew were allowed. First prize was £10, second £5 and third £3. The entries were: Minnow, 10 tons; Tiger, 11 tons; Mackerel, 18 tons and Partridge (now in fact named Rupee), 18 tons. All tonnages given are Thames tonnages. The start was at 1030 am and the course three times round via a mark off Brixham. Partridge was away first with Mackerel second and Tiger third. This order was maintained throughout and therefore Partridge won the £10 first prize.
The Field (magazine), in which Dixon Kemp (British naval architect, founder of the Yacht Racing Association today known the Royal Yachting Association) and founder of The Lloyd's Register of Yachts) wrote a yachting column, mentions Partridge as she sailed up and down the south coast of England to the various regattas and anchorages. Her launch was recorded: "Yacht launch at Gosport: On Tuesday 2nd June 1885 the new 18 ton cruising cutter Partridge, built to the order of Mr J.H. Baillie, was successfully launched from the yard of Messrs. Camper and Nicholson of Gosport. The yacht was designed by J.B. Webb and is a sister to Polyanthus, built last year by the same firm for R.H. Baillie. The christening ceremony was performed by Miss Nora Lapthorn". Then later an entry states: "Gosport, June 8th. Polyanthus cruising yawl, Mr R.H. Baillie, for Weymouth. Yachts fitting out: Partridge, cutter, Mr J.H. Baillie". And a few months later: "April 17th 1886: Gosport, the cutter Rupee, Mr C.P. Henderson, jun., will be put afloat". And 24 April: "The Rupee, cutter, was launched off Messrs. Camper and Nicholson’s upper slip on Thursday". Rupee then sailed to Torquay and was reported as being on station in that port on every weekend up until 30 October 1886.
From the day of her launch up until 1923 her list of owners in chronological order was as follows:
|Mr J.H. Baillie||Portsmouth|
|Mr Charles P Hendersone||Pine Cliff, Torquay, Devon|
|Francis Fitzpatrick Tower||66 Princes Gate, London, Middlesex|
|Albert Wood||Bodlondeb, Conway, N. Wales|
|James Stuart Goold||185 Lodge Lane, Liverpool, Lancaster|
|Henry Bunster Harris||No.8 Hyde Park Mansions, London, Middlesex|
|John Goldsmid||56 Redcliffe Gardens, South Kensington, London|
|William Henry Goldsmid||11 Bentinck Street, Cavendish Square, London|
|Ebenezer Southgate||The Nook, Church Road, Brightlingsea, Essex|
|Frederick Backhouse Hulke||Admiralty House, Deal, Kent|
|William Mansfield Clark||William Wren, Essex Road, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex|
|Henry Tompson Holloway||840 Salisbury House, London EC|
|Ralph Cudworth Romer||Westons, Rusper, Sussex|
|L.H.F. Damen||c/o Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, Burnham-on-Crouch|
This information all comes from Lloyd's Register that gives Partridge’s burgee details as three vertical panels: red, blue and red with a white spot in the centre of the central blue panel.
When Partridge was discovered on the east coast of England in 1979, lying on her side at Tollesbury on the River Blackwater (see picture right), little about her was known.Her previous owner was only able to give two pieces of information concerning her past history, apart from the fact that he had removed hundreds of cast iron ballast pigs from her bilges and thrown them into the river a few years earlier. The first piece of information was that the boat had once been called Tanagra and the second piece was that a previous owner, upon removing an old deck beam from up in the fo’csle, had come across the carved words: "Harry 1885". From these two pieces of information it was possible to discover who she was and where she came from. Lloyds Register was searched for mention of the name Tanagra and in 1923 a yacht of this name, that had similar length and tonnage characteristics to the hull found at Tollesbury, had been registered. The Lloyds list gives the previous name of every vessel and therefore it was possible to go back, year by year, until in 1885, the date carved by "Harry", was reached and the vessel’s name was given as Partridge built at Camper and Nicholsons in Gosport. All the relevant measurements matched the hull and subsequently, 100 years later, it was possible to re-register the yacht in her original name, with Southampton as the port of Registry.
To confirm her identity, the records at Lloyds in Fenchurch Street, London, included the yacht’s first entry certificate. This included a full specification of her construction materials and scantlings plus a midship section drawing showing the lead keel, floors, planking, bilge stringers, shelf, deck beams and deck. The full-length greenheart keelson, that was soon discovered under the mud that was excavated from the hull, was also drawn on the midship section.
Under "general remarks", the surveyor, in 1885, has written: "Secretary’s letters dated 18 March, 13 and 20 April: this small yacht was from time to time examined by the undersigned during her construction; after her launch, she was at once hauled up and was fitted out; the keel, bottom and sides have now been cleaned down, ballast shifted at (unreadable), an examination made and all placed in good and efficient condition. It will be observed that the collective weight of the two anchors is under the weight given in the suggested tables but when attention was called to this, the master stated most strongly that they could not find room, or use heavier, and would if allowed to follow their own views, take even lighter; at the same time the builders desire me to state, that if the committee cannot accept then they shall be removed and heavier ones supplied on being informed accordingly, but trust that in the meantime the fig.1 will be granted. Having regard to the fine bow of this yacht together with the views above referred to, I beg respectfully to recommend that the anchor be approved to remain for the fig.1 particularly seeing that they are of the pattern known as Thomas patent which for holding power cannot be surpassed ".
The restoration of Partridge began in 1979 when Alexander Laird received a letter from Peter Saxby suggesting they restore an old wooden boat together, with Peter providing the funds and Alex doing the boatbuilding. Alex went off in search of a suitable project and came across the hull, of what would subsequently turn out to be Partridge, in November 1979. The hull was salvaged and towed to a quayside in Tollesbury on the River Blackwater in Essex, England. From there she was craned out of the river at high tide (see picture right) and taken on the back of a truck to the Isle of Wight.
Partridge was taken to Shalfleet on the Isle of Wight and craned off onto a pre-prepared concrete plinth at Shalfleet House where over the next 8 years, the hull, whilst all the time drying out, was restored intermittently with main jobs being the renewal of all the frames, repairs to hull planking, the renewal of all deck beams and the casting of a new 9 tonne lead keel.
In 1989 Partridge was taken from the garden in Shalfleet to Hythe Marine Services on Southampton Water where the lead keel was drilled off and bolted to the hull and the teak deck was laid with the help of a shipwright from the boatyard.
Then in 1993 Partridge was moved to Groves and Gutteridge (today part Fairey Marine) marina in Cowes on the Isle of Wight where Partridge’s restoration was to be completed under a purpose-built shed.
All the final details were completed in Cowes including the building of the mast and spars in a small workshop rented from Harry Spencer at Spencer Thetis wharf. Partridge was restored as closely as possible to her original specification. However, modern methods and materials were used where it was felt that they might have been used in 1885 had the materials been available (e.g. plywood sub-deck and rubber caulking in the deck seams).
Partridge was launched in 1998 and sailing trials, with new sails by Ratsey & Lapthorn (Partridge’s original sailmakers in 1885), were completed in the Solent with Partridge based at Cowes.
In 1999, after a summer of sailing in the Solent, Partridge was placed on a cargo ship and taken to the Mediterranean, being offloaded on the island of Mallorca. In August 1999 she won her first regatta at the Trofeo Almirante Conde de Barcelona in Palma and then went on to take first prize for best restoration at Monaco Classic Week and then first prize at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez.
In 2001 Partridge was shipped back to Cowes for the 150th anniversary of the first America’s Cup, the America’s Cup Jubilee regatta and she finished in third place in her class.
She was then shipped back to the Mediterranean and was based in Antibes from 2001 to 2003. In 2004 her permanent base became Classic Works La Ciotat and between 2004 and 2012 she raced regularly in various regattas of the Mediterranean classic yacht circuit.