The National Solo is a classic, one-design, single handed dinghy. Designed by Jack Holt in 1956,the Solo remains a popular dinghy, sailed at manyclubs in the UK, Holland and Australia.
Originally designed in wood, competitive boats are now widely available in Foam Reinforced Plastic (FRP) or composite construction (FRP hull and wood deck) as well as wood.
- Light, double-chined hull
- Constructed from wood, GRP or composite (GRP hull, wooden decking)
- Available as a kit, part-built or complete. Plans available from the RYA for a completely DIY boat
- Keel stepped, stayed mast
- Fully battened sail
- Inward sloping decks for comfortable sitting out
- Most boats have centre mainsheet, but aft sheeting permitted by class rules
- Nationwide Open Meeting circuit
- Championships held alternately in the UK and Holland
- National Championships held annually in the UK, Holland and Australia
- National Inland Water Championship held annually in the UK
The Jack Holt designed singlehander has been around since 1956 and 56 years later the class is stronger than ever.
Initially, the National Solo was built in wood with wooden spars and a cotton or terylene sail with wooden battens. My
Dad often tells me the story of a chap called Danny Butler who would arrive at an open meeting and empty a few dozen
battens out of his Hillman Tourer (the one with wooden framework) and select a set to match the conditions of the day.
Incidentally, Danny practically ran the class in the seventies, I am not sure the association would have flourished without
There were many home built boats but ultimately the professional builders including Jack Holt working on the banks of
Putney, and Alec Stone, based in Salcombe, produced most of the hulls. Alec won the Nationals’ 8 times between 1958
and 1970 and the ‘Worlds’ in 1971 at Hayling Island and his National Solos’ were the choice of many champions through
the seventies. Many clubs adopted the Solo, along with the Enterprise and the Mirror and numbers snowballed with over
100 entries at the Nationals’/Worlds’ quite common.
Aluminium masts replaced the standard ‘Collar’ wooden masts and sailmakers’ such as Mountifield and Musto+Hyde were developing sails to match masts provided by Holt, Proctor and Needlespar. There were also some masts produced which pushed the boundaries of legality by fitting thin metal plates to the top to adhere to the mast measurement tolerances.
Fortunately, the Solo Class has always had some fantastic measurers who have kept members, builders and
manufacturers on the straight and narrow. Martin Grounds, Jim Gates, Ron Green and Gordon Barclay must take much
of the credit for guiding the class and protecting Jack Holt’s ideology over the last 5 decades.
The Solo was also being built and sailed in Holland and demand was high enough that whole batches were sent to clubs
such as Brouwershaven and Enhuizen. The Dutch were/are great sailors, and they collected 5 World Championships
The Solo was now also being built in GRP and also as a composite by Seamark-Nunn and some other plastic
manufacturers though wooden built boats continued to claim the big prizes.
In the mid seventies a chap named Richard Lovett started building and sailing the Solo. He was a supreme craftsman
and also had some ideas to produce a fast hull. The rules allow +/- 5mm for builder error and this was exploited by him
and other builders to make the bow entry finer, to widen the hull to promote lift onto the plane and a flat aft section to
increase downwind performance. Richard also introduced the flared gunwhale which was appreciated by many pairs of
legs when hiking. Interestingly, there are now a few Solos’ with sharper gunwhales which theoretically produce more
efficient leverage but require hiking pads! Another stand-out feature of the Lovett Solo was the beauty of the build
quality and was matched by longevity of top level performance.
The early eighties saw the dominance of the Lovett hull and, matched with the Needlespar or Proctor C’ mast and the
Batt or Hyde sail proved super competitive and was used to win by both Geoff Carveth (Nationals’ 82, 83, 89, Worlds’
83,84, 89) and Ken Falcon (Nationals’ 85,86,87,88, Worlds’ 85,86,87). There were some exceptions, Simon Cray won the
National title at Brixham in 1984 in an Uttley built wooden Solo with a Hyde sail and lots of mast rake. He also wore a
weight jacket, the last time one would be allowed.
Richard Willetts at Runnymede Dinghies was building wooden Solos’ and his boats won many ‘opens’ in the early
eighties, Pangallacticgargleblaster was a stand-out Solo. There were issues with the strength of the GRP hull and so a
rule change was adopted to allow foam sandwich construction.
Omega were first to produce a foam sandwich hull which proved popular, the hull finished 4th in ‘84’ but the wood hull
still held court.
There was much interest in the class and other builders were starting to produce fast Solos’. Bob beckett was building
fast hulls and he instigated the construction process of dropping the centreboard case into the hog. This reduced the
age old problem of a leaky case.
Tony Thresher did much to develop Solo construction, using epoxy resins and female moulds, he was able to build the
hull the right way up for the first time. Although the finished article did not match the looks of the Lovett there was no
doubting the speed through the water. Tony also helped develop the double thick floor panel which significantly
strengthened the overall product. Into the nineties and the class was showing no sign of inactivity.
World/National Championship attendances were slightly down, a result of the dilution of the singlehander into other
classes but the Inland Championship, first held in 1983 was flourishing, peaking in 1998 with 116 entries. Gerry Ledger
based in Southend built the Solo that Geoff Carveth used to win the Worlds’/Nationals’ in 1991/93 and in 1992 he used
the first Kevan Gosling built Solo, ‘Monolog’. All the ideals that Lovett had treasured were lovingly re-created by Kevan
but with the use of modern glues and finishes and of course Kevan’s own ‘fast shape’ input. The Gosling hull is still the
most beautiful of all the Solos’ built.
The mid nineties saw the emergence of the Severn Sailboat plastic Solo and the energy of the Bond Brothers, Andy and
Graham. The two lightweight sailors won some big titles and showed that the foam hull matched with hard hiking and
100% commitment could finally prise away the perceived dominance of the wooden hull. There were still some fast
wood boats being built, Vic Crawshaw’s hulls showed good pace in the hands of his son Cliff. Andy Miles in particular had
much success in a short period with Jim Hunt and Geoff Carveth winning the Worlds’ and Nationals between 1998 –
The class allowed FRP construction in 2000, the global ramifications on forest destruction resulted in a lack of quality of
wood and increased costs. These were some of the factors that influenced the decision. Also, FRP had been adopted by
some other prominent classes with much success in both numbers built and performance/longevity.