The Atalanta trailer sailer was conceived in 1955 by Alan Vines, a senior executive at the marine arm of the celebrated Fairey engineering company, with the expertise of Uffa Fox who was their Design Consultant.
The Atalanta was envisaged as a trailable shallow draft performance cruiser with the sea keeping capabilities and safety of a fin keel yacht. Over the succeeding decades the distinctive centre cockpit design with its rolled decks and generous accommodation has more than fulfilled expectations, offering a respectable turn of speed in light airs while her retractable cast iron keels give outstanding heavy weather performance in a seaway.
Robust enough to carry its full sail in winds up to force five, the Atalanta trailer sailer retains many of the handling characteristics of a classic yacht. The hull is formed of hot moulded agba veneers using technology originally developed during WWII for building wooden aircraft. Hot moulded agba veneer proved to be stronger, lighter and in many ways more durable and repairable than GRP.
Fairey Marine went on to produce three variants of the Atalanta, another 26ft (8.1m) hull with a slightly shorter cockpit and more headroom called the Titania (named after another Fairey flying boat), a larger version the Atalanta 31 (9.45m) and the Fulmar a 20ft(6.1m) version with a single lifting keel. Small Dinghies were built using similar techniques as tenders for the larger boats.
The Atalanta has a double berth cabin aft and a two-berth cabin, galley and heads forward. The self-draining cockpit has room for six whilst a whipstaff tiller allows the maximum space to be utilised. Control lines, and halyards can be handled from the cockpit and the headsails and anchor can be deployed by standing in the forehatch. The relatively modest rig and sail area needed to drive the lightweight hull make for easy sail handling as well as lower capital cost and the relatively short mast is easily rigged or lowered for towing.
The secret of the Atalanta’s versatility lies in its shallow draught and retractable aerofoil section twin pivoting ballast keels. These are housed in keel boxes, either side of the cabin and under the bunks so as to not impinge on the accommodation space as is normally the case with lifting keels. They are supported by the main bulkhead and weigh 480lbs (218kg) each. The boat draws only 1ft 6in (0.46m) with them raised, but 5ft 9in (1.75m) with them lowered. Clamping plates on either side of the keels keep them in position and hold them rigid, although the design allows the keels to kick up safely without damage if the boat is run up a beach or in the case of collision with some other object, be it a whale, semi-submerged shipping container or even an unexpected sandbank!
The Atalanta trailer sailer was one of the last wooden production boats to be built its enduring success and popularity attest to its classic status.