From 1964 - the masterpiece that is the Unicorn. Have a read below to see how it started, and how the legend lives on...
Where it started
John Mazzotti came up with the unique tortured ply construction technique in 1964 that allowed the perfect high strength, light weight hull construction for catamarans.
He began his experiments in 1964 on the B class Manta and when the IYRU laid down the specification for the A class in 1966, Mazzotti came up with the mythical beast - the Unicorn.
She won the RYA trials convincingly in 1967 and came close to being selected as the boat of choice by the IYRU for the International A class.
The design took the catamaran world by storm. By the end of 1967 the boat had won every major A class event and had proved to be the fastest A class in the UK and the most stable throughout the world in all weathers.
By the summer of 1968, there were over 150 boats registered - 70 in the UK, 50 in Canada, 15 in the US, with smaller numbers in Belgium, Sweden, Australia, Germany and South Africa.
Trowbridge and Sons became the official builders at the outset, building boats in wood and fibreglass as well as providing kits for home construction. The kit in 1968 was £198-8-0!!! Later, South Midland Marine, South Midlands Laminates and Condor Catamarans Ltd joined those providing ready built boats and kits.
Rarely has a boat been designed so perfectly straight out the box. Over the last forty years the changes have proved to be relatively minor - this design is just outstandingly good for high performance sailing in all weather conditions.
In the 80’s, Roger Dewen, an A class specialist, designed a modified hull that was within the class templates. This hull design has more buoyancy in the bow and more rocker. These features allow the boat to be pushed even harder before submarining and allow more efficient tacking. He also experimented very successfully with a ‘knuckle’ on the keel line that allowed the boat to skim over the surface, almost a planing effect. This design (built in hull 1011) won the 1981 A class European Championships and the design has been adopted by Gary Piper in his fine boats.
The majority of boats over the years have been home built to varying quality. Unfortunately, this gave a reputation of the boat being fragile.
This is so far from the truth for a boat built professionally or to the proper standard. These boats will take the huge rig pressures of a high performance cat and absorb the rough and tumble of capsize, cartwheel and nose diving in their stride.
Gary Piper, son of a master craftsman woodworker, became fascinated by the wooden boats in the 1980’s. As well as sailing, he began building them to a very high standard. He now builds a new boat most years and will build to order, using the Dewen hull design.
If you need to be convinced about the performance of the Unicorn, check out the Rounde om Texel. Dan Jarman, on his first visit to the great event, finished 1st single hander on the water, 2nd on corrected time, 37th overall out of over 700 boats.