Short transom cutter

Esmeralda at the Kirkwall Regatta 2009

ESMERALDA is an Uffa Fox designed 16ft 6” Water Line Length (WLL) racing cutter built in 1934 by James Duncan at Duncan’s old boatyard in Burray. She was commissioned by Sir Walter Grant, Whisky Magnate, of Trumland House in Rousay for Tom Sinclair, Grant’s retained skipper. It was common practice at this time for the boat owner to have an expert not only to helm the boat but also maintain and look after her.  After Walter Grant’s death in 1947 Tom Sinclair became the owner of Esmeralda.

The Rousay regatta was one of the biggest and most popular regattas in Orkney because it was within easy sailing distance from both Kirkwall and the North Isles and so attracted many boats.

Walter Grant built Esmeralda to win cups in the 22ft class and she lived up to that expectation by winning extensively in the regattas of the late 30’s, late 40’s and early 50’s (no regattas took place during WW2). One Rousay regatta, for which Walter Grant was Officer of the Day, was held in strong winds. Esmeralda was seen to be losing the race so Walter Grant cancelled the regatta mid-race. Local folklore blames this incident for the demise of the regatta in Rousay but as Grant died in 1947 and there are reports in the local press with results of Rousay regattas into the 50’s this may say something about local attitudes towards Grant.  The more probable reason for the demise of the Rousay regattas at that time was due to the major changes which occurred in the sailing scene throughout Orkney.  The heyday of the traditional wooden keel boats, Orkney Yoles and Orkney dinghies was over with modern racing dinghies such as the Merlin, Redwing, National 12, Rocket and International Snipe becoming increasingly popular.  These new generation boats could be built from plans by any competent amateur boat builder relatively cheaply and were much more exciting to sail.

Rather than being sailed to Rousay this new generation of lighter boats needed to be transported so regattas like the Rousay regatta declined and eventually ceased. With the demise of the Rousay regatta Esmeralda was no longer sailed and lay in a boat noust in Rousay throughout the rest of the 1950’s and into the 1960’s until she was bought by James Skinner of Stromness and helmed at that time by Captain Robbie Sutherland. At this time there were still keelboats and Yoles sailing in Stromness so she fitted in well to the sailing scene here for a few years competing with boats such as Laverne, Skua, Barabel, Tiger and Pansy.

Joe Malloch bought Esmeralda and as well as fitting an aluminium mast also reconfigured the sail plan and rigging.  He fitted a stern sprit and dispensed with the running back stays.  This meant that two people could sail her, prior to this she had needed three people.  Tom Sinclair had by now moved to Stromness and was very critical of the new arrangement claiming they have ‘ruined the draft of her’. Unfortunately, she wasn’t looked after her very well during this period and sank at her moorings twice and lay on her side at the Point of Ness totally neglected for some time. Thankfully, she was saved by John Stout who bought her and set about restoring her.  He cleaned her up, painted her and replaced the decking in Ian Richardson’s boat shed at Stromness.

In 2006 she was inspected by John Edwards, keeper of Aberdeen Maritime Museum and Captain George Hogg Curator of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.  They were very impressed with Esmeralda and realised she was a boat of national importance, so George Hogg entered her into the National Small Boat Register which he was developing at the time. 

In 2007 she was bought jointly by James Clouston and Ian Pole who carried out further repairs, painted her and made her seaworthy again. They sailed her at several regattas for two seasons but soon realised she was in a class of her own with no comparable boat to sail against so she was once again laid up.

National Small Boat Register No. 1120

In August 2023 Esmeralda was moved from the agricultural shed in which she had been stored for many years to the Old Herring Factory in Stromness.