Fifteen flies again – John Corby

John Corby Interview – Flying Fifteens

John Corby is a designer who has consistently featured in the results of Scottish IRC events since his 36 footer Mustang Sally obliterated the competition at Scottish Series a few years back. A stream of Scottish Series winners followed, from the 40 foot Cracklin’ Rosie to Big John Corson`s Salamander, (Corby 33). Antix and Gloves Off had notable success as well. Another boat to feature prominently in Scottish racing was John’s radical “Joyride’, a boat which lived up to her name and which was 20 years ahead of her time (just look at the new McConaghy 38 and you’ll see what I mean – a straight bow and a square head main on Joyride and you’d find it hard to tell them apart from any distance). Probably the most winning IRC designer in history, John has recently turned his hand to a more personal project, the rejuvenation of his family owned Flying Fifteen. With the FF’s enjoying conspicuous success in Scottish waters recently, we caught up with John to ask him a few questions about what he did and how he went about it:

ULDB 35 Joyride
ULDB 35 Joyride

What made you decide to get back into the Fifteens?

My dad bought this boat for me in 1979 when he sold his 62 footer. I was 17 and the boat was already 10 years old but had a good record. Roy Windybank later told me he had started with this mould shape. Basically this particular boat has become a bit of a family heirloom.

I have very happy memories of FF racing in the Solent in the 80s and early 90s before my IRC designing took off. The FF is an incredibly elegant boat and still speedy even by modern standards. Uffa got it just right all those years ago. The vital ingredients of beam, sail area, stability etc are all blended to total perfection for one or two people of any age to sail safely, but fast, in any weather. I’ll take mine out singlehanded for a quick blast if I see the weather looks nice. Absolutely love it.


What work did you do, and what improvements are you expecting to see? 

The only thing left from 1968 is the hull. The boat got literally blown away in the 1987 hurricane but recovered as a write off. Since then it’s had various jobs done on it but last September I made it a priority to get it sailing again.

The inside of the hull was ground off and the soggy paper rope stringers replaced with modern materials. The forward and aft decks are foam/glass panels and the cockpit plywood/glass. Gunwales are mahogany sheathed in glass and faired.

Interior structure goes in
Interior structure goes in


After fairing the hull we sprayed the bottom in white Durepox which we then cut and polished to a gelcoat type finish. The topsides and deck are sprayed in Awlgrip with sprayed griptex panels on the fore and aft decks.

Deck fairing. Note multiple ‘torture’ boards…







Slightly unusual detailing would be: teak decking on the raised floor; carbon chainplates for shrouds and jib tack; mast control system at deck level; custom shroud pins which incorporate the tweakers; other custom metalwork such as the tiller.

Gavin Tappenden made a new rudder and lent me his keel pattern. This keel makes far more sense to me than the original.

Teak decking on raised floor
Teak decking on raised floor
Chainplate detail

Selden spars, North sails (I know the guys there really well) and mainly Harken fittings.

Keel is down to weight but the boat is 35kg heavy, which means most classics must surely also be overweight. The rig will be better set up than I ever used to have it but I have absolutely no idea how we will fair against the local fleet which are all considerably newer. After I’ve been out a few times, my good friend Sid Howlett is going to spend an afternoon looking at it all.


The owner taking his creation on a solo spin
The owner taking his creation on a solo spin

How will the boat be classified now within the Flying Fifteen fleets? 

I don’t see why it isn’t still a Classic. The hull shape is original and solid GRP, albeit with some additional modern material as well. All the work done, including rig position, deck control, shrouds etc is all totally to the rules.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do something similar? 

You’ve really got to love your old boat. I could have bought a brand new one for the same money, but I didn’t want a new one, I wanted to sail my old one again!

All conquering Corby 36 Mustang Sally
All conquering Corby 36 Mustang Sally

What else will you be doing in the next 12 months with the business? 

Yacht restoration has been a major part of my business for several years. As I write, just before Easter 2013, Mustang Sally is the next boat due back in Cowes for some serious love, plus a whole new carbon rig to a new sail-plan. We also have several other smaller refits and resprays booked in so business is OK.

Finally, is there any truth to the rumor that your family was responsible for a certain ubiquitous hotel room item which is responsible for perfect trouser centre-creases seen on businessmen all over the world?

Yes that’s my 88 year old dad, who still does my company book keeping on his iMac!

Thanks John, well-done for such a beautiful restoration and good luck with her this season!

See more photos at John Corby Flying Fifteen Restoration

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