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The Midnight Special

Rob Humphreys was drawing boats at a very young age, a great number of which he took to model stage. However, the first boat of his design to be built was The Midnight Special, an IOR Quarter Tonner which he co-owned with sailmaker Edward Hyde (of Hyde Sails) .

The Quarter Ton class was a launching pad for many designers in the early Seventies, and as a racing yacht The Midnight Special was fairly average. She seldom won races but was usually in the hunt with a frequency of thirds and fourths. Needless to say much was learnt.

At the time Humphreys was on the editorial staff of YACHTS AND YACHTING magazine, looking after the magazine’s offshore coverage and paying particular attention to design issues. The name of the boat owes much to the time of day in which the design work was carried out and borrows inspiration also from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rendition of this famous song, often an accompaniment to the work.

The Midnight Special was built by dinghy builder Dennis Trott as a relatively early foam sandwich construction, with a glass laminate that would still be considered light today.

There was much improvisation about the project. The engine was a Honda generator, air-cooled and very noisy but very inexpensive. The keel also came cheaply. A blacksmith fabricated the mild steel core of the keel for £40 and Peter Sweetman (initial helmsman of the boat) and Rob Humphreys cast the lead ingots in Sweetman’s garden. These were half aerofoil sections which were bolted on to the steel plate, the whole then being glassed over and faired.

The boat was subsequently sold to American Tom Bibb and after a few years when he sold her on contact with the boat was lost. Fond memories are impossible to extinguish, but unfortunately the boat herself is believed to have been destroyed in a massive clearing operation in Burnham-on-Crouch. Like many boats of her day, unable to offer much in the way of cruising attributes, she had become redundant and was laid up ashore, taking up space that was needed for development.