Originally designed in 1909 by Alfred Westmacott of Woodnuts boatyard in St. Helen’s on the Isle of Wight, more than 200 boats have since been produced in its 100+ years of history. They are still sailed in much the same way as they did when they first went racing in the waters of the Solent back in August 1911.
Other than an electronic compass, the boats have no other electronic navigational aids for racing. It’s only since 2016 that race committees started texting the course to boats racing in the Solent that mobile phones have been introduced.
Some people have questioned how it is possible to navigate in this day and age with just a compass, but please rest assured we are not going on a transatlantic voyage but sailing around the relatively safe waters of the Solent!
The main thing to think about in the local waters of the Solent is the tide. For that reason it’s not unusual to see XODs sailing very close to the shore in an effort to get out of the foul tide. With only a bamboo cane to gauge the depth, it’s not unusual to see the XOD Fleet come closer to the shore than others.
It is this fairly simplistic approach, albeit with strict guidance by the Class Association that has kept these boats as popular today as they were when they were first raced in 1911. The masts are still wooden as are the booms which, when added to the vast array of different coloured hulls really does all add up to a very beautiful sight, especially when raced in large numbers during Classic Week or Cowes Week when the other XOD fleets from around the Solent come to race in Cowes.
The Cowes Division was reformed in 2008 and has slowly been going from strength to strength with more than 20 boats in the Cowes Fleet.