Thomas White Ratsey
Pictured aboard Dolly Varden circa 1930
Tom Ratsey purchased Dolly Varden in 1888 after having watched her race and win since 1872. He noticed that although Dolly was quick she was very slow to tack and on purchasing her undertook a drastic alteration to her bow. Her keel was also increased in size and she carried six tons of lead externally bolted on.
Dolly was used primarily as a test platform for Tom’s sail making firm Ratsey and Lapthorne and she soon earned the title Queen of the Solent winning race after race carrying a massive sail area.
Tom raced Dolly until his death in 1935 and indeed spent his final summer living aboard after a fall onboard the previous year had left him unable to walk.
Ratsey and Lapthorne were the sailmakers of the day particularly associated with the Americas Cup and are still trading to this day.
Read more about the extraordinary life and times of Thomas Ratsey here.
Close friends with Tom Ratsey Uffa spent much time aboard and crewing Dolly Varden. In 1935 he described Dolly as still the quickest boat of her size in the world even though she was by then well over sixty years old.
A larger than life character that managed to find the time to do just about everything you can read more about him here.
Another extraordinary character associated with Dolly Varden Austin (nickname Clarence) spent many happy hours aboard which was noted in his obituary here.
Yachtsman have a lot to thank Austin for including the Pulpit rail.
King George V
Strictly more a friend of Tom Ratsey their friendship flourished due to the King’s yacht Britannia which was powered by Ratsey and Lapthorne’s sails. The King was last aboard Dolly in 1935 the year Tom died and we have reference to the visit which states that Tom having been warned of the Royal Barge coming alongside went into a panic trying to find his false teeth.
While the King spent twenty minutes aboard Dolly chatting with the now very sick Tom the crew fended off the Royal Barge with their feet and entertained the Queen!
We haven’t yet been able to prove that the King sailed with Dolly Varden however it is highly likely such was their close freindship, more research required here we think.