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Chris Bentley

History of the Class

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At the Poole AGM I sort of volunteered to become the Class Archivist. Not quite sure how I did that, it was a bit like becoming Chairman before. It just happened. I guess I am reasonably qualified as I bought BFG in the early 70s when Mike Owers was Chairman and he used to publish a six monthly Newsletter and send it out by snail mail to all the Class members. I still have those papers and a lot of other stuff too. There are some copies on this website, but theres more, a lot more.

When I was chair, one of my stated ambitions was to try to trace every Sonata ever made by Hunters. Failed miserably, so maybe this is unfinished business. The major difficulty was that the boats get sold, often change names, vanish off the Associations radar, then pop up again with little to link them to their previous life apart from the hull number. Mike Owers did a cracking job recording what he knew in the 1990 Association Handbook. I have that. Of course it is wildly out of date, undoubtedly some Sonatas have gone to the great Sonata grave in the sky, more likely, the deep, as per a hull in Hong Kong which, in 1990, was occupied by a family of 14 who hot bunked it as living quarters in the typhoon harbour. But I bet a lot of them are still out there somewhere because, as we all know, they were built to last.

So the first task is to update my list of hull numbers with current owners as far as poss, and that's where you come in, I need to know who owns what now. Yours, others in your Club or area, who you bought from, who you sold to. I will publish the list anon, meanwhile, please prepare your research. Thanks. Next, I can start adding an individual boat's history to its number, interesting and maybe valuable to you and any future buyer. Bit of a task, this, but I have modern technology to hand, so not impossible.

Alongside this, and maybe even more valuable to the Class, prospective buyers, is a collection of history of what our little boats have achieved. Just the Yarns on this site give a flavour, but there are undoubtedly a lot more stories of derring do. A prospective buyer into the Class weighing up a Sonata v, say, a J24, might like to know that ours stand up in 40knts and if knocked flat, won't sink (sorry, J's, i know you have addressed this now). But you follow my drift.

Here's another little gem to consider: we, some of us, may own a "Classic Yacht" in terms of the British Classic Yacht Club's definition of such in their Class Three category. I happen to have caught up with this having just raced a Cat 3 one, a Rival 34, in fact, the first one built, to Brest for a six day festival, which was awesome. Maybe, maybe not, but, we certainly own some old ladies, theres never ever going to be another Sonata built, the moulds have been destroyed, mores the pity, so our collection of boats is fairly unique, worth preserving by all means possible. There are other old One Design Classes out there, the Solent based X Class, about 100 boats strong, has a cult following, sell for 10 times a Sonata's value, and its just a wooden daybook, a nice one, but not that special, sorry, X's. The Portsmouth Victory Class is still going strong, wooden clinker, and they have revitalised it by taking a mould off an existing wood hull and building fibreglass copies which race in Class, because there are few original Victories left. Compared to these two examples, and there are more, we have a much better proposition. You can buy a Sonata for peanuts and with a very small investment, turn it into a very competitive one design with seriously great racing, plus a boat you can cruise on in most weathers. What other Class offers you that?

I think we have a collective responsibility to look after our Class. Thats mostly what this is about. Hope you can help me do that.



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Hi Chris,

I'll be the first to kick things off then.  I own Meltemi, a lift keel version which has the sail number 210.  Sailed on Ullswater in the Lake District and bought from Brightlingsea.  Previously she was based at Penzance so she's been about a bit!

She's just undergone something of a refit so should be good for a lot more years.

I've already posted on this site about whether 210 is also the hull number as I can't find any markings anywhere inside or outside the hull.


Tim Ellis, Penrith, Cumbria.


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