The International 10m2 Canoe was until recently the fastest singlehanded skiff on the water. It has a long and proud history and traces it's lineage, like the America's cup, from the later 19th century.
In the latter half of the 19th century canoeing as a sport was fashionable with the new middle class professionals on both sides of the Atlantic. The New York Canoe Club was founded in 1871, and The Canoe Club on the Thames was inaugurated in 1866. The Prince of Wales was commodore of the Canoe Club for thirty years, and Queen Victoria gave it her blessing in 1873 when it became the Royal Canoe Club.
Of course the trouble with canoes is that they are only as fast as you can paddle, unless of course you put a sail on them. Naturally Henry Vanderbill wanted to go faster than John Bull, and the race was on. Over the years sails got bigger, and ardent canoeists invented all kinds of go fast gear. In fact competition reached such a pitch that in 1885 the New York Canoe Club invented the New York Challenge Cup (NYCC), which was, and still is, a large and rather shapeless sterling silver milk jug. It is now covered with over a centuries accumulation of winners names, necessitating its placement on a plinth in order to make room for more. The NYCC remains, after the America's Cup, the second oldest sailing trophy in the world, and certainly the most prestigious for small boats.
Up to the inauguration of the NYCC, international competition in sailing boats was confined to the America's Cup, and the enormously wealthy owners of'' ocean going yachts with paid crews who could support sailing sport at this level. It can be argued that sailing canoes pointed the way to the modern lightweight centreboard skiff. Indeed, the progression of'' the Sydney Harbour eighteen from a massively over-canvassed boat with a crew of fifteen, to the impressive speed machine with a crew of three that it is today, is foreshadowed by sailing canoe developments in the late 1800's.
Development of sailing canoes went forward on both sides of the Atlantic, but with no common denominator except the quest for speed. Hull dimensions and sail plans differed: ketch rig being favoured in America while the British preferred the sloop configuration. Two outstanding developments in this era were the decking of the canoe to make it more easily rightable after a capsize, and the use of a sliding seat to provide greater leverage in keeping upright. The latter innovation is well documented having been first used by Paul Butler in the USA in the 80's, possibly because he only weighed eight stone (51 kgs). Had he seen the log canoes in the south which used multiple sliding seats for their crews when racing?
The next major event in the history of sailing canoes occurred in the 1930's when a young English naval architect, who had already made a name in skiff design (International 14 foot class), became interested in canoes. The story of Uffa Fox's campaign for the New York Challenge Cup is well known. Suffice to say that by a daring design stratagem, Uffa Fox built a canoe which conformed to both the English and American rules. He and Roger de Quincey took Valiant and East Anglian to America in 1933. After sailing the annual Sugar Island encampment they sailed the NYCC on Long Island sound and won. Shortly after, the American and British canoe rules were merged and the International Ten Square Metre Canoe was born.
In 1996 the hull shape of the IC is still substantially the same as the Uffa Fox design of 1933, with the addition of a square chined transom designed by lan Proctor. Since its inception the IC has been in the forefront of light fast dinghy performance and construction. Every major innovation has appeared early on the IC scene. Full length battens, high aspect ratio sails, carbon fibre masts, light weight foam sandwich construction, glass, keylar, mylar etc, have all kept this 60 year old design in the forefront of off the beach sailing classes. It is indisputably the fastest, most exciting single handed small sailing boat on the water today.
Finally it should be noted that while the IC is the speedster of the sport of canoe sailing, in Europe and America large numbers of enthusiasts (young and old) sail numerous other classes of sailing canoe, perhaps more suited to the generally accepted idea of the canoe as a cruising vessel. One of these, the German 'Taifun', is regarded as an entry class to the IC.
In Australia in the early 1960's Rob McConchic of McRae Yacht Club in Victoria, after extensive tank testing of current canoe bull design, built four canoes to what is now called the Nethercott hull, which were raced for some years at McRae. As far as is known only two other ICs were built in this period. One in northern NSW and one in Queensland. Unfortunately only the NSW and QLD. canoes have survived. The class was revived in 1985 when Tim Wilson, who had owned one of the McRae IC's in the '70's, and Eric Dunbar with his son Seth, built three canoes. The class has prospered from then with the fleet having sixteen sail numbers, with interest being shown by would-be IC sailors in all three eastern states.