When the current owners of this vessel bought her in 2005, their surveyor, at the time of purchase commented that the 50ft Motor Sailer, FREDELA, proved to be an absolute joy to survey……adding she was constructed to the highest standard our of the best materials. After purchase and with few recommendations, after survey, the new owners put FREDELA with one of the best known wooden boat yards in France and further refined this unique vessel, including MCA coding for charter, although they have never chartered her.
It would be hard to find a better built or more characterful motorsailer of this length, in wonderful condition and totally ready for the season. A beautiful cruising boat, FREDELA, oozes such charm it would not matter when you arrived, or in fact, if you ever left the dock!
FREDELA is a G.L. Watson design, built by Toughs of Teddington, launched in 1964. FREDELA is a big, full-bodied yacht with a long keel, canoe stern and a wonderful flair to the bow. She was built for the original owner, Mr. Fred Francis the founder of Francis Yacht Winches. He was the originator of the Scalelectrix system for slot car racing. Fred Francis was a skilled and obsessive Engineer; he had considerable input into the design of many aspects of the yacht.
The original build was to the highest quality of design and materials of its day. FREDELA’S present first class structural condition was confirmed by a comprehensive survey in April 2002 and April 2005. Following the 2005 survey FREDELA has a certificate, (renewed in 2008), for MCA Small Commercial Vessel Coding and is certified for charter use.
On Tuesday 6 January Fred Francis finally lost his thirteen-year battle against cancer. Though not a household name, his most famous achievement will be known to many - Fred Francis invented Scalextric, one of the most popular toys ever, and began the whole slot car racing phenomenon.
Born in Hampstead in October 1919 Fred showed little academic ability but, once free from school at fourteen, he showed great enthusiasm for engineering and a sharp business mind. In 1939 he began a tool-making company, which ran twenty-four hours a day throughout the war years. Then, in 1947, he decided to fulfil a childhood ambition and become a toy-maker, and founded Minimodels Ltd which, among other toys, produced Scalex and Startex clockwork cars.
The same year Fred took a flight in a light aircraft - and was hooked. So much so that within three weeks he had gone solo and bought his own plane. He had discovered a passion which would continue until ill-health forced him to remain grounded.
By 1952 demand for Minimodel toys was so great that in order to expand the company, he relocated to a new, purpose-built factory at Havant in Hampshire. This gave Fred more opportunity to indulge his other great passion - sailing. Then suddenly, in early 1956, the demand for clockwork cars collapsed and the future of the company and its one hundred employees was threatened. However, at a London toy fair Fred saw a display featuring battery-powered cars running around a track, but without user control. He saw at once that this lacked any real 'play value' - which his Scalex cars could add. The reactions of his marketing people as they tried to control the now electric-powered Scalex cars - renamed Scalextric - on a moulded rubber track convinced Fred that he was onto a winner. The launch in January 1957 was a triumph, and best of all the North American market was completely captivated. After two hugely demanding years he sold the expanding company at the end of 1958.
Fred loved boats, sailing and the sea as much as he loved flying. He had owned two large craft - ALAUNA, a 43ft Silver motor cruiser, and then YVALDA, a 46ft Watson motor yacht which he lived aboard in Chichester to avoid the daily journey to the Havant factory. He also took YVALDA through the rivers and canals of France and around the Mediterranean. He was a great Francophile and spent much of his leisure time there.
With time on his hands he went looking for a new boat, finding what he was looking for at Burnham-on-Crouch. SITA II was under construction for an overseas customer who had abandoned the project, so Fred did what he described as 'a little polite haggling' and then spent the next six months fitting her out. Sailing SITA II to the Mediterranean gave Fred opportunity to think about what he wanted to do - it was already obvious that the lotus-eating life held no long-term appeal. On his return she needed some repairs, so he took her up the Thames to Tough's Boatyard by Teddington Lock. Doug Tough was a legendary character who, in 1940, had organised an armada of little ships from the upper Thames to Dunkirk. Fred discussed with him the possibility of developing the boatyard, but instead became involved with a project to re-engine a steam tugboat with diesels to tow barges on the lower river. Soon the barges were replaced by lorries and the company found new work in pile driving and river works - an activity Fred stumbled upon quite by chance while building a jetty for himself at Tagg's Island. He certainly possessed an acute nose for profitable opportunity!
By 1965 Fred had had enough of the river. He now owned the FREDELA, a new boat purpose-built by the Tough Brothers, and was keen to take her to the Mediterranean. Among her equipment was an electric windlass which, being unhappy with the performance of the anchor winches available at that time, he had designed and had built. It was fully enclosed, with load sensing and automatic gear shift, and he was so impressed by his creation that he decided to market a commercial version. However the response was disappointing - in 1963 the market then was conservative, slightly masochistic and, above all, mistrusted electricity on boats. Gradually though, word spread that it was pretty good and to his great delight the RNLI began fitting a modified version of the second-generation Type 2000 to their new
lifeboats. Typically, once the winches were selling well Fred found other things to do and sold the rights to Simpson Lawrence.
By 1977 the market was greatly expanded and Fred re-entered the game with a third generation of windlass. In addition he introduced a vertical winch, still utilising the tried and tested load sensing and automatic gear shift. Once again it was adopted by the RNLI and for the next few years Francis winches, together with powered furling gear, continued to establish themselves.
In 1985 it seemed that, at last, Fred's luck had finally run out. He was diagnosed as having cancer of the lymph system and the most optimistic opinion gave him no more than a year. In typical fashion he prepared himself for the battle ahead. The winch business was sold and he concentrated all his efforts in proving the doctors wrong. Continually improving treatments, a cast iron resolve to beat the illness, and the care and support of the family turned that one year into thirteen, much to the amazement of the medical profession.
Despite several relapses and undergoing extensive chemo and radiotherapy treatment Fred retained a cheerful spirit and, with his alert and active business mind, continued to be involved in his many commercial interests. He also, with a small crew, sailed his beloved FREDELA over to France and down through the canal system. The debilitating effects of chemotherapy were taking their toll however and, although in remission, a viral infection for which he had no resistance placed him in hospital. This was a battle which, despite his tremendous strength and courage, he could not win.
He leaves his wife Diane, and daughters Catherine and Julia.
Obituary provided by reference to the Royal Cruising Club
33 High Street
Poole, Dorset BH15 1AB