Tuesday, August 09, 2005

About the Pandora International

The Pandora class of yachts first appeared in the UK in 1967, although production only really got going in earnest when Rydgeway Marine of Lowestoft took over the moulds in 1970, and continued until 1991. The original (Mk. I) design evolved, over that time period, into the Pandora International and then the Pandora 700. All three models were available with fin, bilge or lifting keels.

The website of the Pandora Owners Association contains a wealth of information on the Pandora class, including copies of the original sales catalogues and layout plans, helpful articles and a discussion board. There's a link in the right margin of this page, or you can go straight to the website by clicking HERE.

In addition, the original brochure and various boat tests can be downloaded HERE or via the Downloads link in the right margin.

A well-supported website is usually a sign that a class has achieved cult status, and the Pandora is no exception. She may be diminuitive but with a ballast ratio of around 40% she has a reputation for being a capable sea boat, more than sufficient for safe sailing in the coastal waters of the UK. Some Pandora owners undertake more serious passages like crossing the Channel or the North Sea and, on the other side of the Atlantic, Bruce Buttimore did something a bit more ambitious in the Great Lakes.

In her time, the Pandora was quite the pocket racer. The original Van de Stadt design developed out of an earlier design for a racing dinghy, and to a certain extent the successive modifications that resulted in the Pandora International and her later evolution, the Pandora 700, were driven by changes to the IOR rules. Pandoras are still raced today, most notably at Abersoch where there is a very active class fleet, although you'll find them mixing it with other classes on the East Coast racing scene as well.

Above: Rydgeway Marine brochure shot of the Pandora International

Pandoras, especially the International and the 700, are noted for their longevity. Rydgeway Marine appear to have put a great deal of care and attention into building their boats at a time when some other parts of the UK yachtbuilding industry were churning out plastic leisure boats of dubious quality and seaworthiness. Just about the only quality issue that seems to crop up with any degree of regularity on Pandoras relates to the forehatch, which has been known to leak on a number of examples.

Based on anecdotal evidence, osmosis - the dreaded pox that seems to afflict so many older GRP yachts - seems quite rare on Pandoras. It usually seems to occur when they have been left in the water, year in and year out without being wintering ashore. The hull of Arabella, for example, had an extraordinarily low moisture content reading and no blisters when she was surveyed at the time I purchased her. A full copy of the survey obtained on Arabella prior to purchase can be downloaded HERE or via the Downloads link in the right margin.

Of course, there's no escaping the fact that any boat that has been around for thirty years or so is going to show her age; the only question is how gracefully. The previous owners of Arabella had taken care of her and between them, had carried out a programme of repairs and replacements: a new mast and standing rigging, new stemhead fitting, partially new running rigging and a recent engine with battery-charging circuit. In addition the mainsail and furling genoa were both less than 5 years old. In contrast the interior was very 'seventies, albeit almost as clean and well-cared for as if the boat had just arrived in 2005 via a time warp. The "cheerful" bright orange upholstery, which seemed to have been standard on a number of Pandoras from new, was a particularly bad-taste feature...which just had to go.