When Fairey Marine first launched the Atalanta 26 they considered ways of promoting the class and encouraging owners to get together. A cocktail party was given by the Company on their stand at the Boat Show in 1958 at which the formation of an Owners Association was suggested. What happened after that does not appear in the records, but a meeting of owners was held at the RNVR Club, Hill Street, London on 21 May 1958 at which that suggestion was adopted and the Atalanta Owners Association was established. Alan Vines was made Hon. Sec/Treasurer and there were two overseas National Secretaries, namely J W Knox (Canada) and W Dallenbaugh (USA). These officers, together with D V S Cottrell and S R Urry formed the Committee, which proceeded to draft the Association rules and arrange for the first Annual General Meeting and Dinner, to take place at the RNVR Club on 7 January 1959.
Present at the first AGM were Alan Vines, Hon. President, and 20 members. The Minutes of the May meeting were read and the proposals adopted, including a set of Rules and a membership subscription of ten shillings; also an Associate membership was proposed for crews and other interested persons at a similar fee.
The aims of the Association were stated as:-
(1) to keep a register of all Atalanta Owners, Members and
Associate Members and
(2) to further the interests of all Owners in cruising and
An Annual Bulletin was to be started, containing an up-to-date Register of Boats and articles contributed by members on outstanding cruises undertaken in the past sailing season. There would also be other items of interest such as modifications or improvements made by members to their boats.
The first AOA bulletin (1958/9) was issued in January 1959 and a similar publication has appeared annually ever since.
While the Atalanta Owners Association provided good publicity for Fairey Marine, the Company was very helpful to the Association and, for a number of years, produced the Bulletin in an attractive format with excellent black and white photographs.
The Company also arranged rapid and economical transport of Atalantas across the Continent to the French and Italian Rivieras.
Fairey Marine encouraged racing and presented the Association with a scale model of an Atalanta finished in the colours of the production boats. This model was a Trophy to be competed for in the Round the Island Race. It is today awarded to the winner of the race held during the Annual East Coast Rally at West Mersea. Another similar model is on loan to the Science Museum at South Kensington and can be seen on the mezzanine floor of the ship gallery.
The initial success of the Association was no doubt due to the guidance given by Alan Vines and the enthusiasm shown by founder members of the Committee, and especially by the Hon. Sec., Harry Etchells, who has been described as the heart of the Association. Sadly he was soon to suffer a serious illness from which he died in 1963.
The speed at which the Atalanta class grew and the AOA became widely established geographically, was noted by Alan Vines in the President’s Foreword to the second Bulletin in January 1960. He wrote “with the publication of the second edition of the Bulletin we find that owners number well over one hundred. The Secretary (Harry Etchells) who has done so much work for the Association, touring the N American continent and visiting owners when and where he can, now has an invitation to visit Belgium. Several boats are in the Mediterranean and one is off to New Zealand. There will be at least one in Naples for the Olympic Games.” What the boat would do there he did not say.
In tracing the fortunes of the AOA mention will first be made of the twin aims as stated – namely to foster cruising and racing.