Sailing yachts

John Illingworth Merle Class sloop

(REF: 17934)


  • Designer: Illingworth, John
  • Builder: Frank Hoare of Shoreham
  • Year: 1970
  • Location: Devon
  • Length on deck: 27'
  • Beam: 8'2"
  • Draft: 5'
  • Tonnage: 7TM

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Full specification

Wooden ships comments on this John Illingworth Merle Class sloop

Built by Frank Hoare of Shoreham, 1970. Frank Hoare was a highly respected professional boat builder from Shoreham with several notable yachts built in his yard.

John Illingworth designed Merle of Malham (named of Malham like many of his own yachts after his Yorkshire home) in 1967 for the Quarter Ton Cup – the RORC 15’ rating and JOG and she was built by his old friends at the yard in St Malo.

Merle did well in her first season and several more were built to the same design.

Ambuscade is believed to be the last of the Merle Class built.

John Illingworth Merle Class sloop

The Merle gives the feel of a very competent little yacht with some interesting features typical of John Illingworth, one of this country’s most experienced off-shore yacht racers.

She has quite marked beam for her length, generous freeboard and quite deep draft all of which combine to make her a stiff, dry and very capable yacht.

The cock-pit is big for her size allowing her crew of 4 to work the yacht without falling over each other. She has a bridge deck which not only adds to the strength of the hull but reduces the size of the cabin entrance for safety.

The coach-roof is quite low profile to present the minimum resistant to any water passing over her. Her beam allows for relatively wide side decks, the toe rail rises towards the bow helping to keep the deck dry and the deck is generally uncluttered.

The cock-pit coamings are very deep again to keep the crew dry. The sheet winches are well forward, the main sheet track runs across the bridge deck which, although on occasions it might impede anyone getting into the cabin does allow the crew to work at the forward end of the cock-pit leaving the helm aft clear to concentrate on his job in a race.

The rig is as simple as it can be, a single spreader mast mounted on deck.

The significant feature in the cabin is the placing of the galley and chart desk each side right in the middle of the boat where the motion is least. This allows for a quarter berth each side aft, extending over half way out into the cabin and 2 settee berths forward running up to the forward bulkhead so a completely open plan cabin

Ablutions are all confined to the fore peak through the forward bulkhead with hatch over.

The result is a remarkable little yacht with tremendous capability, far in excess of most crews, a performance which will amaze many modern yacht owners and yet still a super little cruising yacht for 2.




Conventionally planked in mahogany with splined seams, the topsides finished varnished with a white cove line. The mahogany for the planking has been particularly well selected with uniform grain and colour and is exceptionally fair.                              Topsides revarnished

Bottom equally fair, finished in grey anti-fouling.


The planking is fastened with copper nails and roves to steam bent oak timbers, 1 ¼” x ¾” at 62 centres.

The back-bone appears to be laminated, possibly also mahogany.

Varnished transom with transom-hung rudder on massive, cast bronze hangings.

External lead ballast keel. No record of keel bolts.

Heavy section laminated oak floors.


The deck is ply, sheathed and painted cream and carried up the inside of the toe rail. Varnished mahogany toe rail capping.          Recessed bronze fair leads forward and aft.  Deck repainted.


Pair of heavy teak cleats on the fore and aft decks to take mooring warps.


Laminated mahogany deck beams.                                        Some delamination noted in a coupleof the deck beams.

Coach-roof with painted marine ply coamings fitted with fixed Perspex windows.

The coach-roof is well cambered both athwartships and fore and aft give good standing head-room at the bottom of the cabin entrance steps and in way of the galley and chart desk.

Varnished mahogany fore-hatch at the forward end of the coach-roof.

Varnished mahogany cabin entrance sliding hatch with a dark Perspex panel working in a garage to maintain water-tight integrity.

Varnished grab rails both sides of the coach-roof.

Pair of bronze mush-room vents on the coach-roof deck with protective bars over to prevent sheets catching.

Stainless steel pulpit, push-pit and lift-out stanchions.


The cock-pit is self draining through a pair of holes in the transom under the aft seat below the tiller thus avoiding the necessity of sea-cocks and holes in the hull below the wl.

Fixed seats over the quarter berths both sides in painted ply with varnished mahogany trim make the hole area completely water-tight with none of the damp and dirt traps of the usual cock-pits with seat/lockers.

Bridge deck carries the main sheet.

The seats are dropped below the deck level with really deep backs to the varnished mahogany coamings to give a sense of sitting in the boat rather than one the boat and tremendous security so valuable in a small boat in heavy weather.

Twin wash-boards and sliding hatch to the cock-pit entrance.

A clever little feature is the cave locker each side forward formed by the extra width of the capping which carries the sheet winches, useful for twine, sail ties and winch handles.

The varnished marine play cabin bulkhead carries a new porthole compass to port, other nav read-outs to stbd.


Masthead Bermudian sloop rig on parallel oval section aluminium mast stepped in a show on the coach-roof deck.

Single spreaders.

Stainless steel rigging believed to be new 2004 with stainless steel open-bodied rigging screws to internal stainless steel chain plates.

Single fore stay to the fore deck inboard of the stemhead, twin standing back-stays to the quarters, single lowers to the spreaders and cap shrouds.


Alloy slab reefing boom, sheets to a car on a track across the bridge deck, jammer on the lower block. Car control lines.

Headsail sheets through track cars on the side decks and up to the winches.



Pair of original top action Lewmar 16 sheet winches with adjacent chromed cleat on the coamings.

One top-action tufnol halyard winch on the mast.




Mainsail by Richardson, Hamble

No 1 jib

No 2 Jib

No 3 jib


The mainsail is in pretty good condition, the others are very useable cruising sails.


Machinery installed new in 2005 by Power Marine, Bursledon, Hamble.

Yanmar 2GM20 2-cylinder 20hp raw water cooled diesel engine flexibly mounted on the centre-line with conventional drive to a centre-line 3-blade prop.

Single lever controls, the lever in the cock-pit well.

Max speed 8 knts.

Filter on the raw water intake sea-cock.



2 x 12v batteries under the stbd quarter berth.

Engine alternator



Accommodation      4 berths in a single cabin.


Varnished mahogany 2-step open tread ladder from the entrance hatch landing on top of the engine box at berth level.

Quarter berth each side.

The ladder removes to allow the engine box lid to be lifted clear. Front panel of the box also removes to give excellent engine access.

Ply quarter berth bunk boards lift to give access to stowage under the berths. Batteries under the stbd berth.

Chart desk to stbd with chart drawer and lockers below.

Galley to port with gimballed Optimist 2-burner meths cooker.

Washing up bowl. Manual water pump mounted on the surface.

Plate stowage under the side deck.

Lockers below the surface.


Port and stbd settee berths with canvas lee cloths. Open cave lockers under.

Back rest on the shelf behind at shoulder blade level.

New bunk cushions required.

Lockers at the forward ends against the forward key-hole bulkhead.

Fore peak with SL400 sea toilet.

Fold-down seat-step over the sea toilet to make easier exit through the fore hatch above.

Chain locker right forward.


Aluminium compression post under the mast step in the middle of the cabin also provides a practical hand hold.

Triple varnished mahogany hanging knees on the coach-roof coamings amply reinforce the structure in way of the mast.

Painted coamings, deckhead and bulkheads.

Varnished laminated deck beams and some joinery trim.

Head-room.  6’ at the cabin entrance hatch, 5’10” midships.



GRP sheathed ply tank of about 10 galls in the galley floor bilge.


Approx 40 litres plastic tank under the cock-pit sole aft of the engine.




Silva porthole compass in the cock-pit bulkhead

Sestral hand bearing compass



Silva S10 VHF DBS

Garmin GPS

Autohelm autopilot

Wand vane steering (not fitted)


CO2 fire extinguisher

Some old flares.

Gusher Mk 3 hand bilge pump.


35lb CQR anchor  with long heavy nylon anchor warp.

Small CQR anchor

Sprayhood frame requires new cover.


Present ownership since 2003, previously berthed on the River Hamble.

Recently revarnished exterior and deck painted and looks very smart indeed with a particularly fair hull above and below and no apparent faults.

For family reasons the yacht was not sailed last year so a degree of tidying up in the cabin will be required prior to recommissioning and a new owner will want new cushions.


This is a lovely little yacht with sparkling performance and capability far beyond her size making her a super and very economic small cruising yacht.





These particulars have been prepared in good faith from information provided by the Vendors and are intended as a guide, Wooden Ships cannot guarantee or warrant the accuracy of this information nor warrant the condition of the vessel. The Purchaser should instruct his agent or surveyor to validate all details as necessary and satisfy himself with the condition of the vessel and its equipment.

Wooden Ships classic yachts brokers have an extensive database of boats for sale. With a wide range of sailboats, classic yachts, motor yachts and small classic boats, Wooden Ships has one of the largest selections of traditional wooden boats and yachts for sale in the UK.


These particulars have been prepared in good faith from information provided by the Vendors and are intended as a guide, Wooden Ships cannot guarantee or warrant the accuracy of this information nor warrant the condition of the vessel. The Purchaser should instruct his agent or surveyor to validate all details as necessary and satisfy himself with the condition of the vessel and its equipment.