small SigneT line drawing Printed from SigneT Class Owners Association website at

Four SigneTs crossing The English Channel in July 1963

by Paul Nicholson

Not long after the SigneT was first launched in 1961, a number of SigneT sailors wanted to show just how good the SigneT was, not to mention demonstrate its seaworthiness to the sailing community and the general public, and probably also to readers of the Sunday Times which had originally sponsored the design of the SigneT. This group of sailors included Group Captain FHL Searl, a well-known sailor from Emsworth (he ran the Emsworth Sailing School). Francis Henry Louis Searl was also known as "Crab" Searl, which had something to do with him flying biplane aircraft sideways.

To show their confidence in the SigneT, a plan was hatched to sail across from the English Channel in 1963. It required careful planning and the right weather in order to have a chance of being successful.

Having planned it, there was good weather in July 1963, and so the crossing was attempted.

The four SigneTs (ST2, ST14, ST50 and one other) set off from St Margarets Bay, a shingle beach under the chalk cliffs between Dover and Deal. It's also where Channel swimmers and submarine telephone cables start from.

SigneTs departing from St Margarets Bay

SigneTs on their way across the Channel.

The SigneTs held a close reach all the way through what we now call the shipping lanes.

After 4¾ hours the SigneTs reached the harbour at Calais.