The first M.S.O.D was finished in July 1937, built of mahogany planks on steamed oak timbers and fastened in copper, British oak was used for the keel, stem and floor boards, while pitch pine was used for the deadwood and mahogany for the transom. Named Britannia, after the railway bridge spanning the Strait, she cost £95. Her owners (the Captains) entered her into the 1937 Menai Strait Regattas handicap series, finishing first over the line in both the Bangor and Portdinorwic Regattas.
By now Morris and Leavett had received other orders, with a further seven boats being built during 1938. Also by this year the boat owners had organised weekly racing in Portdinorwic and off Gallows Point, Beaumaris, where a boat builder’s apprentice (and local poacher) used his twelve bore shotgun with live ammunition to start the racing.
As the owners of the boats were sailing regularly against each other they decided to form their own club, with their own rules and regulations, which would exclude paid hands and retain the spirit of the M.S.O.Ds being a working man’s boat. The first meeting of the M.S.O.D Club was held on 29th August 1938 at the Victoria Hotel, Menai Bridge; the Club was registered with the Yacht Racing Association (later the R.Y.A) on 7th November 1938 and allocated the number WA36.
Two more M.S.O.Ds were built in 1939, when the club decided that the letters MS be put on the mainsail, to help identification; hence why they were called the Marks & Spencers boat. There was a levy of ten shillings to each member to contribute to the launch service and Racing Regulations were made that each boat had to carry all gear supplied by the boat builders, which is still in force to this day with only a few minor exceptions.
There were no M.S.’s built between 1940 and 1944, because all efforts were diverted to war work (but local rumour has it that the half built boats were hidden in the woods around Beaumaris); special permission had to be obtained just to go sailing, so ‘Jetemaan’ was registered as a fishing boat and had the letter K registration.
After World War II, the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club invited all local clubs to join them in reinstating racing in the Strait. Since then the Menai Strait One Design Class has sailed under the R.A.Y.C. Burgee; however it has always maintained its Club status.
Between 1945 and 1952 the class was brought up to seventeen in number. H.M.S Conway Sea Training School based at Plas Newydd, recognised the M.S.O.Ds as the ideal training boat for youngsters and used five boats for 17 years and Beaumaris Sea Scouts had one for 6 years.
Over the next years some of the boats were taken away, five had engines put in and taken out, one had a cabin built on and centre keels and bilge keels were fitted, all since removed. Of the seventeen built, ALL are back in the Beaumaris area, either racing or being refurbished by enthusiastic new owners. They may have been the cheapest boat of it size in the area when first conceived, but after 75 years, the Menai Strait One Design has proved to be one of the most enduring.