Vyv Cox looks at how the development of a new generation of anchors began in 1933
Modern anchor development probably began with the invention of the CQR (pictured above) in 1933 by Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor, a professor at Trinity College, Cambridge, who has been described as ‘one of the great physical scientists of the 20th century’. He was a keen yachtsman and developed the CQR for his own use. His intention was to patent his new anchor design as the ‘Secure’ anchor but this was refused as being a ‘common term’. He therefore called it the CQR. Sir Geoffrey went on to publish a seminal paper, entitled The Holding Power of Anchors, in Yachting Monthly in 1934.
One of the novel features of the anchor was the knuckle, which he found was required to present the fluke tip at the correct angle to the seabed. However, the knuckle and the forged shank were a heavy components, causing the anchor to lie on its side and reducing tip loading to a very low figure. Perhaps only about 10% of the total anchor’s weight rests on the fluke tip, a serious hindrance to setting performance.
Yachtsmen had to wait half a century for the next steps in anchor development, with the Bügel in 1986 closely followed by the Delta (second picture above) in 1990. The Bügel was revolutionary in its day but surprisingly simple. Instead of the plough shape of the CQR the Bügel was flat, presenting a large area to the direction of pull and with a roll bar to ensure that it landed on the bottom the correct way up. The fluke is made of thick steel plate, ensuring that much of the weight is where it is needed. The Delta was similar in shape to the CQR but without a hinge and with a fairly narrow, plate shank made from a strong manganese steel. A massively thickened volume of steel in the area of the tip improved its setting and represented a considerable advancement over the CQR.
In the mid-1990s, the late Alain Poiraud released his design, the Spade (third picture above). This was the first of the truly ‘new generation’ anchors. The Spade remains perhaps the best performer of the modern era but is also the most expensive, reflecting its complex construction. Its hollow shank is removable for stowage and its tip is ballasted with lead, positioning a remarkable 50% of the total weight on the tip. It did not have a roll bar, unlike the Bügel and later competitors. Its rounded, concave shape was designed to always settle it the right way up, and Alain was critical of the roll bars on his competitors’ anchors because they moved weight away from the fluke tip.
Within a few years, two more ‘new generation’ anchors had appeared, both from New Zealand: the Rocna and the Manson Supreme. Both had roll bars, heavy concave flukes and narrow, plate shanks. This latter feature was given some prominence by both manufacturers, selecting the high tensile steel Bisplate 80 as being strong in bending yet narrow and thus light in weight. Again, tip weight was maximised, although not to such an extent as with the Spade, the Rocna having about 33% of its weight resting on the tip.
The Ultra anchor has perhaps gone even further in the quest for tip loading, with a large section tubular shank and lead ballasting. The fluke is concave, with the addition of wing plates that are said to stabilise its setting in the seabed. It does not have a hoop, but apparently will always land upright. Probably the feature that attracts most attention is that it is beautiful, highly polished and made entirely from stainless steel. This comes at a price, of course, which is eye-watering.