The class began in early 1959 with a discussion between Sunny Cole of Tucker Brown’s yard at Burnham on Crouch and A E (Dicky) Bird, then commodore of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and the owner of a series of successful offshore racers that included La Vie en Rose and Claire de Lune. Bird felt that there was a need for an east coast one-design along the lines of the well established Folkboat, but with greater initial stability and larger accommodation which would allow sailors to cruise in comfort as well as race. He specified a good design with no unnecessary frills or complications in the structure, with a target price of £1000 excluding sails.

C R (Kim) Holman, then a comparative newcomer to yacht design, was approached with the design brief. The resultant yacht was The Stella, slightly longer and with more freeboard, higher than the Folkboat, and with much greater accommodation.

The first boat was ordered by Bird himself, and inherited from his larger boat the name La Vie en Rose. She was launched a day before Burnham Week 1959, and competed with Sonny Cole at the helm. She won all seven races in her handicap class, and with a final flourish won the ladies' race with the owner’s wife at the helm. Her handicap rating was found to be correct despite queries.

Holman’s reputation was made, and class success assured. Tucker Brown was unable to meet the demand for the new boat and about thirty boats were built by six other yards. By the mid 1960 numbers were approaching 100, and the sight of dozens of Stellas running under spinnakers during Burnham Week became an attraction in itself. Not only this, but the boats proved thoroughly capable cruisers. About twenty Stellas were built in Australia, most of which survive. Many were built with a doghouse rather than the flat coachroof of the UK Stellas, but are otherwise identical. The class (allegedly) got its name from one of the originators while playing with a beer mat during a pub discussion!
The Stella
In the beginning...
The present position...
The last Stella was built in 1972.

Of the 110 sail numbers issued, six boats were never built (sail numbers in the 90s) and 8 are now confirmed as lost or broken up. Of the remaining 96 boats, 84 have now been positively identified and located, with the majority of their owners being members of the association. Most boats are kept in commission during the season, with a few undergoing repairs or restoration.

The whereabouts of the remaining 12 are unknown, although occasionally one turns up. Many are still in good shape, and can be found all around the UK (and abroad), although most are still found on the east coast where they were originally built and sailed.

The Stella
is known as a fast river and sea going boat, and is now rapidly acquiring classic status. Boats which have previously been allowed to deteriorate are now being restored, and those in commission are in better condition than ever before. The boats are still enthusiastically cruised and raced, and are regarded with much affection by all who know them.