Dinghy sailing

From Academic Kids

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2 GP14s, a Topper and a Graduate

Dinghy sailing is the activity of sailing small boats by using (1) the sails and (2) underwater foils (centreboard and rudder). It also involves adjusting (3) the trim and (4) balance by changing position of the crew and helm within the boat. Together with (5) 'course made good' (effective choice of route and maneuvers), these are the five essentials of dinghy sailing.


Development of the Dinghy

Early Beginnings

There has always been a need for small tender boats as transport to and from moored sailing ships. Together with other smaller work craft such as fishing and light cargo, small inshore craft have always been in evidence. Charles II of England had a private sailing boat presented to him when he returned from exile to England in the 17th century, and he sailed for recreation and competition.

Towards the end of the 19th century people began to use these small boats for sport and recreational sailing, utilising the opportunities for leisure afforded by the industrial revolution. Larger privately used sailing boats had developed separately, and have resulted in the yachts of today. There has been some crossover, in that the sloop sail plan was adopted as standard and most convenient by early dinghy designers.

Planing and Trapezing

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A Musto Skiff dinghy on the reach

The development of the sailing dinghy was helped in the early 20th century by Uffa Fox (1898-1972), an English boat designer and sailing enthusiast. He developed and contributed to many dinghy classes which are still with us nearly a century later: the Albacore, International 14, the Firefly, and the Flying Fifteen.

He also introduced the major advance of hull shapes which can plane, and which can therefore reach beyond the usual speed limits for small sailing boats. In effect, a boat which is planing is skimming along the surface, rising up on its own bow wave. This results in less friction because of reduced waterline length, reduced displacement (the amount of water needing to be pushed aside by the boat), and reduced 'wetted area'. The power given by the sails has to overcome less resistance, and therefore speed increases dramatically.

In 1928 Uffa Fox introduced planing to an astonished racing world in his International 14 boat, the Avenger. He gained 52 first places, two seconds and three third places out of 57 race starts that year.

Another advance in dinghy sailing was introduced in the 1930s, when the technique of trapezing was introduced. This involves using the crew to provide more leverage to keep the sails vertical, by hanging outside the boat on a harness and rope attached to the 'hounds' or upper mast. As a result the boat is easier to keep upright, and the sails can deliver maximum power most of the time.

Trapezing during a race first appeared in 1934, on the Vagabond sailed by Peter Scott (son of the famous Scott of the Antarctic), and John Winter. The owner of the boat, Beecher Moore, of Thames Sailing Club had worked on developing the technique, in discussion with Uffa Fox. Vagabond was spectacularly successful in that race, winning by four minutes.

Sadly, the innovative technique was immediately banned, and received little development until it was reintroduced on the Osprey and Fiveohfive Class (505) in 1954 by John Westell and the Flying Dutchman class in the early 1960s.

Modern developments

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A 49er skiff in a race

At the beginning of the 21st century, dinghy sailing is still a rapidly developing sport. It is losing its image of being expensive, time consuming and exclusive. This is because of the earlier work of pioneers such as Uffa Fox, and through the use of modern designs and techniques such as lighter hull materials (eg, fibreglass and foam sandwich hull construction, which eliminate time-consuming maintenance of wooden hulls), more responsive sail materials and design, easily transportable boats (many car-toppable), and simpler rigs such as Gennakers instead of more complex Spinnakers. These advances are more economical in time and money, and have greatly extended the appeal of dinghy sailing.

Increasingly sailing is a young person's sport, and the number of participants is mushrooming. In many dinghy clubs in the UK the adult members are sometimes outnumbered by junior members, and the balance of acitvities can change from mainly racing to increasingly providing training courses.

Sailing is also becoming more accessible to people with disabilities, partly through new boat designs, and generally through recognition of everybody's right to participate in all areas of life. (See the Sailability (http://www.sailability.org) website)

In Britain and Europe dinghy sailing has also been considerably advanced by the RYA, the regulatory authority which regulates racing and which provides modular and accredited training courses for leisure and competitive sailing. A basic sailing course can be completed in several days, and participants can be sure that the training is competent and delivered in a safe setting.

Types of Dinghies

Skiffs are generally the fastest type of dinghy. The skiff has a flat and narrow hull, and is designed to plane in most conditions with the crew trapezing. It has impressive sail areas including a massive foresail, usually a Gennaker or asymmetric spinnaker. The 18ft Skiff is one example which usually has a crew of three: another is the Musto Skiff, a singlehander.

High Performance dinghies are fast and powerful dinghies designed for racing around an Olympic racing course. The examples of such dinghies are the Flying Dutchman, the Fiveohfive (505), the Fireball, the Osprey, the Javelin and the 470. They are all planning easily including upwind and use trapeze and a symmetric spinnaker.

Cruising dinghies are designed for leisure and family sailing and are usually more stable than high performance dinghies. This is provided by a 'chined' (less rounded) hull, greater displacement, and proportionally smaller sail area. Examples of these are the Wayfarer, the Mirror, and the Laser 16. Sailing these boats can still give much excitement.

Catamarans are fast, high masted and double hulled boats which fall under the definition of dinghy also, usually having adjustable daggerboards. The influential Hobie Cat was developed in America, and this has its keel built into each hull shape. The Tornado is a high performance Olympic class catamaran, not for the fainthearted.

Racing dinghies cover a wide range, and many are descended from Uffa Fox's seminal International 14. People often "travel" with their dinghies to international races in famous sailing spots such as Lake Garda in Italy. The International 14 remains a popular racing class, having acquired racks (for trapezing crews) and a gennaker since its original design. The Laser is a single-hander whose combination of simplicity, portability and performance has done much to advance dinghy racing and training.

Sports Boats: These classes are larger off-shore racing dinghies which shade off into classes of yachts with fixed keels. Usually they have several crew members as well as the helm. Melges 24 and Laser SB3 are current examples of this type.

Development classes: Most dinghy classes have a fairly fixed layout of sails and hull design, and changes are very infrequent. However, some classes can compete and sail with less rigid definitions and measurements. This encourages experiment which often leads to innovation in techniques and construction. Examples are the International 14, the International Moth, and the 18ft Skiff. Classes which are not development classes are usually referred to as "One design". The first one design was the Water Wag, which first sailed in Dublin Bay in 1887. The class is still sailed today, over a hundred years later.

Dinghy Racing

Racing is one of the most popular forms of dinghy sailing, and it contributes to the development of sailing skills as well as to improvements in dinghy and sail construction and design. See main article on Dinghy racing.

List of Dinghy classes

Template:Sailing Dinghies and Skiffs

Reference Books

Bob Bond "The Handbook of Sailing" DK & Pelham Books revised 1996 ISBN 0-7207-2016-8

External References

UK Dinghy Racing Website (http://www.ukdinghyracing.com/)

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