This article was written by Phillip Chesterfield in 1960 and appeared in the Christmas issue of ECCpress
"Messing About in Boats”
I started writing this article on the day after the Laying-Up Supper of the local Sailing Club and I, like all the other members of that Club, had but one thought "Roll on next Summer. Let's get the boats in the water again."
Sailing, you see, is my hobby and I hope to show you how easily it could be yours also.
Pure and simple sailing is my interest. Of course, you may be attracted by one of the other water sports, motor boating, canoeing or hydroplaning, but for me· a small racing boat, 100 to 120 square feet of Terylene sail (the modem equivalent of canvas), an agile and enthusiastic crew, and wind in any of its reasonable moods are my simple requisites.
I first sailed in the R.A.F. as third crew on a converted airborne lifeboat. Like most beginners I was first taken as ballast. On leaving the services I joined the Porthpean Sailing Club in St. Austell Bay as a spare crew and was taught dinghy sailing in a West Country Redwing.
My first boat was a 12ft hard-chine, knock-about dinghy purchased for only £17. She was a jolly little boat and with her I made all the mistakes and learnt the rudiments of the sport. She was of no particular design but she was safe, reasonably fast and very cheap to maintain. No frills; just a boat with a sail. In fact, a beginner's tub.
My next dinghy was a 16ft
"Wildcat" Racing dinghy and did she live up to her name! First time
out I found myself standing on her bottom being towed home by the "Peace
and Plenty", a fishing boat from
This past summer I have crewed in a 16ft National "Hornet", which is an out-and-out racing machine. No comfort on this contraption. It was my job to operate the jib (the smaller triangle sail) and the spinnaker and to sit on a plank of wood called a sliding seat which is suspended over the windward side for some 3ft 6in. I sat on the end and hung on like grim death whilst the helmsman did his best to balance me there. Sailing such a boat as this throws you completely on to your own resources if you are to return to the shore with any sense of achievement. And there is a terrific sense of achievement to return safely to shore, after a first rate battle with the wind and sea, and your friends.
The spirit of competition in dinghy racing is probably more keen than in any other sport and there are very few sports which offer complete equality of conditions and opportunity as are found in sailing, and yet such variety in the choice which the competitor can make in his use of them.
A word here concerning sailing clubs may be of interest. Sailing Clubs, as with all other types of Associations, vary the whole world over. Generally you will find them to be reserved in the first instance, being by experience wary of the noisy know all, especially if he is dressed in white flannels and peaked cap. But complete beginners and persons genuinely interested in sailing can be certain of a warm 'Welcome from all members, who are only too pleased to help all they can.
It is a belief among some members of the general public that sailing and sailing clubs are for the idle rich. This is a completely erroneous idea. Everyone is welcomed in sailing clubs, and there is no need at all to have a boat of your own, although obviously you might be expected to get one when you have learnt to sail. It is normal for non-boat owners to outnumber owners by four or five to one.
The companionship and the ever willing assistance to be found in sailing clubs makes the actual sailing so much more enjoyable. Often it is only this assistance that makes sailing possible, as on days when there are big waves coming on to the beach or other hazards threaten to thwart your outing.
Racing is, of course, one of the functions of clubs and this provides the most exciting sailing. Competitive sailing teaches helmsmen and crews more of the art than pottering or cruising ever will and there is more to racing than just sailing around a course. At least one leg of its course will be into wind, and to get a boat to go effectively against the direction of the wind (which on face value is contrary to the laws of nature) is the most difficult and yet satisfying part of the sport.
Planing is the most exciting part of sailing. This occurs when the wind comes at you roughly broadside on, and it is then your boat raises her bow, in similar fashion to a motor boat, and leaps away like an unleashed greyhound.
And a Boat for You?
What is your idea of a day's thorough pleasure and enjoyment? Mine is to do something, anything, with a boat. Doesn't matter what it is, just messing, but preferably with a sailing dinghy. Dinghies have a fascination for me like dust for a black car. Boating in any of its various forms has a habit of becoming almost preoccupation. I know of several "sailing widows" in this Company of ours, and several wives who have also been bitten.
The recent increase in the popularity of sailing can be seen in the growth of the size of two of the most popular classes of dinghy, the "G.P.14" (a General Purpose 14ft. dinghy) and the "National Enterprise" (the 13ft. 9in. dinghy which was sponsored by the News Chronicle), both of which number over 4,000 in each class. And these are only two out of scores of types of dinghy.
Men and 'Women, in this country, have been building boats, big and small, professional and amateur, ever since wood could float. But, thanks to recent innovations in design and materials, it is now possible for anyone to build a first-class dinghy, comparable with any of the best craftsman-built products.
There are at present many types of sailing dinghy on the market but as no doubt, you, like me, are very restricted in what you can afford to spend, it is perhaps best to tell you about some classes you can build yourself and kits that are available.
Dinghies generally are classified by size and it is popularly thought that a small boat is easier to manage than a larger craft. In fact, for a youth or an adult, anything less than a 12ft. dinghy is most unsuitable. 14 footers have long been proved the best general size for the current conception of a sailing dinghy. That is, one that can be trailed behind your car from place to place and taken with you on holiday.
There is one boat, however, that I would recommend to younger people and to fathers whose children are asking for a dinghy and that is a Yachting World "Cadet". This is a potted version of a full-blooded racing dinghy 'Which has been especially designed for persons under 17 years of age. She is an international boat being sailed in most countries and although only I0ft.6in. in length carries a spinnaker in addition to her 55.5 sq. ft. of mainsail and jib. Cadets are easily recognised by their blunt bow and several can be seen at Fowey where they are skillfully and fearlessly sailed by 9 and 10 year olds. A craftsman-built Cadet will cost £99 plus sails, whilst a kit from a reputable manufacturer will cost £35 plus sails. Some local boys have, however, built a Cadet from scratch for as little as £25 including sails, by scrounging and using secondhand materials.
For the older beginners and the family man there is the "Mayfly" Dinghy. She is 12ft. 9in. in length and, having a modest 90 sq. ft. of sail, she has proved herself in St. Austell Bay to be a very stable and safe little dinghy. She is suitable for racing and family cruising and is available in two cockpit layouts, and a spinnaker if required. She can be purchased complete for £125 plus terylene sails at about £25 according to maker or in part-built kit form for £95 (ex-sails).
The construction of these boats, as indeed most boats designed for home building, follows the general system of the setting-up of frames each 3 to 4ft. high which are mounted on a ground bed, all of which must be rigid, immovable and accurately set up vertically and horizontally if a true hull is to be built. Most home built boats are of hard-chine design (i.e. square sectioned with an almost flat bottom) as this is the easiest and most adaptable design where large sheets of marine plywood are to be used.
My example of a 14ft. dinghy is the "Scorpion".
The Scorpion came on the market at the
Boat Show in January, 1960, although some general information leaked into the
yachting press late in 1959. The Porthpean Sailing Club were considering the
adoption of a dinghy to replace the West Country "Redwing" as the
club class and a "Scorpion" was brought to Porthpean for trials on
the 24th January, 1960. Mr. Stuart Hore, a joiner
employed by John Williams & Co. (
Dinghy racing in St. Austell Bay
During the summer the club has sailed "Scorpions" in all conditions and they have been acclaimed up and down the country and abroad as a first class dinghy.
Members of the Porthpean Club (myself among them) are building "Scorpions" from kits this winter and anyone wishing to know more about this is invited to get in touch with me.
The "Scorpion" is a hard-chine racing boat, 14ft. long and 4ft. l0in. wide and she weighs 200lbs. She carries 107 sq. ft. of sail. Complete boats and kits are available from Honnor Marine Ltd. among other companies, whose yard, you may be interested to know, is situated on Dart moor north of Ivybridge. The complete boat costs £165 plus sails at £27 10s. 0d. She is also available partly built, leaving only decking and finishing to the amateur at £140 plus sails. A Kit which costs £96 plus sails is available and it is this kit that is referred to in the next part of this article.
Do It Yourself.
It is this "Scorpion" design that has changed the whole conception of the method of construction of sailing dinghies. All temporary frames and setting-up has been dispensed with and only three temporary battens are used in construction.
She has been designed with the aim of being an easily constructed, easily transported, easily sailed and easily and cheaply maintained racing dinghy. Her method of construction is revolutionary, in that when building from the kit only one measurement requires to be taken from the plans and its construction follows a very simple system.
The parts shown in figure 1 come in the kit in the form illustrated. The stem, fore and aft bulkheads and skin are mounted on the centre plate hog assembly in pre located slots. The thwart (seat) is positioned on the centre plate case and the side tanks are joined to the bulkheads and thwart all, again, in pre located slots. Next the chine stringers and then the top sides (which are in four parts, two either side) are fitted. The bottom panels again are in four pieces and require bending.
This is made easy by soaking with boiling water before they are applied. The most difficult part of the whole construction, a scarf joint, is required along the join between the bottom panels and top sides for about 18 inches back from the bow on both sides. Deck beams are now fitted and then the decking (in five pieces), and lastly rubbing strakes.
The loose equipment, rudder, centre plate, mast, boom, etc., require only finishing from kit form, all shaping being done.
Painting and varnishing are a matter of experience, plenty of light, a dust free atmosphere and good surface and materials to work with.
The fittings on the boat go on last.
One of the features of the Scorpion is that two people can manage her in all conditions, on shore and in the water. This is an important consideration, especially if you wish to trail your boat from place to place. Her safety on the water is ensured by the built in buoyancy which, in the event of a capsize, keeps her floating high in the water and she is easily righted and sailed on.
The Second-hand Boat Perhaps!
There is a constant and speedy market for secondhand dingj1ies, with sound boats always available at moderate prices. An article of this scope does not allow much to be said in this respect so I advise all who are considering the purchase of a second-hand dinghy to talk to the members of sailing clubs who know what sort of boats are available locally and whether they are a good buy.
Sailing, today, is well within the scope of anyone and if this article has whetted your keenness to "get out there on the boundin' billows" well, you've got the long winter months in which to do something about it. Buy one. Build one. Join a club and learn. And then, roll on summer! P. Chesterfield
Peter & Susan Milne sailing at Porthpean 1960