Colour Coding Your Control Lines

Years ago, I was teamed up with a lovely man called `David for a few seasons. It was only after two years or so that it transpired David was colour blind…. across red and green mainly. Our discussion about committee boat flags was frequently baffling to me until I understood what was going on.

Solo Class, RYA Dinghy Show 2020 – Photo : P Tinsley

In its own way, this is quite a cheering photo from the Solos!! All control lines in yellow, only the amount of black fleck varies (if you look really really closely).

The photo did though introduce me to “Marlow Excel Control” string available in 4mm and 5mm I think. The strength of “Excel Control” is apparently in the sheath, not in the core. I fancy it is a little kinder to the hands, so we are trialling it in the furler line. I have half a feeling that in some applications it will run through blocks more smoothly. (not proven!)

Replacing our 3mm furler line with 4mm led to some discussion, I can tell you. Mainly about the colour…..Orange or Green was the way to go, but in my shopping I never saw “Green” !!

It’s our fifth FF and I’ve always rather taken the colour coded lines for granted. Phil Evans builds our boats and does an amazing and perfect job of it all. For our furler experiment, we settled on “orange” for the new furler line (with a snazzy black zig zag from the Marlow Excel Control series….) as we had no other orange lines around.

Have you thought about how many different control lines, sheets and halyards you have in a flying fifteen? In ours, we have

  • 3 sheets
  • 3 halyards
  • 12 control lines, 4 of which are up forward for the bowman
  • So 18 in total, not counting various shock-cords

It had never occurred to me before that basically to get all these lines from the same Manufacturer series is a tough job. A Chandler who stocks six colours of a particular model of rope is doing well. Let alone with pandemic ravished stock levels.

So duplicates are bound to be in your boat and so long as they are far apart, everything is fine. Our kicker and barber haulers are both blue. Bowman’s toe strap adjusters and ram/prebend are both silver grey.

I very rashly (very) set out on a journey convinced I could improve colour coding separation up front in the bowman’s cockpit area. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

I decided the yellow control for the pole uphaul had to go – as there was a bit of other yellow around.

My heart was set on bright pink (none of that in the boat !), but I suspect the pole uphaul may be the only control in the boat that needs 3mm at one end (up mast) and 4mm where your hands go. Obviously you want them to be visually the same!!

I tried four different chandlers including one that won’t sell 3mm line. It turns out that there is an Excel red that looks “pink” to some people, though I now have both “reds” in my spare string bag. Doing this online was hopeless. I failed to get a match and anyway, the boat has red for jib cars and outhaul, so it couldn’t be “red” at all. I’ve got miles of the stuff now, all a subtly different red to the reds we have, but I’m thinking of my dear friend David here….

So in the end I phoned P&B and spoke to somebody helpful, understanding and human… and told him to go and stand by the rope rack and tell me what colour Excel Racing cordage was available in the same colour in both 3mm and 4mm sizes… and in a colour I didn’t already use in the boat. What did we end up with??


The orange already selected from Marlow Excel Control ropes for the furler line looks like this, so we can just about get away with this new uphaul.

If you are thinking of restringing your Flying Fifteen what would I suggest?:-

1/ As the pole uphaul needs 3mm and 4mm line, start there with what’s available on the chandler’s rack, and work backwards through the boat to figure out the rest.

2/ If, like me, you prefer to use Marlow ropes when you can, then increase your choice by considering both Excel Racing and Excel Control ropes in your colour set from the beginning. The two cord sheath designs look very different.

3/ Forget Pink.

Twin Jib Tracks Make a Return – 4073 at The Dinghy Show

I think my second FF, 3644, had a twin track arrangement for the jib cars… but I might not have had them since!

Well, they could be making a comeback!!  Did you watch the video two blog-posts below this?  Very interesting and beautifully done custom made.  Note the main tracks are on custom made “pods” and even further inboard than those on the Ovington boat.  The idea here is to sheet closer to the centre line and then “barber” outward via the second track when you’re offwind….

Photos kindly supplied by Phil Tinsley






The FF on the Ovington Stand at the 2020 Dinghy Show

Apparently we can now get fully fitted boats from Ovington instead of getting the hulls there but fitting services from Phil Evans and P&B.

I would imagine that the boat in the photos below is a pretty fair copy of their World Champion boat – minus a couple of secret things!!  So Graham and Chris’ special chute arrangement is in evidence.

They have mounted their jib tracks on the vertical face of the tanks in order to make the sheeting angle even finer.  Steve Goacher had told me that he had tried this but it made the jib car slide less smoothly as the cars are not designed to take lateral loads.  I wonder of Chris has found the answer to this for their boat….

Note in the top photo the provision they have made for barbering the jib even further inboard than the jib track position. Everything is in black so you have to stare at the photo carefully!

Oh – I just noticed, the under deck furler idea is not present!!

Last point – that’s a really snazzy non-slip floor!!

Photos kindly supplied by Phil Tinsley


Bags or Chute or This Skiff Thing?…….!!

For years, we have all trundled along with the bags versus chute debate.  It’s a close call and I guess the fleet might be split half and half….  well, split anyway.

Then along comes Chris Turner and Graham Vials and makes us think all over again.  Did you see their boat at the show a couple of years ago?  And then this year’s boat at the Dinghy Show, fitted by Bill Chard had the same setup.

If you’re not acquainted with it, then let me summarise:

  • It’s a chute design
  • The crew does the hoist and the drop
  • The cockpit sock no longer exists, the crew stuffs the stored sail up under the foredeck
  • Maybe the point is that either crew or helm can do the hoist and drop…. you get choices, which might depend a lot on what spinnaker pole system you use (At the show, Bill Chard had fitted the most automatic twin pole setup you can get)

Of our four fifteens we have had, the first had a chute and the last three have all been “bags boats”.  Mainly for us,  it’s about a different distribution of work between front and back of the boat.  Anyway, I am dead intrigued by all this….

I’ve got some photos for you to look at

Here you can see the cleat at the front of the cockpit so the bowman can control the release.  Note there is a turning block set further back… that’s where you draw the halyard on the hoist, and so I reckon maybe either helm or bowman can make the hoist.

Keen eyed Mk 10 owners will notice that Ovington have changed the moulding at the front of the cockpit floor to accommodate this… so I assume that the trap door is a bit shorter.

This is what it looked like on the traditional Mk 10 floor. Note that the trap door had to be bolted down as it becomes load bearing.

The halyard goes back to a turning block on the port side where the downhaul emerges and from there it travels forward to the downhaul patch of the sail.  Again, I’d suggest that maybe the helm has the choice of doing the hauling down back there.  I think Chris Turner just hauls the sail down pulling at the cockpit coaming itself…. then stuffs a few feet of sail from the floor up under the foredeck.

So simple enough an idea isn’t it?  For me it only gets complex thinking through who does what and when during the hoist and drop.

What else to say?  Two things :

First is that a lot goes on under the foredeck of a fifteen these days.  I’m a bit concerned as to the spinnaker staying snag free up there.  To be fair, I was chatting to buddies so much at the show I forgot to have a peep under the foredeck of Bill Chard’s boat.  I do though have photos of the  setup Chris Turner has which I must say is very, very neat indeed.  Chris has a curtain running up along the fore tank, so control and snagables sit one side, and the spinnaker sits the other.  Really impressed I am …

Very neat, eh? This second photo below is the camera view from the bow hole back towards the cockpit.

The second thing is that Mervyn Wright has automated the issue of tidying the sail away under the foredeck of 3904.  Mervyn has a shock cord (triple loaded I think under the foredeck) with an eye that sits on the downhaul line.  As you pull the patch back into the boat, when you let go the shock cord pulls the downhaul patch back up to the bow again, tidying the bulk of the sail as it goes.  Neat.  Difficult to photograph though!






Twin Spiro Fly Aways…..!

We have a team at our club experimenting with twin Spiro poles.  At the Show, Bill Chard had a very thoughtful set up which was attracting lots of attention.

This photo shows the guts of it, and the photo below shows you the very neat detailing at the mast gate controls.

At the back of the boom, of course, there’s a lot of elastic to fit in.