The Flying Fifteen and Young Aspirants……

One of the regular contributors to the FF Blog, you will notice, is Tom Waples – who is probably one of the youngest competitors at the top of the UK National Fleet.

Tom’s having a great time in Fifteens, but tells us that his peers look on the Fifteen as very pricey (don’t we all !!), and would rather go and race RS200’s.  I asked Tom how much an RS200 might set you back and he thought a little short of ten grand.

But wait a minute – what kind of Fifteen could you get for that money – well an Ovi Mk X is probably the answer.  So lets suppose the RS200 was three years old instead of new – lets suppose it would cost half of new around £5,000.  What could you expect for that much money in the FF Fleet – well, probably a 3600+ sail numbered Ovington.  Quite possibly it would look in better nick than a 3 year old RS??? Well, the point is that Ovington Fifteens age really well.  It would be very competitive too.

So I don’t think it’s the money… the Class doesn’t have the right image for them probably.  What shall we do about that??  At our Club our image, not by choice, has become “last Class left standing”…..  Our racing is FFs and multiple Menageries basically.

The Keelboat Formerly Known as Prince….

Have you seen this month’s Yachts and Yachting? It’s the July edition, of course….

Did you see there is a little story there that the Laser SB3 is now not a Laser anything – plus it’s renamed the SB20.  “White Formula” are appointed the builders.

Heaven knows what this is about – they say they have 650 boats built.  I wonder if it is all slowing down – did they eject Laser or did Laser eject them?

It always seemed to me that the SB3 was better than just a flash in the pan, but you have to wonder if moving away from Laser is the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end.  Remember the Laser 5000…..

More detail here

The Entry Point for Flying Fifteens Seems a Long Way Up….. !!

Although I have only been sailing a Flying 15 for a couple of years now I can see exactly why some members have been in the class for what might seem an eternity. It’s a competitive class with some very close, tactical racing, exactly what you look for in one design racing. Many of pretences that it is ‘an old man’s’ boat are quite frankly false, it is often really hard work, especially in a blow, frequently when I come off the water I know I’ve had a good work out. The blog does raise a number of important and frequently controversial points, including those regarding recent fleet sizes, so I thought I would give my thoughts as maybe the youngest member of the fleet.
Another point that always seems to rear its head, be it at an AGM or in general discussion is the issue of attracting people to the fleet, especially young people. It is very apparent that the number of young people in the class is extremely low, and there is only one real reason for this…finances. A number of my friends one or two years out of University who are currently working and living in London, simply cannot afford to buy a Flying 15, while I am fortunate that Dad has one, others are not, which it what makes the RS 200 such an attractive proposition for us. When I go to events and you see the number of Flying 15, quite simply abandoned and obviously haven’t been touched for years is a real shame. There needs to be a considerable effort to let people use them, for example I would love to do the Nationals this year (Dad has work), but don’t have a boat to use. On the basis that many of these boats will still be very competitive it wouldn’t take much to bring them up to race scratch.
Tom Waples

Brand Image – What’s In a Name??

Regular readers of the FF Blog will be aware that I am a bit hung up about our “Old Man’s Boat” Image… on all fronts. I often think if we called it the ‘RS Fifteen’, we’d have the problem cracked in a moment.

Did the name of our Association, the British Isles Flying Fifteen Association, ever strike you as a bit…. well…. 1950ish????  Plus of course, since search engines came along keying in “BIFFA” takes you to dozens of google pages about a waste management company. Lots of complaints about them interestingly!!

I think the Aussies use “FFI-A” which actually isn’t bad… it doesn’t sound 1950ish anyway. It sounds quite “IBM” which puts it a decade or two later.  For unsubtle reasons, we obviously cannot append “UK” after the letters “FF”.  Does UKFF’s work for you??

When you create accounts in Facebook and Twitter, as we have for the FF Blog, you hit the problem straight away – and you find most words in the dictionary have already been booked. I think on Facebook we are “BritishIslesFlyingFifteens” (clumsy, bit of a mouthful obviously and too many letters to key)  and on Twitter we are @ukflyingfifteens… Not good to be something different on both…. Before we dismiss the relevance of Facebook and Twitter to our little world of Flying Fifteen racing, might I say that we have around 140 daily followers of the ff blog in social media – 110 of those on Facebook. Interesting….

So what to do??  It was David Hume writing on the blog a  week or two ago that set me off on this.  I felt David made a good point that the International Moths actually do ‘fly’ these days ….  and for us to use the word “flying” seems a bit inappropriate.

So if we had a name of something like “UK Fifteens” for our Association, our online identities, and so on – would that seem a lot more youthful, modern, contemporary???

Maybe…. What do you think?? ….. “UK Fifteens”??….


FF Brand Image and “The Old Man’s Boat” Thing……

You will probably recall from the last FFI Handbook and the Commodore’s address that we have a bit of a Brand Image Challenge – “The Old Man’s Boat…”

I must admit I was anyway very concerned about this. If RS launched it as a new product tomorrow, it would be viewed as ultra-cool by everyone – without changing the smallest detail. Then at the Dinghy Show, if you were working on the much visited stand you would be forgiven for noticing that a noticeable majority of the Visitors were “Gentlemen of a Certain Age….”  Basically, all older than me as a rule. Very flattering it was. But whenever someone looking fortyish or less arrived, I absolutely pounced on them…!!

I’ve been wondering how to find out what our Brand Image is.  Probably a good place to start is with people who have recently bought one – like most of the Datchet Fleet, for example, plus some responses from members in other fleets. It’s a sample size of 23… so need many more, but I can already tell there is a strong pattern….

I collected from bar conversations 40 reasons why people tell me why they bought a Fifteen. Then I gave everybody 20 votes and asked them to place their votes on the ‘reasons to buy’ that mattered most to them. They could put multiple votes against one of the 40, if they thought it was really important.

Profile of the Results so far with 460 ‘votes’ distributed to 23 people:-

  • 40% Votes for the Boat Itself
  • 12% Votes for the Ownership Proposition, Value etc
  • 25% Votes for Flying Fifteen Racing
  • 23% Votes for Friendly People and the Association

I think that probably tells us quite a few things, and we might say, “We already knew that”.  Probably what you didn’t know though is the way the votes were distributed at a detail level. Very revealing….

There were three of the 40 bits of “brand image” that collected 10% of overall votes each. These are the big hitter things in our image… wait for it… they were

  1. – great club racing near to me or accessible to me (the biggest single vote actually)
  2. – doesn’t capsize
  3. – friendly people, welcoming, give help and advice

These three clocked about 140 votes of the 460 votes cast between them. Interesting, isn’t it?  People buy into the class because of the people in it, and they buy for club racing.

I must admit I would have sworn that “beautiful boat” would have scored somewhere. So what about the next tier of votes down??  Ok, scoring between 4-10% of the total vote each we had:-

  • – a planing keelboat (7%)
  • – club support local to me or accessible to me (5%)
  • – product has a very long life (5%)
  • – an international class with accompanying high standards (4%)
  • – active Open Circuit, plenty of Choice (4%)

There were quite a few at 3% by the way.  I’ll let you read the full score sheet in a moment.  Let me play a game here though to see if we might get a feel for the “Brand”…

If I combined a few of the forty attributes to make it clear then

“A beautiful, planing 2 person keelboat, exhilarating to sail in a breeze especially under spinnaker – and no capsize threat”  that would have scored  28% of all votes cast.

Obviously you can play loads of tunes on this idea.

“Great Club Fleet Racing, friendly welcoming people, Club Support, all local to me” would have scored 28%

“An International Class, Terrific Year Round Club Racing, Open Circuit, Europeans and Worlds, back by a Strong Association” would have scored 14% ……

Interesting. Take a look at the full results and let me know what you think. To see them click here

FF Brand Image …!! The “Old Man’s Boat”, Eh ??!!…

The ff image

I have recently had a very illuminating conversation with a fleet captain of a club which has a dozen or so ffs in the boat park.

In his club, there have been few/no new members for some time.    The numbers are falling gently and of course the existing members are ageing.    Not too surprisingly, other club members see the ff as a boat for old buffers.

Contrast this with the situation at Datchet.    By chance, eight years ago there were six ffs and most of the owners were over sixty.    Only two of our current fleet were members at that time.    All but one of the members who have joined since are now in their 30s, 40s or 50s.     Only in fun are we now described as a gang of old men sailing an old man’s boat.

All this has nothing at all to do with the design of the boat and its sail plan.

Mike Firth