Time to check your Spinnaker Pole ends…..??!!

At a very crucial moment (!) in the second race last weekend, our spinnaker pole end decided to shear off.  That’s not happened to us before.  We have Selden ends.

When I inspected the remaining end I realised that a fair bit of wear can set in.  I’ve replaced both ends now, but you might want to check yours too.


More on Safe Use of Hoists…..!!

Echoing completely what Ritchie has posted, one has to take the hoist seriously. Its not just the hoist but its attachment to wherever you hang it from and the strops you use.

I used a 1 Tonne Chain Hoist (Screwfix part number 46883). Electric hoists have a reputation for all happening too quickly – more like dropping the boat than lowering it. For strops and certified shackles, I got these from Load Straps and Slings http://www.lss1.co.uk/. The hoist is hung within the loft space above the garage on a specially constructed frame to spread the load over two rafters – I needed the extra height so that when lifting, the hoist hook doesn’t crunch up against the bottom of the chain hoist – also, so that the bit of chain you pull on leads outside the boat at a reasonable angle. Width of the strops is a compromise; obviously needs to be strong enough; narrow enough to get into the hooks and shackles; wide enough not to chafe on the boat

Its all worked well, nothing has collapsed. Keel has been taken off and returned; I’m not going to claim that job is easy but its all controlled with a decent hoist. Also, the hoist got used for turning the keel over onto its painting frame – there was a ‘moment’ doing this turn, but everything held together and no bones where broken – the shock-load of the ‘moment’ would surely have demolished an improvised arrangement.

Tips: you’d be surprised how much the boat blows around, even in the wind with the garage door open – needs stabiliser ropes. Get the strops the right length and when you’ve found the balance points, mark the hull so you can tie the strops back in position repeatably – strops need to be tied for and aft

Last point: for sorting dings in the keel, I prefer to jack the boat clear of the trailer and put blocks under the tail of the keel; that way is all stable to leave while fillers and paint dry

Martin Stainsby (3912)

Hoist Safety….!!

Hi again

Sorry to totally bore you with rules and regs but this one is worth considering, if you lift a boat on slings then you should either attach the slings to a set of brothers (long chains which mean that the angle created by the slings is 90 degs or less as loads increase inwardly onto the hull exponentially the further you go above 90 degs.) or you fit a set of spreader beams just above deck level to take the compression load. If this is greater than 90 degs you risk damaging your boat due to compression loading.

Again I must say I would not work under a slung load whether it is suspended by hydraulics or by mechanical lifting device such as a chain block or pull lift as the slings can easily slip espescially forward due to the hull shape.

Believe it or not lifting is the biggest killer in the north sea and should not be fooled around with if you are unsure then you should seek professional advice.

Hopefully not bored everyone to tears


BIFFA Website Launches the ” FF Insight Zone”……!!

One of the most frequently searched areas of the BIFFA website and the FF Blog is anything containing video.  You’re all very keen on it!!

As experienced owners will know, owning and racing these boats is a very nuanced affair.  There’s lots to learn both on the water and ashore.  We’ve decided to start a project, which may well take a couple of years or more to fulfil, to capture a lot of this knowledge on the website in video format.  It’s aimed at newcomers to the class, and prospective newcomers to the Class.  Having said that, in 20 years I’ve never seen genoa furler bearings being replaced – and that is the first video we are releasing!!

Class Association Secretary, Keith Jamieson, has made a short video showing how to take your furler apart, what the smart ideas are, and how to put it back together with new bearings.

You can find it in the Members Video Library, which you get to by going to the Association Website Homepage, and selecting UK Association/Members/FF Insight Zone.  You have to be logged in with your Member ID to access it.

We have ideas for around three dozen topics, plus we hope to trap on the water video from Association training.  If you fancy making us a video about technique or ownership, please step forward !!

Matt Alvarado on Jib Ratchets……

Having any type or size of ratchet on the Jib sheet, in my opinion, is absolutely essential for any size, shape or strength of crew. My main reason for having ratchets on the jib sheet is so i can ease the jib a bees wotsit in a lull, or when we need to grunt up the jib for a bit of choppy water… (they are also good for windy two sail reaches when i can’t see anything) Without the ratchet, its hard to control the amount you ease, inevitably you let too much out then re trim. There are others pros as well for ratchets, can’t see many cons apart from the extra ££. For what its worth, we use 40mm switchable ratchet blocks from harken, and we use a 6mm calibrated/marked sheet. Even with 6mm sheets, it does help light wind tacks if you can turn the ratchets off.


Another Take on Undercovers…..!!

I must say that it had never occurred to me before that there could be more than one way to skin this particular cat – hull protection while towing.

Undercover 2


The ‘normal’ style undercover can be a bit of a fiddle to get on and off, but this idea goes at keeping the spray away from a whole different viewpoint.

Undercover 1


Undercover 3Photos © David Williamson


Graham and Chris’ Thoughtful Boat…..!!

Isn’t it great that after decades of sailing, teams are still finding ways to push the boundaries of the boat.  As this is being written, it’s the weekend of the Datchet Open and at the end of day one, Ian Cadwallader’s boat is in the lead.  This was the P&B finished boat from the 2013 Dinghy Show.

At the 2014 show, we had a Phil Evans boat built for Justin Waples.  This well engineered layout from Phil has been with us for many years – I love it and have had three !!  Interesting for me then to see the Ovington factory finished boat  that won the Hong Kong Worlds in knockout style in the hands of Graham Vials and Chris Turner.  The thing that probably impressed me most was the rethink of who does what in their boat, and the resulting control layout.  That then coupled to a very detailed attention to detail and the fact that the cockpit looked a very clean place to race.

We’ve previously written about the jib ratchets, the mast gate and the toestrap adjusters. Then there is the innovation with the alto section rig – much has been written on that, and I suspect there will be even more this year as other top teams give it a try.    Hopefully, we’re going to put a video on the BIFFA Members area to show you more detail.  In the mean time, let me show you a few more things that caught my eye….IMG_2703

Very noticeable on this boat (and its predecessor) is the adjustable mainsheet bridle. The bridle goes down through a hole in the stern tank, along a a tube and emerges at the side tank like this.


If you have sailed other boats with a traveller, you’ll know the trick in light winds of pulling the traveller to windward to centre the boom without hardening the leach too much.  It used to make a heck of a difference on my Dragon, for example.  Well, with this setup, you can achieve the same thing.


I’m sorry for the rubbish focus in the above photo – it’ll be better in the BIFFA video, I expect.  You will be able to make out the key point though – Ovington have figured out which length of the shroud adjuster will never be used – and ground it off to reduce weight.

IMG_2705Interestingly by contrast, it looks like half of the jib track is never used – but it survived intact!!  (Inside the minimum weight of course!)


This idea of cutting a hole in the jib platform improves access to the bolts.  Note too that the hole at the bottom is used to tidy away one end of a control line, thus keeping the cockpit tidier.

IMG_2715Much talked about on their previous boat was the under deck furling system.  If I recall correctly the Mk 1 version had a wire strop above deck (though am not sure about that) and you can see here that this has become a solid bar.  More amazingly is the under deck part which I was entirely unable to photograph – it fits flush and smooth under the deck and makes no intrusion into the spinnaker chute at all !

IMG_2719IMG_2717Here’s a much better focussed photo of the shroud plate, but what I wanted to show you was the extremely neat end to the twinning line.  Very, very neat – I’m never a real fan of putting a bullet block there.    Also note that they have even tapered the twinning line itself (see photo to the left).


They used the same approach to securing the rear block at the centre of the main boom too.

IMG_2736The boat has a spinnaker chute and not bags.  Up at the bow, their chute cover has two exposed blocks, and Chris has made this terribly simple approach using sticky backed sailcloth to cover up both pulleys – to keep everything smooth and snag free.  So good!!

IMG_2710The bailers are interesting for a number of reasons. One is that they are smaller sized (like everything on this boat, there must be a reason!!), but can you see they are glassed in??  Normally the sole-plate of the bailer sits above the hull, thus making it impossible for the last bit of water to leave.  Not the case here!!

The last thing to note, is that the bailer has controls (pink line) to enable the bailers to be opened or closed while hanging out the other side of the boat.  See the video of how this works by clicking here. 


You can see the pink lines protruding from the console here that control the bailers.  The console itself looks pretty straight forward, but note the location of the 5kgs of lead on each side. I am very intrigued as I had previously accepted the logic of “lower the better” applying to corrector weight location.  Interesting!!!


To keep the side tanks clear of control lines, Chris and Graham have gone for one of those fancy double cleated swivels. So a bit less string, I would guess….


I’ve always been bit messy with my own markings for the mast ram, but it looks so clean and easy here. The mast collar maybe wraps around the mast less than on my epsilon.  Plus, I admit to being very intrigued at the neutral line (assuming the mast was in neutral at the show) being the bold line… and that the extra calibrations are pushing the mast towards inversion….. Hmmm …, Fine calibration intervals too.  What you can’t see so well, is that to looks like they have ground back the sides of the gate and there is about 2-3mm of sideways play.  Perhaps to improve the sideways bend characteristic above deck level – reading too much into it possibly?  By the way, tests at the Goacher Sails loft on the alto suggest that it might even be slightly stiffer fore and aft than the epsilon, and maybe 5% more flexible sideways – that showing mostly above the hounds at the tapered top.  Charles Apthorp told us that he is concluding of his new alto that it is not especially a mast for lightweights after all.


Typical of the detail thinking would be the forward toestraps.  Note the way that they have sewn in two eyes to take the retainer shock cord that lifts them up for easy access.


Now lets talk about the distribution of work in the boat.  On the forward coaming they have a stopwatch in the top left of the photo, the compass, and three control lines – furler, pole (there is also a pole control aft on the console) and chute cover.


The boat is rigged with a spinnaker chute, and the flow back into the boat is extremely clean.  This photo was taken by putting the camera down the hole at the bow and photographing backwards into the cockpit.  Note the vertical curtain running down the centre line.  Here’s another photo, this time from the cockpit end……


Now very controversially, the boat has no spinnaker sock in the cockpit.  Very interesting, and I’m hoping we can hear from Chris via the blog as top how they deal with all that sailcloth when the sail is down.  I thought perhaps they might have a shock cord retriever that pulls the excess cloth back up the chute, but there was no sign of one.

You know when you have a spinnaker sock in the cockpit the way you lead the line along the cockpit wall back to the helms position?  Well, they didn’t have that either. This implies to me that the bowman in this boat also drops the spinnaker down the chute. Unless I missed something!!

The pole by the way, is normal double ended and didn’t, from memory anyway, look like a fly away pole.

So – get the feeling that things are happening differently in this boat??  Well take a look at this….


IMG_2732The spinnaker halyard does not go down the tunnel, but across the top of the tunnel. It is automatically cleated at the forward end, so it is Chris at the bow who un-cleates the spinnaker for the drop….  Interesting!!

Now the addition of a turning block a couple of feet aft of the cleat suggests to me that on a reach for example, either the crew or the helm can hoist the sail – and if the pole is pre-mounted they can do that while hanging out!!…. Very interesting.  All this means too that the hatch over the tunnel in the floor has to be bolted down – not elasticated as normal.  You can clearly see the bolts in the photo.

So that’s a quick tour of the major things that struck me on our World Champions boat.

Anything Magic on the World Champion Boat….??!!

Aside from the two guys sailing it, that is??

We’re going to write a few bits about the boat in coming days, but there were a couple of “under the covers” ideas which has the FF Blog staff thinking…..


Just study this photo of the stern deck here and look carefully at the reflection of the lights. Unlike the other Ovington on the stand, can you see that the reflection of the lights is imperfect?  It appears that’s because the gel coat there is thinner and you can just about make out the underlying weave showing through.  There was a similar effect on the bow too. So they were working hard to reduce weight at the ends.

Next thing – compare these two mast gates from the show boats….



The top mast gate is that of Justin Waples’ boat, and the lower photo is of Graham and Chris World Champion boat.  You can probably just about make out that the vertical thickness at the gate is reduced in the lower photo.

I am told that the alto section fits the standard gate very well, but you will also see in the lower photo that it looks like the gate has had a bit of grinding done.  There was in fact around 2mm of sideways play in the gate – wonder if that is to improve the sideways profile of the mast, or if I’m reading too much into it…..

Fantastic attention to detail from Ovington, eh??!!

Adjustable Toestraps – now ‘de rigeur’ …!!

Both the new Fifteens at the Dinghy Show were fitted with adjustable toestraps fore and aft.   Alan Bax has been a big fan for years of this idea, but it was interesting that both show boats went the same way.

This is how Phil Evans arranged it


And this was the arrangement in the Ovington fitted boat.

IMG_2729Note the different upward tensioner to lift the straps on each implementation, and also the use by Ovington’s of snatch blocks on the spinnaker sheets at the back of the cockpit on the World Champ boat.

Jib Ratchets…..!!

It’s interesting the way that equipment moves onwards and upwards.  Both of the boats on the FF stand at the Dinghy Show had switchable rachets for the genoa sheets.

IMG_2738This is the arrangement on Justin Waples’ boat from the workshops of Phil Evans.  If you have a Mk 10 from Phil Evans at your Club and compare it with the above, you will find that Phil has found the space to move the attachment loop backwards (to the left in this photo) and that gives space for the becket of the ratchet block.

On the Ovington finished boat, they had managed to get a small ratchet cheek block (from the same Manufacturer’s series I think) screwed down on to the platform.  Both implementations used switched ratchets.  To see the Ovington implementation, you’ll need to wait for the BIFFA video tour of the boat.

There will be many husband/wife teams who will be keen to have a think about this!

Sore Mainsheet Hands – Try Larger Blocks……!!

Some of us are getting older, (over 40 for example!)  and are getting the occasional bout of sore fingers, sore joints, sore hands etc.  At the Dinghy Show, Mike Thompson delighted me with the notion that trying larger diameter blocks seem to help.

Back in the sixties, when we didn’t have the technology to use ball bearing blocks, dinghy mainsheet blocks “went large” – spearheaded by the then World Flying Dutchman Champions, John Oakley and David Hunt.   The generally accepted idea was that it was the right thing to do to reduce rolling friction.  Then small ball bearing races, and nylon, came along and we went to mini ball bearing blocks.

We generally seem to be standardising on 40mm blocks for mainsheets,  but Mike has tried 57mm Harkens to very good effect. He says it reduces loads on the hands substantially.

big blocks on m thompsons ff

Looking at the photo, Mike has gone up a size for the final ratchet too.

The interesting thing to me is “why?”.  If you have a child in the sixth form doing A level Physics, you might ask them for us.   Frictional differences now will be tiny.  So maybe it simply takes much more effort to wrap modern sheets around smaller diameter curves, than for larger radiuses??

What do you think??

Navigation Aid ….!!

Does your Club race you over courses which are sufficiently intricate that you need to write the course down??!!

Chew is such a Club, and Mike Thompson has sent in a neat solution.  A bit of wipe-clean fablon on the forward bulkhead, but then what to do with the special pencil?  This solution is especially neat…..

crayon on m thompsons ff