Phil Tinsley on the Poles….!!

Hi Jeremy, and thanks for the excellent photos and write up yesterday..

Mike and I looked hard at this system, and concluded that it is excellent, but sadly only works for a chute.

As we are both bag sailors, we had to use and older system with barber hauler and a ring and rope system in the pole to hold the guy to the pole.

This stem has two separate guys controlled as shown, which is like the system on Paddy Lewis’ new 505.

It is heaps simpler, but no use with bags – sigh!



FF Worlds – Slipways at Morgat….!!

Main SlipwayAbout slipways at Morgat:
According to Olivier Latin, CNCM sailing manager, the main slipway will be usable at practically all times from Aug 17th through to Aug 26th (neap tides). Spring tides will return on Aug 27th. Thursday 27th we should be able to start launching from 10:30, so no problem really. If we’re racing Friday 28th we would have to wait till 12:00 for launching, leaving just enough time for one race in case needed.
Hope it helps,
Michel Pélegrin
FRA 3932

FF Insight Zone – Easy Launching and Recovery……

If you are new to Fifteens, or thinking of buying one,  we find that most people are slightly wary about launching and recovery – especially if they are moving up from Dinghies.

The good news is that it’s all a piece of cake.  The majority of clubs use jetty launching – and the whole routine is surprisingly easy and DRY !!   You just need to know a few tips on setting up your trailer, and the new video on the FF Insight Zone will show you the basic ideas you need to get going.

You’ll find the video in the Members area of the BIFFA website.  Go to the website home page and click UK Association/Members/FF Insight Zone.  You’ll need your members password to log in first.

Canberra Cranes…..!!

Canberra Yacht Club Boat CraneCanberra Crane Spec'n detailsA little while ago, Graham Giles wrote in to say that two speed cranes used at Canberra made launch and retrieval more controllable.  Graham has just sent this photo plus their design plans….

The crane at Canberra is not materially different to the Freshwater Bay one, except that it is a commercial 1 tonne design, with a deep foundation (due to the lakeside surface material being fill) and therefore not requiring support struts.   It can accept boats on both sides and is hand slewed with a 3 position slew lock.  The hoist is a GIS GCH 1600SF with 12.5 and 3 metres/minute hoisting speeds.


Graham Giles

Ff AUS3657

FF Craning at South Cerney…..!!!

OK – so the Aussies think they are pretty smart at the cricket, eh!!  As soon as it was stumps at the third test, I got three emails from down under reminding me straight away!!

Right! – so it looks like despite the warm climate, gorgeous water (as if that really matters to real men – ha !), their FF sailing is geared to staying dry and they do some pretty neat FF cranes to launch with.

What about British ingenuity though??!!!!   Come on GBR!!!! Can we come up with something even smarter, neater, (cheaper) – just you know, cleverer??!!  Well actually, there’s some pretty smart thinking been going on at South Cerney on dedicated FF cranes. Richard Taylor sent this in. Take a look…. You have to admire the sheer ingenuity!!  (£1=$A1.5  !!)

South Cerney Sailing Club

F15 Launching & Recovery by Crane

At SCSC we sail on a large excavated lake which has very “steep-too” banks. For Dinghies we have made a sloping gravel beach where they can be launched and recovered by hand easily on trolleys in only knee high depth of water.

South Cerney Crane 1

For F15’s this would involve either a deeper water slipway and winch or a 4×4 vehicle, all of which seemed a lot of “hassle” so, as we have number of Engineers with good contacts sailing in our fleet, we came up with a crane solution!

The pictures below show our current crane which, after 14 years of experience, has now been refined to the third generation. It is a free standing pillar crane mounted on a 1500 x 1500 x 10mm steel plate rawlbolted through to a 300mm thick reinforced concrete foundation.


South Cerney Crane 2 

The crane is manually operated and fitted with a Brake Winch that has friction plates which support the load when winding stops.


1. Position the boat under the hook and lower to hook-on the lifting strops previously attached to the boat – and check the bailers are closed!

 South Cerney attaching Boat 3

Note: The crane can pivot either left or right through more than 180 Degrees, so if there is no space on the pontoons it is possible to launch and sail off under Jib to hoist the main. (Also, there are “bump stops to prevent the trailer going over the edge!)


2. Remove the trailer so that the boat can be swung over the water, and the next boat to launch can begin to move in.


South Cerney swingh boat out4 

3. Lower the load by winding in reverse against the friction, which controls the rate of descent and enables it to be stopped instantly.

 South Cerney Lower Boat5

4. When the boat is resting on the water remove the wire lifting strops, which are attached to an eye plate fitted to the keel bolts behind the mast and to U-bolts fitted through the gunwales on each side at the rear of the cockpit.-

 South Cerney Keel bolt attachments6

South Cerney Rear Lines7

We are able to launch and recover in just a few minutes per boat and we usually work as a Helm & Crew team because it quicker and safer, but if necessary and with light winds it is quite possible to operate single handed.  

The crane is inspected and certified every year to comply with Health and Safety and insurance requirements. The maintenance costs are relatively low – greasing the top and bottom pivots and cable pulleys, cleaning the friction plates every year, and replacing these plates and the stainless steel cable every 3 years.

Our thanks to Richard Taylor and his colleagues at South Cerney for sending this in – very clever and very achievable!!!  ( I just keep thinking of dry feet !!)

By comparison, our new keelboat jetty at Datchet cost £25,000 plus !!!

FF Crane at Freshwater Bay – The Plan…!!

Starting to wonder which UK Clubs could gather up the resources to try building a Freshwater Bay type crane?? No more wading in up to your armpits at Hayling!!??  Richard Blaquiere kindly also made a quick drawing that we can see.  You’ll find an example of the £200 electric motor in the blog a few days ago.

RFBYC crane sketch


FF Cranes at South of Perth YC…..!!

Since the blog chatter started off by Helen Hepworth in Hong Kong pointing out that the Aussies all launch FFs by crane, we had additional contributions on cranes from Andy Murphy and Richard Taylor (South Cerney).

Now we suddenly have a flurry of FF crane photos and diagrams to show you!!

The first is from the home of the largest FF fleet in the world (any comment from HISC members??!!) at South Perth, WA.  It’s a pretty stunning and well capitalised setup there, but if there are any UK Commodores reading this you had better sit down….

SoPYC cranes 002

This is pretty industrial scale craning, and reminds me of the setup at Medway YC.  You can see though that some of the cranes have both large and small cranes built in.

SoPYC cranes 001

Uk readers should try to ignore all that blue water, cloudless sky etc.

SoPYC cranes 006

Now you might be thinking, “That’ll take a while – how you cope trying to launch a whole fleet quickly?”

Answer – lots of cranes!!

SoPYC three cranes 003

Thanks to Richard Blaquiere for the fabulous photos!

Launching Fifteens by Crane……!!

Did you notice that the poster for the Broxbourne Open says they have launching by crane??  I think that Torbay used to crane as well. As does Dinard I think.

I used to be fine about craning my Dragon – it’s dry and convenient once you have it set up.  Andy Murphy had his FF built with craning points  – basically two eyes screwed on to the keel bolts most over the centre of gravity.  That’s where your sling attaches.  When the boat is up in the crane, the next issue is how to steer it in the air, or at least control its spinning. You do this with a pair of lines – one at the bow and one attached to the stern. You can obviously use the painter in its normal position at the bow, but ideally you have little loops at the gunwhale near the stern to attach a rear control line. Then you’re done!!

On my 2012 boat I decided like Andy to have it fitted from new. You never know when a trip to Dinard might arise!! Or Broxbourne !!!

Launching an FF is Easy….!!

One of the most viewed items on the Datchet Blog is our video of launching and recovering Flying Fifteens at our super slipway and jetty.  (Click here for the page and the video links )

For anyone who thinks launching at Datchet is a challenge, try this…

Mervyn Wright

Datchet Fleet Captain

Bewl – New FF Launching Dock, … and Sail-Up Bar Proposed …!!!!!

Bewl have got a new launching dock which permits FFs to launch at all “states of the tide” … and are proposing a a Sail-Up Bar !!  How fantastic is that ??!!!! A Worldwide First – or do the Aussies already have one??!!

To read Keith Bromhead’s report, click here

Datchet Invests Thousands in its Keelboat Racing…..

This week should see the start of the work to replace our keelboat jetty – aka “the Flying Fifteen Pontoon”….  Fingers crossed!!

This has been a fabulous piece of kit over the last 30ish years. It enables us to launch and recover safely at “all states of the tide”.  However, like anything else it wears out – and it is time for it to retire from full time service.

It’s amazing really – if you have your routine sorted out it means that you can keep your body dry when both launching and recovering. It makes SUCH a difference!!  Not all Clubs are so lucky and we should count our blessings.  If we had to wade in to chest high (on Howard!) to launch and recover, I’d go cycling instead….!!

We have a 40metre jetty. The new one will be the same length as the old one. We can get four or five boats alongside waiting for recovery quite easily. When you are trying to get a fleet of 12 back for beer and chips, it really helps.

To get the kit replaced has cost the Datchet Club the thick end of £30,000.  It’s a tremendous vote for keelboat racing at Datchet and a huge vote of confidence in  the Flying Fifteen Class and its future. At various states of the “tide”, cats and dinghies often join us at the south pontoon….  but if we didn’t have it, we’d have no FFs to be sure.

The new technology is pale grey, has a steel ramp at the shore end, and has a new system of sinkers to keep it lined up properly.  Fabulous…!!

Salt Water Launching Trolley….

At Datchet, we have the luxury of launching into pure Thames Water – though sometimes I tend to think there is a touch of salt there! Probably chemicals though….

We launch directly off our road trailers and don’t really face wheel bearing corrosion issues.  Even so, the bearings do go from time to time, and this blog will be running a short photo tutorial in wheel bearing replacement quite soon – courtesy of Mervyn Wright…

A whole bunch of our teams did Hayling this year and faced the salt there. What do the locals do about it?? Well, the answer is that they quite often have dedicated launchers.

This launcher was lying beneath Charles’ boat and is I think the latest model from “Keels on Wheels”…

Looks nice and light – uses a regular jockey wheel assembly up front, good wide wheels for the soft going and a low keel platform…

FF Trailer Tips 3…

What are the smart extras to put on your new FF trailer when you arrive at Datchet for the first time??

Basically, there’s two or three tricks that make launching and recovering a hundred time easier and quicker. Come to think of it, they are are just to make recovering the boat easier.

First mandatory accessories – sidearm extensions…. This is mainly to protect the hull when coming back on to the trailer. If it is a steep slope ramp, the metal sidearms lurk beneath the water just waiting for the hull to thump down upon them. So what all of us do is slide simple builders drain pipe – in around three foot lengths on top of the mast supports. This works an absolute treat.

To keep mine in place nice and firmly (on a Hayling brand trailer), I just tape some pipe insulation material to the post beneath and this makes it a good tight fit with a little shock absorber resistance to it.

The next thing you will want to consider no matter what brand of trailer, is how to secure the boat firmly once it floats into place on the trailer.  If you have a trailer with a bow post, we have this simple arrangement which needs little or no drilling and relies on a trapeze type clamcleat to secure the line. (double click the photo below to enlarge it) We have a simple s/s metal carbine hook to clip on to the bow eye, then one pull on the line and the boat is locked in. Perfect. Lots of teams just have a bit of string, which has to fiddled with and tied – try this! Very fast and extremely secure. It’s the speed you want.  One advanced feature on this one in the photo below is the plastic ball which stops you tugging it in too far….

The last thing I would mention is that many of our members hang something like a garden hoe from the top of the front mast support. Sounds crazy I know, but if you are determined to stay dry when you recover the boat, they use the hoe handle to steer the front of the trailer form the warmth of the jetty. Pretty good, actually.

Last thing to say, is what do you do if your new trailer has no bow post. There are some and we’ve had a couple at the club. With our lovely jetty arrangement, they can be a pig.  The solution is pre-measured lines that run from each side support of the trailer to a stern eye (eg mainsheet eye), or craning eye, or around the rudder post somehow.  You have to be in the boat to do this.  If you ever have a choice when you buy your first fifteen, if the trailer has no bow post, buy the other boat !!!

Last thing – for launching and recovering (and keeping dry!) what lines do you need for jetty launching?

We have two:-

– you need a stout trailer rope.  When you need the length is when the water level is high and the slope at its shallowest.  Our rope is 40 foot long. We have a permanent loop in each end so that the rope never needs tying to the trailer – just kind of a half hitch through the loop if you know what I mean…   I put a series of overhand knots all the way along the length of the rope at about 5 foot intervals to give good handholds. I also have a permanent towing loop half way along the length for when the Datchet water level is very low (steep ramp).  40 foot is the gross length, but it nets after loops and knots at about 30-35 feet. It lives on the trailer when we race, but I take it home with me as it is too stealable during the week.

– the other line is a light painter which lives in the spinnaker bag pocket when we are racing. It is 30 feet in length because we tie it at the mast with a bowline knot … then run it forward through the bow eye. This limits the crew time when wriggling out to the bow, and at launching means there is no climbing out to the bow needed.

– “so don’t I need a stern line?” do a I hear you say?? The answer is no – just cleat the spinnaker sheet on the jetty side, and use that as your stern line. Works a treat…. for both launching and recovering…