Yachts and Yachting – Annual Dinghy Classes Review…..

(November 25th)

The Y&Y keelboat classes review will be in your letterbox soon.  I was just looking through the Dinghy Classes Review. The FF sort of sits across the two, of course – we have a foot in each market.

I always scour for two bits of news – turnout numbers at Championships and build rates in the year. I completed the FF Class input for the keelboat review in early November.

On the Championship numbers, we would normally hope to be in the top 20 or so as far as dinghy numbers are concerned.  We had 3 dozen boats up at Largs, which unfortunately would not make the top 25 listed.

Better news though on the build rates and the money invested in our Class.  In the twelve months to October 30th, 25 FF’s were registered (global number) and it stacked up pretty well in the dinghy market. Adjust for the price of a Flying Fifteen relative to a Dinghy and in terms of money invested in the Class, we did VERY well.

I always feel that if a Class does not state its build rate in Y&Y, then most probably they built zero.  And that is the majority of Classes listed, by the way.

So we built 25, ….  these were the others that caught my eye:-

  • Albacore 10
  • Contender 5
  • Enterprise 12 (UK)
  • Fireball 30
  • 49er 7
  • GP14 29
  • Javelin 4
  • Merlin Rocket 15
  • RS400 12
  • Solo 90 (wow – what’s going on there!)
  • Wayfarer 120 (Blimey!!)

4000 Flying Fifteens – Hurrah …..!!!

I’ve just heard from HQ that FF’s numbered 4001 and 4002 have been entered for the Nationals ….  so we’re there !!!  Blimey – it puts your SB3 Fleet into context, don’t you think??

So where did FF 4000 get allocated?  It has gone to Class Legend, Bill Shand,  in Australia – very fitting for a Worldwide Class I feel….!!!

We also heard just yesterday that Ovington is trying to put together the next production run already.  (Chris may be able to comment)  I think the preference is to build a handful of boats at a time – so we’ll be at 4010 in the blink of an eye.  I admit… the duty datchetman has succumbed…

Association Membership….

At our Fleet AGM in November, we had some discussion around the National Fleet Captain’s Meeting the weekend earlier. This had been sensibly arranged as a conference call and, as usual, there was some pretty interesting stuff going on.

The item that caused great debate at our Fleet AGM was the data given on BIFFA membership numbers.  Remember that some lucky people own more than one boat – a Classic plus an Open Fleet boat for example.  But the number of boats in the Association as offered by the secretary in November was

  • 237 Open owners
  • 83 Silver owners
  • 75 classics

I think we were a bit surprised.  Even more surprising was the fact that the average decline in boat owning members over the last seven years has averaged 20 per year. Sometime a bit more, sometimes a bit less. Which ever way you look at it, we’ve all let this slide too far.

If the Association loses our collective grip, eventually the Class Rule will get fuzzy – and residuals will start to slide.

I don’t know how many Association members we have in our fleet. I think around 18 or 19  – but that will include one or two non-owning or joint owning members. So probably all our regular racers are members… I think.

It alarmed us enough that we handed round BIFFA application forms after the meeting.  I don’t think it will make much difference, as we were preaching to the converted.  It is so easy to let this slide away over the years, but it looks very hard to get 140 members back again starting from here.

What do you think at your Club??

The Flying Fifteen Census – How Many Are There??….

We’ve been wrestling with the publicity question, and setting aside the issue of how to attract new owners to the Class you really have to figure out who has already got one and where they are….

We reckon there are 80 or so Clubs where there may be at least one Flying Fifteen. Around 25 of those just have a token one or two boats.  By the way, in UK we recognise 48 Fleets…So to help with our mission, we contacted 52 Clubs during August by phone or email with the simple question,

“How many Flying Fifteens have you got in the Boat Park?”…

In some cases, the Clubs of course either didn’t have exact records or sometimes any records…  so I just asked them to go outside and count. One Club counted from the office window!

The answers were pretty interesting!  How many FFs do you think we could find in the UK? My optimistic guess was based on the fact that probably 2,000 of the 4,000 built were probably in the UK… So I guessed 1,000.

The answer?? – We have found 681 boats. There’ll be a few in garages and barns of course, but I found 652 at 52 Clubs, and allowing for the 25 Clubs I didn’t call (and using BIFFA records) I reckon there’s 681. Lets call it 680 between friends.  Surprised? Remember that the FFI register suggests 470 boats in the UK, so perhaps this is a pleasant surprise!!..

The next thing that surprised me is that Club Secretaries reported a lot of boats in dereliction or just plain unsailed.  I suspect that you can take the number for the real fleet down to 600 or below… maybe further. Perhaps we’ll run the census again in 2012 and ask the specific question about derelict and unsailed boats.

A reasonable and informed guess is that we have about 300 Open Fleet boats and 300 Classic and Silver. Remember that the Open Fleet is growing at a rate of maybe 10-15 UK boats per year (half the worldwide total).

Needless to say there is lots to tell you (and BIFFA) from the Census Survey.  It’ll appear on the FF Blog going forward.

One last thought for today… Open Meeting attendances are down in 2011 (fuel price and recession, I guess) but I reckon about 60 boats “do the circuit”, maybe slightly more. So the obvious thing to close with today is that 9 out of 10 of our owners are dedicated Club Sailors…

How Many Flying Fifteens in Each Country….

According to latest information out of FFI, we have 1,018 Flying Fifteens showing in the Worldwide Association Registers.  That’s not the same thing as number of Association Members though… which will be less…

This is what FFI reckon the picture is:-

UK               432

Australia    170

NZ               150

Ireland        100

Hong Kong   25

RSA               21

France          40

Belgium       15

Phillipines    6

Spain            35

Zimbabwe     12

USA               12

That gives UK 42% of the Global Fleet, and ANZ 31%….. Interesting…..  Also where did all those 3000 old lead keels go??!!

Well, part of the answer to this is that it is extremely difficult for National Associations to keep track of the National Inventory. Members lapse, records get out of date etc.  We’ve just done an census of the UK Clubs via the Club Secretaries and find that the sum total of FFs sitting in boat parks during August 2011 was 680 boats – a good bit up on 432. So you can see the problem. Plus there’ll be a few boats stashed in barns and garages etc. Maybe there are 700 here in UK. Far more concerning though is the number of boats in dereliction that the Clubs report. I haven’t an exact number on that, but it will be significant….

The other bit of maths to play with is, “what is the old boat retirement rate”? Lets guess that half the 4000 built were UK (seems reasonable). The class is 65 years old, and maybe boats have been going to end of life (retired!) for the last 50 years. So our average retirement rate for boats is 26 boats a year and in recent years you’d expect it to higher than say in the 1960s.  Is it safe to assume that 42% of recent new builds are for the UK Fleet? Probably…. So in the last ten years, there were no years that we built more boats than we retired…. The Class is shrinking gradually….. Lets get those new owners quickly !!!

BIFFA Members !!! What do we know about us?…..

Have you tried the “Members Only” area of the BIFFA website?? You just ask the Secretary for an access code and, if you’ve paid your subs (!), you can get straight in….

It contains minutes of past AGMs and FC meetings, but most interestingly it contains the member database. Take a look… it’s pretty intriguing…. I thought it was just about finding addresses of fellow members, useful in itself, but no. The most intriguing feature, which I discovered by accident, is that you can click on any column header and it sorts the database for you. So you can see it in boat number sequence, Club Sequence or whatever.

The first thing is to understand what it is you will be looking at.  I don’t think it is the same thing as a members database. We heard from the President at the AGM that we had 360 paid up members or so at the end of 2010.  There are about 475 people named in the database. So it’s more like, “These You have Loved….”

So the first thing it tells you straight away then is that around a quarter of the people who have been members have declined for some reason to renew their membership since the database was loaded.  Actually, I am surprised and alarmed by that….

You can see that some small number of people on the list have no boat showing against their name – the Associate Members….

The first amazing thing – well, to me anyway ….So how many Flying Fifteens  are on there as ‘known’ boats???  The answer??  When I looked it was….  493….

493 – are you surprised? Were you expecting higher or lower??  I think I was expecting higher…  If you look at the FF stats on ISAF, you’d quickly form a rule of thumb that GBR is roughly half the worldwide fleet…..  So over the years, there ought have been about 2000 UK Flying Fifteens.  Where are they? How many are left?  How many have rotted and moved on??  Lets suppose half of them, 1000, have passed away. That’s a lot of lead keels somewhere…. or melted down!  If we are left with 1000, and we know roughly where 500 are … where are the other 500??  If they still exist, why don’t the owners connect with BIFFA??? We have hundreds of FFs to track down…

You probably have views about the FFs at your Club. Let me know what you think – either leave a comment or email us at

We have quite a few other surprise findings from the ‘members register’.  More on this in a day or two…

BIFFA Membership Numbers are Up !!!….

At the AGM in Hayling, we learned that BIFFA membership numbers are up for the first time in six years.  I hope very much this means we’ll get an active vote on the New Rig… If you haven’t joined up yet, it’s not too late – but if own a Flying Fifteen and you care about your investment, you really should join up quickly and vote. The membership fees are modest and just the price of two rounds of drinks (London Prices!!!)… well – not much anyway.  If the vote goes against your beliefs and you didn’t vote, you’ll be spitting mad. Join now…

So what are the BIFFA membership numbers??  I believe in 2010 they were 361, in 2009 they were 377 and in 2008 they were 395.  Now, there’s a whole other sort of wake up call here.  The subscription fee income in 2010 was £13,969 – so I reckon there will have been around 60 Associate Members as well – which is actually a positive surprise to me!!

Anyway, this will have to be addressed….  We’ll try and produce some suggestions in the coming days, but if you have any diagnostics or ideas, please email them in…. send them to

Flying Fifteen Worlds – The Biggest UK Championships This Year ??

I guess we were all toddling along expecting to be easily the biggest UK Championships this year – at around 140 teams. I certainly was…

You know, somebody might just rain on our parade….  The amazing XOD Class is 100 years old this year. Their Championships, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, who are really backing our sport heavily now, will be at Cowes and  is rumoured to exceed 140 entrants. We shall see….!!

Read about it here