Online Race Tracking……!!

Do you Cycle?

I spend more time cycling than sailing – well in the summer anyway!!  I always use a little iphone application called Strava. The phone sits in your pocket but uses GPS to record the whole ride, gather statistics etc.  In short, it’s terrific.

Just before the Weymouth Nationals we were offered some kind of online race tracking service, but the fee was not something we could entertain.

You may be a user of the PredictWind weather forecasting system?  They seem to have just launched an iphone/android app that sets about the Strava idea for sailors…..  You download the app to your phone, and then you either set it to be a participant or a spectator.  Sounds very good if that’s the case….!!

Has anybody tried it?? Lets us know if you have.

Click here to see their link



New Tuning and Techniques Section to the FF Blog….!!

You may not have noticed, but we have started a new section at the right hand side of the blog page called “Tuning and Techniques”….

In there we have gathered various useful links into one place, and hopefully can grow this over time.

Ivan Coryn has produced a very good download on tuning Classic Flying Fifteens. He put it together for the 2012 Dinghy Show. The idea was to put it up on the Association website, but it doesn’t seem to have appeared for some reason.  I’ll check with Ivan about including it here.

Weymouth Olympics and Beyond – an NZ View…

I must say I am beginning to wonder if Olympic Sailing is losing its way.  I sort of understand where they are going in 2016 and some of it is laudable. But basically now the Finn is the only real ‘athlete’ class left in the Games and I find that very odd, let alone the absence of a keelboat of any kind.  As Howard points out, almost every other sport has weight categories for competitors – so why not have that in sailing? With the exception of the Finn, everything else is for fly-weights. Not very impressive….. And have you seen there is talk of including kite-surfing. For pity’s sake…..  Why not conjouring and juggling as well??

This is a very thoughtful piece on where Olympic Sailing is going…

Are the RYA Killing Club Sailing??….

In response to our Blog on “Do People Want to Club Race Any More?”, Glyn Morgan has written this thoughtful piece…

An interesting point and one that will undoubtedly have been debated at clubs up and down the country over the last 10-15 years. I have a view on this which may not be particularly popular but can only look at my own experiences which for some, if not all may be fairly familiar..

As a child of the 60′s I grew up in the baby boom which coincidentally tied in with sailing as a sport becoming accessible to the ‘common man’. My parents didn’t sail but a family round the corner did and I was dragged along as a potential crew for their son in a mirror. This opened up a whole new world for me and I discovered the joy of racing mirrors with a group of kids more or less my age. We all looked forward to racing on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Some of us were good, some of us not so good but the draw for me was getting together with my friends every week, seeing how we did each race and watching our individual skill levels improve as the months turned in to years. In those days there was no such thing as RYA zone squads to take us away from our club. Consequently we kept that close knit family feel through our teenage years, fiercely fighting on the race track but reverting to great mates when off it.

We didn’t lose the best sailors to the RYA squads at a young age which meant we consistently had good competition whilst growing up at our local club. Incidentally i’m sure this egged on the adults as they must have been desperate not to have been beaten by ‘us youngsters’. By the time we reached our mid late teens we had all competed in open meetings and national championships with varying degrees of success but regardless of the success, we would all come back to our club and enjoy competing against each other in whatever boat we were sailing then. On this point, and relevent to the thread, we didn’t have a huge choice to race. The club was very strict on what it would allow to race and you had to pick within this group. They did have a handicap fleet but the vast majority of us wanted to carry on racing against each other so we stayed within the fleet racing fraternity. This obviously meant that the club stayed healthy with youngsters racing regularly which by default meant that many of the parents stayed within the sport as they had to take their kids to the club in the first place. All in all, by keeping the kids within a local club environment, it kept the racing healthy and competitive. It also kept a solid base for the committee to draw on from the parents group and to my mind created a ‘win win’ scenario.

Today we have the RYA zone squads which is geared to olympic gold medals regardless of the fallout of youngsters along the way. I believe that the RYA should take some responsibility for the decline in club racing. I don’t know the statistics but for sure at my club, once those youngsters leave the zone squads, very few of them come back to club sailing as their friends and peers are no longer there for them to enjoy racing against. Further, for those that don’t get selected to join the squad system in the first place, it is dispiriting as they feel failures and i’m sure that many of them give the sport up when their friends disappear to the squads. In simple terms many of them are lost to sailing forever. As an aside, we also lose the parents as they get ‘volunteered’ to follow their children around the country through the year. Granted, those that reach the very top are exceptionally talented, well looked after, professionally coached and stand very realisitic chances of medalling. My issue is that the fallout along the way!

My thoughts may be controversial but If we are to improve fleet racing I believe we need to keep the youngsters in our local clubs which will also keep the parents involved too. This I believe will be self perpetuating and over time will end up with healthy racing at club level. I would suggest that unless the RYA recognises this and looks for solutions, the youngsters won’t stay within the sport, they won’t introduce their own kids to it as many of us have done over the years and clubs will start to close through lack of members. Finally I would guess the average age of our club members must be about 50. I wonder what it will be in another 10 years???

 Glyn Morgan

The Datchet Mandate for our Association….

At each BIFFA AGM and Fleet Captain’s Meeting, you can be sure that someone will ask what BIFFA does for the ordinary Club Fleet sailor. It occurs to me that it may always be the same person who asks, but nonetheless, it is a good question….
In true style, our Association President is bound to say to the Audience, “Well, if you tell us what the Club Fleets want, then we’ll look at it…”
Then we usually get complete silence….
Enough. Our fleet at Datchet is just a normal Club Fleet – inland waters, mixed ability (except no talent at the top – ha!!), about 34 boats but about 15 sail and race regularly. We have our share of older unsailed boats too. Half our owners are Association members and half are not. I would guess we are just “normal”…. However, from much discussion in the Clubhouse Bar, we are starting to get a feel for how we would think a BIFFA Value Proposition to Club Fleets ought to look.
We think there are three areas for BIFFA to further increase their focus on, and we have one for FFI too.
For BIFFA, we think the three candidate areas for increased attention and focus would be:-
1/  Healthy Club Fleets and Club Racing – this is the bedrock for growing the Class
2/ Increase inclusiveness and support for Silver and Classics
3/ Being a more pro-active and helpful Association – this is a tough ask in any voluntary organisation, but we would like to know what it takes. Most likely the Clubs have to step up and play their part. Tell us what you need doing…
For FFI we have…
– Reposition the Flying Fifteen in the marketplace and help us address “The Old Man’s Boat”  Image…
We’ve done some homework on these challenges and would like to suggest solutions to them on the Blog in the coming few days…

How Long are Your Spinnaker Sheets??…

How long are your spinnaker sheets??  I think it was about 1997  when I first saw those super tapered vectran spinnaker sheets – you know the ones with those long gradual tapers. I had to have some and took out a mortgage to cover it!! On the Dragon, we even had the spinnaker halyard made up the same way….  They came from Alan Bax and replaced the bits of string that were on the boat from new. Anyway, we adored those sheets and I still have them for a rainy day (as it were)….  Phil Evans did our second Fifteen and it had Phil’s very special triple tapered sheets on it. Beautiful craftsmanship – I have looked long and hard and cant quite figure how Phil does it. BUT …There was bloody string everywhere and it took me a while to be brave enough to lay them out in the house beside the vectrans – and cut the lovely triple tapers off….  All was peace in the boat though.

So the third flying fifteen arrives ten years later. I had forgotten the sheet length issue of a decade before and the boat was full of bloody string again. Lots of things were longer than 3644, but the spinnaker sheets really lit my fire.  It does occur to me that a boat raced at sea might need longer sheets, but on the flat waters of Datchet the old Baxie length sheets work brilliantly. I am phased by it because I think Phil Evans might secretly be a God… However, I feel for sure he wears his spinnaker sheets too long…. and I cut the ends off again….

I popped up to Kendal to see Phil recently and  asked for two new sets of the clever triple tapers to be made up – but this time very specifically to our ‘Datchet’ length. Phil tried the raised eyebrow ploy as he does when he’s waiting for me to come around, but bless him he made them up as asked. They’re perfect. They are one and a half metres shorter than Phil’s sheets. A tidy boat is a happy boat… !!

Oh – what’s the magic number????  18.5 metres….. Go on, give it a try on an old set of sheets and see how it goes…. you know you’ll want to !!

Flying Fifteen Spreaders – Do they Wear?….

How often does the average Flying Fifteen Owner get to see what a brand new set of Selden spreaders should look like?  Not often I’d say – just the lucky ones who pick up a brand new boat, or the very unlucky ones who break one…

The reason I ask is that when my rig was not quite two years old, say 80 races perhaps, Vice Cap’n looked up at my mast and fell about laughing ‘sympathetically’…  You could see the port spreader tip was up a bit. Sure enough I whipped the mast out and found both spreaders were quite “waggly”. I’m sure when new they were both firm in their footings and symmetrically angled, nicely swept up and so on. I cant recall any bang to the rig, so it must have been normal wear and tear on the bolts and the seatings.

I took the boat up to Goacher Sails and we had a look at them. Virtually the first thing Steve decided we had to do was sort the spreaders. The technique was to run a tape to the masthead then measure down from there to the spreader tip each side. They were a good couple of cms out in the vertical plane – just with wobble…

The answer from Steve was to whip the Shroud caps off (simple screw fitting), bind the shroud with PVC tape, then screw the cap back on. Waggle gone and height reset…. Problem fixed!

Next time you take your mast out,  check them over….

An Appetite for Spinnaker Poles….

I’m in my third ‘fifteen’.  I wouldn’t say that spinnaker poles were a significant part of the running costs whatsoever – on the first two boats….

Life has been different in the last two years – H and I are on our fourth pole…  Yes – fourth.. The carbon ones are about £200 or £250 a go. That puts carbon poles in the same league of boat inflation as big electronic compasses!!

The first one was  a super pole by Phil Evans. I had one of my two flirtations with a fly-away pole system. Like all flirtations, they don’t last that long !!!  Did you know that the tube length on a flyaway pole is slightly different to an end-to-end pole?? (The end fittings have different lengths…) Anyway, when the change back to end-to-end came (which took about 3 weeks), I took the opportunity to swap poles with someone going in the other direction… I became the owner of a P&B end to end pole. It’s quite a lot thinner tubing you know? What happened to that one? We snapped it… stowed under the deck, the kicker caught the end on a rough day and “pop”. The other thing is that it had seasure piston-ends which needed replacing after a season. Alan says he changes them once a year on his boat…. Wish I owned a chandlery now!

I think the VC and the Admiral have snapped one in the same way. That should be in the instruction book somewhere. Anyway, H liked the P&B pole and especially the trigger ends – so P&B quickly and efficiently shipped us a carbon (ha!) copy – our third. After about half a year, guess what – the piston at one end started jamming open!! We normally have a quiet boat, but not when that happened. I don’t know why P&B fit pole ends which they know have a short life. It might be the inner diameter of the tube that is the problem.

So, full circle, “ching” goes the cash register again, and I went back to Phil Evans. Proper stainless piston ends, thick stout tubing, but collars not triggers much to Howard’s disappointment. In my personal search for symmetry, I like collars though…. It’s a fabulous pole, I reckon. Looks good too. It’s a “man’s pole”…!!

You know, for some reason I still have a half built tapered alloy pole in the shed for some reason. The next time, maybe…..

Another Slice of Mylar…

I think I noted a couple of weeks ago that although the Contender Class can use Dacron or Mylar for their mainsails, the top two boats in their Midwinter Championships were using North built, Dacron mainsails.  Must try and chat with Mr Contender World Champ, Stuart Jones about that….. He was one of them, of course…

Been reading this on Speed Sails Site…

When film/mylar sails first started making an appearance in the late 1970s, the development of the new materials was heralded as being a breakthrough for sailmaking technology. Despite a few trials and tribulations, most sailmakers soon mastered the new skills needed to work the film based panels, with Mylar sails quickly becoming an exciting option for those forward looking classes who were happy to adopt the new technology. What soon became clear however was that using Mylar was far from simple, as it was not just a case of substituting one material for another. The change to the new material should have brought about a sail making revolution, but the end result was far more a case of cautious evolution, as the sailors themselves would take time to change their understanding of their rigs. What was needed to drive the next step forward was a technique that would allow sailmakers to fully utilise the advances offered by the new generation of materials. The end goal had to be sails that were constructed with panel shapes and thickness dictated by the loadings within the sail itself……….

You can read the full article here:-

Speed Sails

Sailing for the Over Fifties!!….

Despite all that work we put in to discover that the average age of a Fleet Member for us is 45, this is about sailing for the over fifties.  (I have the Commodore in mind…..)

Do you get Yachts & Yachting?? If you do, can you dig out the February issue and take a look at the double page article on page 26/27….

The general hypothesis of the article is that there are loads of people “out there” who are 50 and over who would like to get back into a sport – golf and sailing are the two that spring to mind. However, if you’ve never sailed before it’s not that easy.

– you probably have a preference not to be in tuition classes with lots of kids, but actually with your own age group

– you probably have a preference to be taught by someone in your own age group and not some bright young things

– you probably want to break mid afternoon for tea and cake….

It works for golf, doesn’t it? You can start at any age and feel comfortable. The article describes a few case studies, but those at Tamar Lake SC and Chipstead SC (very near my home!) I thought were particularly relevant. My immediate reaction was – “We could do that!!”. We have three loan Flying Fifteens, we have retired members who can teach, we could take 6-8 people at a time. I wonder if the Club School actually gets many applicant enquiries in the 50-80 age bracket?

The great thing about Flying Fifteens at Datchet is that for many people (like the Commodore) they are boats that you can grow into and not out of….