A very interesting and refreshing article by Graham on the new mast section. Yes I think it is fair to say, from the grunting you tend to hear, the Fifteen open fleet has gravitated to the heavy weights over the past decade.
Way back when I sailed a fifteen on the open circuit, we probably had about eighteen stone aboard, but the boats were softer, less rigid and possibly more forgiving then, so we were still quite competitive.
Nevertheless, on the strong recommendation of Charles Apthorpe I purchased a Proctor E section mast. So over the winter of 1995/1996 I put an Ovington Smoothy together in my garage. The new boat was constructed around the E section, with a beefy kicker led back to the mainsheet control, finger tip control of genoa halyard – rig tension – on the console and a double purchase at the bridle end of the mainsheet, otherwise a strict minimum of string, pulleys, blocks and consequent expense. We did not need carbon to keep this baby down to weight!
The concept was to sail the Fifteen like a big dinghy, which essentially I think it is, and let the rig do the work. We hoped to concentrate on placing the boat on the right place on the course, rather than on masses of coloured lines sprouting from the middle and sides of the cockpit. It worked well for us, both on inland and open water, Although now the boat is only enjoyed for club sailing – anno domini -. both me and the boat!
It is hoped that our sailmakers and other open fleet alumni continue to develop Graham’s ideas. We need the fleet to grow and prosper, so a bit of extra lateral thinking to develop a fifteen with less need of ‘beef’ or ‘grunt’ might serve to enhance the appeal of the class to a broader section of the sailing fraternity. The Fifteen can be such a rewarding and enjoyable boat to sail it should not depend on size.
Perhaps it’s a shame that Graham let slip that ‘nugget’ about downwind speed and place gains. What is the aspirant club sailor going to do with his tape measure now? He is sure it’s all about rake, but it could be about the mast!
It’s a challenge, will the fleet pick it up?