Keelboat Clinic Trial at Datchet….!!

FF Clinic 2Picking up on Burton SC’s idea, Datchet ran a Keelboat Clinic last weekend.  A group of eight turned out, including two potential new owners.

FF Clinic 1The idea was very much self-help from the Fleet, and was both on and off the water.  Attendees listed topics they wanted to cover in advance, then led by Fleet Captain Mervyn Wright, and his predecessor, John Hanson, the group set about getting their questions answered.  We were lucky that winds were light, so we had a fifteen rigged on the shore for sail shape demos, the three boats went afloat – with lots of crew/helm swapping between boats.

Very good – if we get one or even two new members, as well as a skill upgrade, we shall consider it a great event!

FF Clinic 3

Draycote “Keelboat Trial” Open Day… A Result!!

What success did they have running the Keelboat Open Day at Draycote??….

We had 10 people who had a trial in a Flying Fifteen, 7 who tried the K1 and 13 competitors in the K1 Open Meeting. I understand that some people who tried the Flying Fifteen signed up for Training Courses immediately. A Club Member was also interviewed live on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire at an unearthly hour this morning!


Ed : Hmmm – perhaps more Club Fleets should try this?? 

Starting a Fleet at Burnham….!!

The Royal Corinthian at Burnham is now promoting their Flying Fifteen trial sail day on its website!!  It’s a lovely Club by the way!!

Remember  – if you can recommend it to a potential trialist in the area, or can help Justin out, it will be very much appreciated !!

You can see the RCYC website by clicking here

Flying Fifteen Loan Boats – A Successful Marketing Tool….!!

You may know that the Datchet Fleet has had great marketing success with its Loan Boat Program – attracting many new members to the Fleet.  We would and do recommend it to all fleets.

Burton has recently trialled the same idea and this just came in from them….

Hello Gents,
just wanted to say the loan boat scheme works.  We have a member who sails a merlin, he has had our fleet fifteen on loan for a month and raced here very well. He has now gone out to buy a fifteen.
Great stuff, now for the next one!

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…

Flying Fifteen “Test Drive”….!!

The ever-innovative Irish Fleet have been at it again…..  Have you ever considered a big FF Test Drive day at your Club??  I suppose it had slipped my mind over the years as our Loan Boat program has been such a success, but the Irish Fleet at Dun Laoghaire have just had a bulk day with 9 teams trying a boat, racing and all.

A pretty good idea… easily done at lots of Clubs  – read more about it here

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…..

Flying Fifteen Articles Galore…

It’s more than three months that Datchetman has been based on the new website. A lot of articles were left behind on the old website, but even so we have a large number on here now.

Writing them is all very well, but finding them is becoming a challenge. To help in that there are a number of tools down the right hand side of the page. We’ve added some new ones too. First there is the search bar at the top of the column. Use it like you would Google. Try keying “Mylar” in there and see what happens…

Second is the list of the most recent 20 posts – very useful. There is the Archive of previous months as well…

All the documents that we have together produced are sorted into “categories”. You can access these by  clicking on “Categories” and selecting one of the items in the drop-down list that appears there.

Lastly, you will also see there a new tool labelled “Most Popular”. You will see the categories listed there, The relative text size of each category  indicates how many items are in each section. Currently the label for “crewing”  is the smallest and for “Racing” is largest – reflecting the current numbers in the files.  Pretty smart stuff….

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