The 29er and 29erXX side by side

The 29er and 29erXX side by side

Updating dinghies

TheDailySail brings you the big stories from the Dinghy Sailing Show

Wednesday March 8th 2006, Author: Toby Heppell, Location: United Kingdom
Alexandra Palace stood proud in blazing sunshine without a snow flake in sight for the annual London Dinghy Sailing Show last weekend, 4-5 March . The show was busier than we have ever seen it before with all the parking spaces available being filled up by midday on Saturday and Sunday. The RYA has reported a 9% increase in ticket sales over last. Updating older designs seemed to be the theme of the show this year with very few new boats being unveiled.


As ever it was the taller rigs that were easy to spot and therefore drew the attention immediately. In the Great Hall the Ovington Boats stand was visible from most angles due to the tall rigs of the 49er and International 14, but on closer inspection much of the attention on the stand was being taken by the 29erXX.

The 29erXX (below) represents the latest design from the Bethwaites or rather the latest design update, as it’s a 29er with a new rig. The boat has two different markets to meet, the first and most interesting is to fit the criteria for a possible new women’s high performance Olympic boat. The second is for lighter crews wanting to go twin wiring, or use as a stepping stone to the 49er.

Dave Hall, Ovington Boats Sales Manager and all round 9er guru, says a major problem is the lack of a boat girls can sail after the 29er. “Once they leave 29er sailing they really have nowhere to go. They usually want to keep sailing a high performance asymmetric boat and there are very few boats that fit the bill,” he explains. The 29erXX does seem well suited to this market and its possible Olympic role. With a predicted average crew weight of 120kg compared to the 470 where the women are usually between 125kg and 135kg it seems like it could be easily taken up by female Olympians.

Compared to the 29er the 29erXX rig is not actually a great deal bigger. The main and jib are 2.5m 2 larger and the spinnaker a more significant 4.5m 2 bigger. Although this is not a dramatic increase in sail area Hall has been out sailing in light winds in the boat on several occasions and says that he was twin wiring in eight to ten knots.

What is particularly nice about the 29erXX is that it uses the 29er hull with no modifications. This means that younger sailors will be able to buy a 29er and then at a later date upgrade to the 29erXX rig - a much more affordable option than buying a new boat. This is a system that has been used before and has proved very popular and is probably most prominent in the Laser, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 range.

Updated Mirror

Also in the category of old boat new rig at the show was the classic Mirror. After many years of not much change, the class has all of a sudden radically upgraded its image: The gaff rig of old is going and the class has changed to a much more modern Bermuda style rig (left.) As if unhappy with this one huge change, the class is also making the move to a centre main sheet.
The Bermuda rig has been approved by the International Mirror Class Association, has yet to be officially approved by ISAF, but the feeling is very much that it will be and its official sanctioning should come at some time in the next week. In fact the class were hoping to have the decision to be able to announce it at the show.

To ensure that people have time to adjust to the new rig Peter Aitken, the RYA's Mirror coach, says that the mast will not be legal until the 1 August 2006 when the major events of the year have finished. This will allow six months of practice with the new rig before the next major event, the World Championships in South Africa in January 2007.

Aitken does not believe the new rig will be significantly faster than the old gaff rig, if at all. “There will be less windage than the old mast and gaff configuration and it is lighter because you do not have the overlap but there is no other difference. It is more a modernising and ease of use decision than anything else,” he explains.

The decision to go to a centre main was not performance related either: “We have gone to centre main sheeting mostly because there are almost no other boats that have aft sheeting. The centre main should help the transition to other boats come a little easier. The Australians have been doing it for several years and reverting to aft sheeting for the Worlds,” says Aitken.

Another feature of the Mirror being shown on the youth stand was a gnav, but Aitken does not think this will be used as the only reason you would use it would be to open up more space in the cockpit for bigger crews. This is fine in theory but as the Mirror has no spreaders the gnav forces a lot of bend into the middle section of the mast and this is exactly what you don’t want, especially if you are a bigger crew.


The Mirror was not the only older boat that had been updated at the show, also on view was the new very modern looking Tasar. The Tasar fleet, after discussions with Frank Bethwaite, have moved away from the old Dacron sails, designed along with the boat in the 1970s and are now sporting a new Mylar rig. This looks more 29er than anything else, probably due in part to their being designed by McDiarmid and Bethwaite and manufactured by Neil Pryde as per the 9er range.

Tim Knight - European Class President - was present on the Tasar stand all weekend and was chatting to anyone who would listen about an effective class revolution. Knight lived for some time in Japan and sailed Tasars over there and upon his return to the UK he found the fleet had lost its way and numbers were dwindling. The class is now back on the up after an extensive overhaul and the plan is for the UK fleet to significantly improve their performance on the International scene.

“One of the big things we have done is to make class membership free to try to encourage sailors to join. To keep some revenue coming in we have changed to a sail tax of ten pounds. This system is like the Etchells use and means for every suit of sails sold the class gets ten pounds,” explains Knight. Since they adopted the system class memberships have increased significantly and numbers at events are also starting to look up.

Another change to the class has been the arrangement of the National Championship. Previously the fleet had a very traditional week long event but as Knight says no one really has the time for that any more. They have now moved to a three day weekend event where there is as much racing as possible. The current plan is for racing to kick off at 3pm Friday afternoon with another race as soon as possible after that and as much racing as possible over the remaining two days.

Of course one of the main concerns with changing a boat significantly is that you risk alienating half the fleet who can not afford to buy a brand new suit of sails, but Knight is adamant that this will not be the case. “I do not believe that the new sails are particularly faster in a straight line, but they are easier to handle and being see-through they are easier to sail with as well. My crew no longer cleats the jib as she can see the leech and is able to constantly adjust it. So although they are not much quicker you can probably sail the boat quicker with them. Also they will probably seem quicker because as is always the case the people at the front of the fleet will buy them first so I have no doubt that you will largely see new sails at the front of the fleet but older sails will still be competitive,” he states.

The new sails for the Tasar (right) are roughly the same size as the old ones but the jib is a little bigger and the main a little smaller. The class has kept its rotating rig. This they felt was very important for two reasons: how much it helps the speed of the boat and it giving the boat its character. The new sails, rather surprisingly, cost £120 less than the old sails did even though they look more modern and expensive. Interestingly Knight says that the boat actually has smaller sails than a National 12 although official measurements do not reflect this. “The N12 sails are measured by triangulation and this does not include their roach. I have a National 12 and if I lay the new Tasar sails on top then you can see the National 12 sails around the edge,” he explains.

Low-flying boats

Hydro-foiling was again the name of the game on the International Moth stand, where the new Linton Jenkins and Adam May designed Mistress 3 (below) was featured. The boat features a number of refinements including a flatter hull and a harder chine running almost all the way to the bow as well as a central wand that increases the tack to tack symmetry of the foil adjustment. There are many other little things that have been tweaked and Jenkins will be going into detail about both the new Moth and some of his other projects here soon.

The other Moth at the boat show was Rohan Veal’s Ronstan-sponsored boat, or at least at first glance it was. The boat, it turned out was Simon Propper’s and had been made-up to look like Veal’s new Moth. We would like to say that we were observant enough to see through the disguise but fortunately it was pointed it out to us.

Foiling was not just limited to the International Moth stand this year as the new M4 made its Dinghy Show debut. Photos of the boat were at the show last year and after some refinements and some changes the boat was on display and drawing a reasonable crowd. Designed by Simon Maguire, it is an attempt to make foiling available to the wider sailing world. The boat is still in development and there are a few areas Maguire wishes to improve, one being the performance of the boat in waves. Because it uses the same wand system the Moths use when there are waves the foils are constantly adjusting themselves and this can make the boat tricky to sail.

The M4 is clearly designed to be less extreme than the Moth. It weighs 45kg - around 10kg heavier than the new Moths - and it features trimaran outrigger-style flotation pods on the wings. These offer extra stability when the boat is heeled over. It will be interesting to see if the less advanced sailor is ready to ‘go flying’ yet and if so whether this is the boat for them.

Redeye Solution

Another new dinghy at the show, though admittedly more traditional, was the Redeye Solution. This is designed to offer a powerful hiking singlehander to those in the 65kg-85kg weight range. There are a variety of boats already in this category, so the most obvious being the Laser and the Solution will have to perform well to stand a chance. Having said this the boat does seem to be well constructed and to all intents and purposes looks like a mini-Phantom - a popular boat itself. While many manufacturers are building singlehanded boats with trapezes and spinnakers or very simple boats for the beginner market it will be interesting to follow the progress of this more traditional boat.

The Ovington Flying Fifteen was sporting a new deck and interior layout which looked good and it is nice to see the boat continuing to change. It was however right next to a brand new Ovington International 14 which somewhat stole the limelight. There were, to our eye, no particularly new developments on it but it gets a mention here because it looked extremely desirable. Another thing of note included the two new radial cut Optimist sails by Speed Sails. As they are radial cut the sail shape can be played with a little more so one of the sails is designed for heavyweights and one for lightweights.


Away from the boats Musto had on display their entirely revamped range of dinghy sailing clothing. Central to the new range are some well specced and priced wetsuits which combine with new rash vests, dinghy boots and re-styled buoyancy aids and new colours for the dinghy smock and hi-fits.

What is impressive is that the new wetsuit range is available from a Junior Small size all the way up to a XXL. There are five women’s sizes - from 8 to 16. The long legged versions have been cleverly finished at the bottom of the leg so they can be neatly trimmed to the right length. The adult short arm 3mm wetsuit is priced at £79.99.

Two new wetsuits are the Breathable Summer and the Breathable Hiking Pant. Both feature ‘airflow neoprene’ which has small regular perforations through the material to help maintain a comfortable temperature. The Hiking Pants have beefy ‘battens’ in the back of the leg to help with sitting out.

The rash vest also come in a the full size range - mean Black and Silver for the men and Powder Blue and Soft Pink (complete with floral print detail) for the girls…Long sleeved are £19.95 and short sleeved £17.95.

It is almost impossible to include everything of interest at the Dinghy Show and there were a great deal of things that we did not do but would have liked to. The Holt Blow Boat challenge looked like a lot of fun for a £1 donation to the John Merricks Trust participants got a kit of building materials and made their own boats for racing. There was the radio controlled boat racing which is always good fun and throughout the day seminars given by top sailors on the main stage.

Another fantastic Dinghy Sailing Show has come to a close which can only mean one thing, the sailing season proper is about to kick off in the UK. Hopefully everyone got the kit that they need for a bargain at one of the many stands offering discounts and are feeling suitably inspired to put up with that first few months of chilly weather.

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