Saturday, April 25, 2015

Header Photo: Sabre Dinghy and the Return of the Retro Singlehanders

The previous header photo is of Aussie Matt Kiely sailing the Australian singlehander Sabre class dinghy. The photo was lifted from the South Gippsland Y.C.Facebook page.

Probably the major trend in dinghy racing over the last 30 or so years has been the growth of singlehanded racing at the expense of doublehanded or triplehanded classes. And the trend since the millenium has been the explosive comeback of  what I call the retro hiking singlehanders; those other singlehanded classes designed before, or around the date of the introduction of the Laser (1969). For the most part, these classes are not international (excepting the OK Dinghy and Europe Dinghy); they are popular country-by-country or region, and they attract fleets of thirty, forty or more boats at major championships. They have a builder or two turning out modern hulls, some have carbon masts, many have aluminum. They seem to fill a need in the marketplace that the Laser does not.

I have compiled a list of retro singlehanders. I have excluded the Olympic Finn - 1949 (which has a huge Masters scene) and singlehanders with hiking assists (trapeze, sliding seat). Feel free to add your thoughts about this list in the comments section. (Before the Sunfish sailors jump all over me for excluding the Sunfish from the list - let me state the Sunfish has maintained high levels of popularity in parts of North America and parts of South America for many, many years - I don't see a comeback in popularity - they just maintained it.):
  • Solo (U.K.) - 1956 - aluminum mast, stayed rig, full battens
  • OK Dinghy (Den.) - 1957 - carbon mast, unstayed rig, short battens
  • Streaker (U,K.) - 1975 - aluminum mast, stayed rig, short battens
  • Phantom (U.K.) - 1971 - carbon mast, stayed rig, short battens
  • Lightning 368 (U.K.) - 1977 - carbon mast, unstayed rig, short battens
  • Sabre (Aus.) - 1974 - aluminum mast, stayed rig, full battens
  • Impulse (Aus.) -1975 - aluminum mast, stayed rig, full battens
  • O-Jolle (Ger.) - 1933 - aluminum mast, stayed rig, short battens
  • Larken-Klasse (Ned.,Ger.) - 1920's - wood mast, stayed rig, full battens 
  • Europe Dinghy (Moth) - 1960 - carbon mast, unstayed rig, short battens
  • Zephyr (NZ) - 1956 - aluminum mast, stayed, full battens
Despite the recent introduction of the "modern" RS Aero, or Devoti D-Zero, with lightweight hulls, mylar sails (correction - the Aero has dacron sails), carbon rigs, it seems the singlehanded market is marching in the other direction. (I must admit the North American market is an anomaly here with not a lot of singlehanded classes under the Laser - still king by a long-shot-, and the Sunfish - a solid runner-up, The other singlehanded classes in North America - like my Classic Moth - are mustering small numbers...Oops! I forgot about the MC scow, now very popular in the U.S.)


Paul Mullings said...

The Zephyr has full battens ;)

Tweezerman said...


Thanks for pointing that out. Sheesh, I knew that but was a little foggy this morning when I typed up the post.

Tillerman said...

Great post.

By the way the RS Aero has Dacron sails, not Mylar.

Tweezerman said...


Thanks for the correction. Will update the post. When I saw the Aero at the Annapolis Sailboat Show, the sails were not attached.

James Driver said...

Have to say a big thanks for this post - I'm getting into sailing and was struggling to find a design (at a reasonable price) that would suit me. 6'1" and 90 - 100 kg. Was originally looking into 16' catamarans (the Mosquito) but they're too wide for my storage capacity. I've just last week bought a second-hand Impulse. I think it was this post that alerted me to its existence - so again, thanks!

Tweezerman said...


No prob mate. One of these days I need to do a post on the Impulse. Great sailing dinghy.