Tag Archives: sailing dinghy

The proper proportion of salt in his veins that a British boy ought to have

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The sort of dinghy we’re told a boy should have. Now
that part seems fair enough!

Have you got the proper proportion of salt in your veins?

These days they say too much salt in your veins causes osmotic pressure leading to raised blood pressure, which leads ultimately to end-organ damage. But it wasn’t always like this, and certainly not when they were busy bringing up the breed that led men into the dreadful battles of World War 1.

I’ve been reading The Complete Yachtsman by B Heckstall-Smith and E Du Boulay, first published in 1912. Much of what it has to say is sensible and reasonable. For example, there’s a great section on the draftsmanship involved in yacht designing. All in all, I’m pleased I invested in a copy.

Nevertheless, there are some bits that bear all the hallmarks of 1912. Take this priceless paragraph on teaching a boy to row, for example:

‘If a boy is of the right sort, with the proper proportion of salt in his veins that a British boy ought to have, he will soon get to love his little craft and a steady development in his character and improvement in his health will be visible to all who know and watch him; for there is no sport in the world that brings out all that is best in a man like that of learning to use the sea for his playground; judgement, courage, and especially self-reliance, are learned there as they can be nowhere else. In all other branches of sport, when a lad or a man feels he has had enough of it he can generally retire. Not so at sea; if he should be caught out in a squall he must fight his way back himself, using his brain to set one force of nature against another to his advantage, and not until the fight is over, and the boat is safe in some shelteredwater, can he rest or retire. This is why the sea so often makes men of boys, and heroes of men.’

Can’t you just smell the tanned leather, liniment and pipe-smoke in that voice? Pass the port Heckstall-Smith, and damn and blast the foreigners.

Copies of The Complete Yachtsman may be obtainable via ABE Books – I’ve been told there are lots around in second-hand bookshops, but the one I have is the first I can recall having seen.

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John Welsford’s new Pilgrim 16ft open cruising boat design

It’s entirely a matter of coincidence, but John Welsford has also been weblogging the design of boat  – though his could hardly be different from my little skiff.

Pilgrim is a small seaworthy open cruising boat light enough to be managed by one person on the beach, but fitted with removable ballast. It has a rounded and balanced hull form that allows it to heel without wanting to turn – in that way, it’s more like a yacht than modern dinghy, even if it is dinghy-sized.

(For those who don’t immediately understand this last point, I should explain that the now conventional sailing dinghy form that encourages planing when sailing usually also makes a boat that pulls round into the wind when heeled. Yachts however are generally designed to remain easy to steer as they heel, because there’s usually no way of ensuring they can be sailed flat – some obvious exceptions are high-tech boats with moveable ballast and heavy keels that swing sideways such as Mini-Transats and Open 60s.)

John’s project is interesting not least because I can’t recall anything recent that’s quite like it, but also, I think, because its rounded hull bears at least a little resemblance to the beach fishing boats that have been used on the South Coast of England for generations, and I’d guess that at least some of John’s design criteria have something in common with the needs of the crews of those little boats – which one might say was a matter of convergent evolution.  Notice the cute bowsprit designed to maximise the rig area to match the powerful hull, and the long shallow keel that becomes deeper the further aft you go. The rather misleading name for this feature is ‘drag’, by the way, but don’t let that confuse you.

I do hope John himself doesn’t think I’m talking complete nonsense!

I wonder what the members of the Uk’s dinghy cruising movement will think about it? My only concern is that I think rowing it will be hard work – but with a big rig, perhaps that won’t be necessary very often in John’s sailing area.

Click here to follow the Pilgrim project’s progress.

Two dinghy classics from Ian Proctor’s drawing board – the Kestrel and the Osprey

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Ian Proctor’s Kestrel dinghy

Kestrel, the UK’s first all-glass reinforced plastic sailing dinghy


The 15ft 6in Kestrel was the UK’s first all-GRP sailing dinghy. The first plastic Kestrel appeared at the London Boat Show in 1956 and created a lot of favourable comment in the plastics magazines – but rather less in the yachting press, which could not quite trust the new material. However, when builders began to apply strict quality control, the boat became more popular.

Even today, the Kestrel is quite a quick boat – for racing purposes its Portsmouth Yardstick is a healthy 1038 – but Proctor designed her to be as suitable for cruising as for racing. As he pointed out, although the boat did not look like a racer at first glance, a number of subtle refinements including a sloping stem profile, deep hull, firm bilges and a long run enabled it to sail fast even in rough water.

The boat is still sailed and raced, and there is a Kestrel Class Association.

Ian Proctor Osprey dinghy

Ian Proctor Ospreys

Ospreys planing with their crews on trapezes


Designed in 1953 as a contender for the Olympics, in trials the 17ft 5in Osprey was pipped at the post by Continue reading Two dinghy classics from Ian Proctor’s drawing board – the Kestrel and the Osprey