12 metre Sharpies at Wells, Norfolk

12 metre Sharpie

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These 12 metre Sharpies were photographed at their national racing chapionships held at Wells in Norfolk a couple of weeks ago – the shots were sent in by intheboatshed.net regular Jim Van Den Bos.

‘Staying at Wells we stumbled onto a Sharpie championship. Very narrow boats and the steel boards are truly frightening. Apparantly once they capsize, they need to go ashore to be righted.

‘The  photos are from the Sunday when the boats were coming back in. On the Monday morning the weather was much nicer, but that day’s race turned out to be one of the slowest I’ve seen. Watching from the dunes at Holkham Bay I was at first amazed at how they were able to hold to the boats still at the start line – but then I realised  they had already started! The tide was stronger than the wind and some were going backwards.

‘In the end the first passed the windward mark 90 minutes after start. The full race results are here: British Sharpie Championship,Wells S.C. Norfolk, 18-20 June 2011.’

I’m not sure about Jim’s point about the steel boards – one of our family dinghies has one, and it hasn’t caused me any concern up to now – except the day the painter got jammed in the centreboard case and I couldn’t see how to go ashore!

The 12 metre Sharpie was designed in 1931 and was at its most popular in 1956, when it was a racing class at the Melbourne Olympics. The class is sailed competitively in the UK, Holland, Germany and Portugal using boats built to the original design – although I gather sail areas have increased from the original 12 square metres. Australians race a lighter-weight modified version they call the Australian Sharpie.

Edwin Schoettle on catboats, Gavin Atkin on what’s wrong with yachts and yachties

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Legendary catboat Silent Maid

Edwin Schoettle’s classic Sailing Craft published in 1928 is a fabulous big old book of nearly 800 pages – so I hope no-one will mind me posting a few of them. And perhaps my post will serve to keep the memory alight.

I’d like to explain why I’ve been thinking about the catboat lately.

I’ve complained for years that many yachties  motor or motor sail for much of the time and I’ve often wondered what the reason might be. Well, I’ve come to think that it isn’t laziness or a dislike of sailing. The reason why they’re reluctant to use their full sailplan is that they’re either sailing alone, or effectively doing so, and don’t want the fag of having to manage sails, winches and sheets as well as steer, navigate and keep a look out.  And because they’re not using their full sail plan their boats are slow without the help of its engine – and that’s why most yachties motor for much of the time.

Looked at another way, it’s because we’re using the wrong rigs.  Instead of the Bermudan sloop with a masthead rig, big foresail, winches and the rest, we could be using rigs that reduce the number of essential control lines to very few – the cat and the cat yawl.

Of course there’s a shortage of cat yawls outside of a few designers offering plans for relatively small boats aimed at the amateur builders, so I’ve been considering the experiences people have had with the catboat.

I’ve no experience with these boats and have no firm opinions to offer, but it’s interesting that Schoettle emerges as such a fan of the catboat. I’m inclined to think a modified form of catboat, perhaps one with the kind of capacious hull that’s long been normal in family cruising boats could be seriously useful to yachtsmen in the era of expensive fuel and growing environmental awareness.

Those who find it difficult to swallow the idea of the Bermudan sloop being replaced by a more old fashioned rig might thinking about the argument in a different way – instead of describing the cat or cat yawl rig of the future as being derived from historical yacht types or workboats, just think of them as big Lasers with heavy keels.

Read more about Silent Maid in a recent post at the weblog 70.8%.

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London Whalers explain how to row

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London Whalers at rest

The London Whalers have put up a page explaining how to row, and I like what they say. Feathering is optional but regarded as helpful in a headwind! Well, I do it sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. Either way, the site’s well worth a look.

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