Friday, 4 May 2012

Minisail ownership

We have all ended up sailing Minisails for different reasons, and come about it in different ways - this is how I ended up where I am today...

I bought my first Minisail (actually a Minisprint, with the self draining cockpit and built in sliding seat support) back in the late 1980’s, and sailed her for a while off the coast of Wales in the Irish sea. The waves there come straight in from the Atlantic, and can make for a wild ride. Being washed off the seat, and, if lucky, keeping hold of tiller extension and seat webbing, and clawing oneself back on board again, is an experience I’ll never forget, but the boat needed space and steady winds to be such fun, so when I moved away from the coast, she had to go.
            It was about 10 years later that I bought my next Minisail, this time a yellow decked GRP Monaco design with a wooden bolt-on seat. By now I was sailing at Whitefriars SC, a small lake situated on the Cotswold Water Park, north of Swindon, and I have to admit, I found the boat nice to sail without the seat getting in the way.
            I was also sailing with the recently formed Classic and Vintage Racing Dinghy Association (cvrda), who luckily have a very relaxed attitude to GRP boats. Normally I sailed my Firefly, but I took the Minisail to a few meetings. The one that stands out in my memory was a fantastically windy cvrda National Rally at Roadford Lake in Devon. Upwind, the silly bendy rig, stretchy sail and narrow hull (really should have put the seat on for this event!) made for very hard work, but bear off onto the reach and it all became worth it – spray everywhere, passing much bigger boats as though they were standing still – boating heaven!
            Shortly after this, I found that I had too many boats, and (in retrospect, foolishly) decided to sell the Minisail.
            And so another decade passed…
            Thoughts during the period of non-minisail ownership often drifted back to the delights of the scow, but I was happy sailing Fireflies, British Moths, Lightning 368’s, Tonics and various other craft. However, browsing through an internet boat mart in the Autumn of 2010, I spotted a wooden Minisail for sale, for a crazy low price. Well, I had to go and see it, didn’t I? I got there expecting a bit of a wreck, really, and came away with an immaculate Sprite design Minisail.
            The boat, No3446, dates from the early 1970’s. She had been used for a few years, then put in a garage in the early 80’s, and not used since. Apart from a small patch of lifted varnish, the hull was perfect. The sail, however, was a mess. Just a huge stretched Nylon bag. going upwind was impossible, with the sail so stretched it was too long to even fit on the boom properly. A new, stiffer boom, made from a section of old mast, solved that problem, and an order went in with a local sailmaker, R&J sails, for a new main. Fittings were replaced by ones which actually worked, but were kept simple, in the style of the originals.
            In the spring of 2011 the new sail arrived, a beautiful red and white striped creation. Suddenly, the boat felt as nice to sail upwind as down. After a few races at Whitefriars, it was time to take her on the road. Llyn Clywedog, in West Wales, is a glorious expanse of water created in 1969 as a reservoir. It is surround by mountains, making the strong winds swirl in interesting ways! The Minisail, with her stable, flat bottomed early planning hull form, turned out to be the ideal boat for the water. As I’d found all those years before, the pain of upwind was worth it for the rush down the reaches, and the adrenalin filled gybes.
           Back to Whitefriars for the cvrda Nationals, and whilst the wide open spaces were missing, the wind was still there, and the reaches were still just as much fun! Winning the Nationals in such a simple boat, on home waters, was a great feeling.

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