If you are a newcomer to dinghy sailing, and are now ready to buy your first sailing dinghy, there are a few guidelines you need to follow.
Your first sailing dinghy will often be the reason you give up sailing as something only madmen do, or, it will convert you to a happy life of uncomfortable, cold, wet weekends.
As a novice sailor, it would be in your own best interests to buy a dinghy you can handle. For most people a dinghy in the 10 to 12 foot (3.05 to 3.6m) region will be suitable. There will be regional preferences, and it is recommended that you align with these tendencies. Yes, a Mirror dinghy is a very suitable dinghy in which to discover the joy and pleasure sailing can offer, but there is no sense in having to import one, or to travel hundreds of miles to collect one. There will probably be a class dinghy that is sailed locally that is equally suitable. In South Africa, for example, a similar sized dinghy to the Mirror dinghy is the Extra dinghy. If your local club has Extra’s, and there is one available at a reasonable price, take it.
Owning and sailing a dinghy that is popular locally will pay dividends, as other dinghy sailors with the same dinghy will be an invaluable source of information regarding, amongst other things, boat handling, trim, settings, and fitting out.
Your first sailing dinghy needs to be easy to sail, fairly stable, somewhat forgiving, and also be able to provide you with a certain amount of performance.
Buying a tub is never a good idea.
Heavy, wide dinghies with small low aspect ratio sail plans are great for people who want to relax in the sun while sailing, and who are able to cope with long periods of boredom. If your reason to sail is to have fun, and possibly compete in races sometime, buy a dinghy that will provide a few challenges.
At an international level, there are several dinghies that will provide a novice sailor with enough of a challenge to keep them interested, and enough performance to keep the novice thrilled. The Mirror dinghy is always a good choice. Laser’s are good, but can be tender, and even daunting in heavier wind conditions. The Topper is a good choice, as is the Cadet. There are also the Cherub, British Moth, GP14, 420, Enterprise, Hornet, OK dinghy, Phantom, Solo, Signet, and the Streaker. Any of these would be good choices.
As you become familiar with the dinghy, your ability to sail will improve, as will your pride in your ability to sail.
© copyright Tony Flanigan 31 December 2012