Through difficulty in finding a crew or preferring it, it suits some people to sail alone. Single handed dinghy sailing has a special pleasure and a challenge which some find uniquely satisfying. There are a number of single handed dinghy classes available and which class is the best depends on personal preferences, abilities and sailing venues.
Those who learn as juniors often do so in an Optimist or Topper, with the next step is towards a [ Laser ]. The Laser sailboat, designed by Bruce Kirby, has been the most successful sailing dinghy of our time and leading the way in making use of volume production.
A high-performance dinghy with the simplest possible layout with the aim of keeping it affordable and easy to manage was Bruce Kirby's vision. The mast is constructed from two lengths of aluminium tube, one length fitting into the other and no rigging. With the sail having a sleeve sewn into the forward edge, it slips over the mast and fitted into a hole in the deck. Daggerboard and rudder are solid plastic with the sheet, vang and Cunningham being the only adjustments.
The concept of a manufactured one-design is in effect ensuring that all boats sold are identical without the need for elaborate measurement procedures that are common to other classes. At major regattas, to achieve uniformity, competitors rent a new boat as part of their entry fee and then have the opportunity to buy after the event. This concept ensures that racing a Laser is fair competition and only personal ability is the deciding factor. Ultimate endorsement for this concept was when the Laser was adopted for Olympic competition in 1996.
No matter how fair a sailing race is constructed, it is impossible to handicap for a particular type of boat to favour people of a particular physique. Top Laser competitors, for example, tend to be tall, athletic and weigh at least 10 stone (65 kg).
Smaller dinghies, such as the [ Moth ] or its derivative, the [ Europe ] , are suitable for shorter, lighter individuals while larger built crews tend to incline towards the Finn, being a dinghy where strength and stamina are important.
Several manufacturers are marketing single handers slightly smaller and cheaper than the Laser in an effort to capture what is known as the 'club' market with the [ Splash ] , [ Byte ] , [ Blaze ] and [ Pico ] being examples.
The Laser itself offers a low-cost entry route with one of the reduced-sized rigs such as the [ Laser Radial ] . A benefit of this alternative is that you can trade up to a full-sized rig without changing boat.
Simplicity holds no appeal for some people, who seek a range of more advanced and complex single handers such as the [ Contender ] . Planned as a replacement for the Olympic [ Finn ] dinghy, it proved to be an advanced concept too radical for the sports administrators to agree on. Having a big single sail and a trapeze it presents challenges in a strong breeze, especially downwind sailing.
Sailing a single handed trapeze dinghy requires skill, agility and coordination rather than strength and is suitable for a sailor of medium build. The helmsman balances the power of the rig by trapezing fully extended over the side while steering the boat with a long tiller extension. These boats are demanding on a windy reach when synchronization of body weight, helm and sheet are needed to keep balance and avoid a disastrous 'death roll'.
The modern design in single handed dinghies tends toward dinghies with a narrow hull and outriggers with an example of the [ RS600 ] with the helmsman trapezing from a substantial outrigger. Having an epoxy foam sandwich hull, carbon fibre mast for lightness and an enormous Mylar sail gives the boat a highly favourable power-to-weight ratio.
One of the most extreme small-boat designs is also one of the oldest, the [ International Canoe ] that was developed in the 1930s by Uffa Fox and others. 10 Square Metre refers to the maximum permitted sail area, while the design of the hull and equipment is optional. The international canoe was developed from canoes rather than small sailing boats making them narrow and light. To obtain stability, a plank was fixed across the hull so the helmsman was able to ‘sit out’. Further designs made the plank movable extending out to either side.
The International Canoe is a specialist’s single handed dinghy with a multiplicity of rig and tuning controls calling for a deal of skill and finesse. The International Canoe can be the fastest single hulled boat on the water and has been referred to as a one-hulled catamaran'.
Single handed dinghies such as the 10 Square Metre Canoe or the RS600 are in the are unsuitable for most inland waters because of constricted waterways but there are suitable to the undemanding single handers as the Comet or [ Solo ] , which perform well with different sized helmsmen and are equally at home on the sea or a small lake.