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Two Man Dinghy Trials at La Baule 1953

This report appeared in Osprey Class Magazine December 1998 but the article is from Yachting World Annual 1954.
It was researched by Mike Smith of Hornsea SC and was kindly typed by Elaine Cleminshaw.

Trials were organised in 1952 by the IYRU to help in the selection of a new class of centreboard boat for sailing with a crew of two in international and Olympic competition. The trials were held in Holland and further semi-official trials took place later at Itchenor. As a results of both these the new 19ft 6in Flying Dutchman was chosen as a new International class for inland waters, but her performance on the sea was not considered convincing enough to merit her unrestricted choice as an all-round inland and sea boat.

The 1952 trials were therefore judged to be inconclusive and further series were held in 1953. These were arranged by the Federation Francaise du Yachting a Voile to tak eplace on August 22-28 at La Baule, near St. Nazaire. The Cercle Nautique de la Baule was the host club and treated all the competitors to unrivalled hospitality. Detailed arrangements were made under the efficient management of Jean Peytel, France’s representative on the IYRU Small Boat Committee.
Although open to the Bay of Biscay on the south-west, the large shallow bay of La Baule is sheltered in the prevailing, north-westerly winds. Strong south-westerly winds, however, blew for the first of the three days and brought with them big seas. The rest of the time there was short popple, except for the last day, when the water was really smooth.

There were eight British boats in the trials, seven French, two Dutch and one Italian. The British contingent was the 18ft Jollity designed and sailed by Uffa Fox, Coronet, 18ft, designed and sailed  by John Westell, 17ft 6in Osprey designed by Ian Proctor and sailed by Michael Goffe, Marianne, 27ft, designed by Claude Nethercote, Hornet, 16ft, designed by Jack Holt and sailed by Beecher Moore, Fleetwing, 14ft, designed by Uffa Fox and sailed by Charles Currey, the International 14 Thunderbolt designed by Austin Farrar and sailed by Jack Blundell and the Merlin Rocket Carolann designed by Jack Holt and sailed by Leslie Bain.

Of the seven French boats, four were straightforward Canetons. This is a restricted class of hard-chine boats, 16ft 6in long, rather like a beamy Hornet, but with about 1ft more beam and about 30sq ft of sail area;  there are over 1500 of them in France and they vary considerably in design. The other three French boats were all Caneton developments. The Canadel was lighter. The Flying Caneton sailed by Jacques Lebrun, Olympic single-hander helmsman in 1934 and 1952, was lighte and narrower on the waterline; the Point d’Interrogation, sailed by Roger Tiriau, was longer, lighter and had an extra 22sq ft of sail.

The two Dutch boats were both Flying Dutchman, and were the only boats of identical hull shape and sail plan competing. The Italian boat was sent more as a yardstick by which her countrymen could judge the performance of the other boats, than as a serious competitor. In her own waters she was sailed with three crewing and more sail for the predominantly light conditions. Even with her reduced sail area of 172sq ft and her rather heavy hull of 18ft, she was a handful in a blow and her weight kept her back on the planes. In light airs she went well.

The first race caused quite a lot of damage. Osprey, out on the starting line first, did not start at all, because in a postponement to wait for boats which were late, she lowered her mainsail and the wind caught it and jammed the halyard aloft. A Flying Dutchman broke her jib tack downhaul and could not set her jib to windward. Coronet broke something before the start, but got it repaired in time. Marianne broke her tiller and Fleetwing tore out a kicking strap attachment. Flying Caneton went whizzing by on the plane before the start, when the toestraps broke, depositing Lebrun and his crew in the sea – but they recovered and started in time.

This was the Hornet’s best race. She was firstat the mark, followed by Fleetwing and Coronet. Coronet took the lead on the reaches, with the Hornet second until she capsized just before finishing.

The second race was misleading. It was blowing hard when the crews went to rig their boats, but by the time they reached the start, the wind had dropped considerably and many had left their large sails ashore. The sea was rough and the boats wanted plenty of sail to drive them through it. Coronet was carrying her big jib and won.

On a reaching trial afterwards, the two Flying Dutchman did best, with Coronet next. Uffa Fox had his big jib up on Jollity and he finished fourth.

The next day it blew really hard, with 30-knot gusts and a big sea, which was not quite true to the gradually veering wind. One of the Flying Dutchmen was first and the other third, with Coronet second, Osprey, Marianne, the Hornet and the Merlin Rocket were the only boats to carry full mainsail. Osprey finished fourth and the Hornet to all intents and purposes won the time trial reaching afterwards, though because one of the boats went the wrong course on the second round, the trial was decided on the first round and the credit went to a Flying Dutchman. The Hornet had, however, sailed precisely the same course in shorter time and undoubtedly her self-draining cockpit had contributed much to her success. Officially, the Hornet was placed second in this race.

The following day there was a lighter wind and for the first time the Flying Dutchmen used their answer to the poor light-weather performance they had shown in the previous trials. This is a large jib of 80sq ft, so big that even in light airs the crew is usually out on the trapeze wire over the weather gunwale. However, Coronet won, with the two Flying Dutchmen next and Fleetwing fourth. In the time trial afterwards, on a beam reach, Coronet won again, with the Flying Dutchmen next and Osprey fourth, Marianne fifth.

The next race was in a moderate breeze with the Flying Dutchmen taking first and second places. The second race on this day was spoilt because some boats went the wrong course; Point d’Interrogation won. On the next day there was a light to moderate breeze for the first race, of which Coronet was the winner followed by one of the Flying Dutchmen and Osprey. For the last day there was a light wind and one of the Flying Dutchmen won the first race, followed by Coronet. The next race was in a still light wind and the Osprey was the winner, with Coronet again second and a Flying Dutchman third.

Taken all round, there was little to choose in performance between the Flying Dutchmen, Coronet and Osprey, though the two larger boats had the slight edge over Osprey to windward.

The Flying Dutchmen’s planning in strong winds was impressive, but Coronet appeared easier in a seaway and Osprey was fastest on the runs. At the conclusion of the trials, the Small Boat Committee made it known that they would recommend to the IYRU that the Flying Dutchman should be adopted as a sea as well as inland water Internation Class. As the Flying Dutchman was already an established class, it was obviously a wise decision, for her performance was good.
Ir remains to be seen whether a boat of this type will become popular in Britain, where our centre-boarders are expected to have a rather livelier “feel”.

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