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For fun in good weather and survival in bad, a sea boat must cope well with breaking waves, recover fast from capsize, protect its crew, and be sturdy to avoid gear failure. Most small boats being made today are designed for a petrol or diesel motor and are pretty hard to move with oars, to the extent of being helpless if the propellor stops turning. Of course Kayarchy prefers boats which slip through the water so easily that a motor would be a burden. The big difference between a kayak and all other small boats is that the others are open boats, whereas the kayak is fully decked so that waves can surge over it but not fill it up. An open boat still needs open space for the crew to work sails or oars, so it can't be completely immune from flooding but you can go a long way towards keeping it moving in all conditions.
If a sea kayak capsizes you can roll it back up in a couple of seconds without getting much more than your head wet.
Uffa Fox, perhaps Britain's best-known designer of small boats, loved to fill a twelve-foot (3.65 metres) Firefly with buoyancy bags, find an equally reckless crewman and sail home through the worst sea and wind conditions the Isle of Wight had to offer.
The Laser is a very nice one-person boat, although to Uffa Fox it would have looked more like a sailing surfboard than a dinghy.
Ideally a dinghy will have just enough flotation, so the crew has plenty of space to sit and move around (2a), and when capsized the boat floats with the mast almost flat on the water (2b) so the buoyancy of the mast plus the resistance of the sail keeps it on the surface; and when the crew rights it after a capsize nearly all the water flows out of the open stern without bailing.
Offshore sailing in any high-performance racing dinghy is asking for trouble, because the rig has a high aspect ratio. A sailing dinghy for use on open water, other than very near a safe harbour or beach, must have a way to reduce its sail area at sea if the wind gets strong. It's a nice little dinghy for exploring but a bit slow for exposed coasts and the front is as flat as a boxer's nose. Some small sailing boats are capable of self-righting after a capsize, which is a great safety feature but is usually achieved by attaching a lump of lead to the bottom. When rowing you use all your muscles including the powerful ones in the legs, and you apply all this power using two long levers.
The most seaworthy rowing boat designs in America are tested in an open-water race, the Blackburn Challenge which goes 22 miles (35 km) round Cape Ann, Massachusetts. A good rowing boat like the Adirondack Guideboat above can be much faster than a sea kayak, and carry a heavier load. A kayaker would say that no small boat protects its crew from wind and spray the way a kayak does. Rowing boats are much less likely to capsize but any small boat can capsize through wave action. And of course when rowing a boat, you face the wrong way so you have to look over your shoulder a lot. Ireland's west coast is exposed to the full force of north Atlantic gales and their legacy of big waves. Curraghs can be seen in the old practice of harpooning basking sharks in the film Man of Aran (director Robert J Flaherty, 1934, re-released 1977).
All currachs are slim and very light for their size, and they are astonishingly cheap and quick to build using skin-on-frame construction.
Recreational curraghs are still coated with tar to protect the canvas and keep it waterproof. When a small currach gets to the beach, the crew flip it upside down, put it over their heads and walk up the beach like a four-legged beetle. Curraghs are superb sea boats but it takes two or more experts to row them in difficult conditions. When sailing schooners fished for cod in the stormy waters of the Grand Banks in the north Atlantic, they carried many little dory boats. A dory usually has high sides which keep its crew dry and make it excellent in rough water, but mean that in strong winds it will blow around like a weathercock unless weighted down with two crew and a hundred kilos of cod. These boats evolved in America in the 18th and 19th centuries from a mixed heritage in which it is possible to trace the Canadian canoe, the Banks dory and others.
Some, for example the Whitehall boat, closely resemble the smaller boats carried aboard sailing ships of European navies. The Adirondack Guideboat sketched at the start of this section has a low rowing position and is more seaworthy than a Whitehall boat of equivalent size. Typically about 4.9 metres long and 1 metre wide, they are just wide enough for a decent pair of oars without the need to put the rowlocks on outriggers, although you do have to cross your hands during the stroke.
Guideboats are narrow at the waterline so they are easily driven but have low initial stability.
Many daring coastal journeys have been made in the USA in similar boats rowed by one or two people. And although it is beyond most people's resources, we have to mention one of the most beautiful, the slim 6.7 metre faering which was excavated from the Viking ship burial at Gokstad, Norway.
Touring shells, also called recreational shells, are about 5.5 metres long for a one-person boat. Touring shells usually have unsinkable hulls made of plastic composites, like a skinny version of the International Laser dinghy. A touring shell's sliding seats and outrigged oars give it real speed but the outriggers make it hard to get in and out, except alongside a dock of exactly the right height. Detailed chapters on manoeuvring, upwind and downwind technique, care and maintenance, body weight and nutrition and sailing theory. Check out RYA eBooks to see how we're using the latest technology to make our books more interactive. In theory all the boats are identical, sails and rigs are strict one-design as are the foils and fi ttings.
Paul was Ben Ainslie’s training partner for the 2000 Olympics, going on to qualify for the 2004 Games where he fi nished a painful fourth. While Beijing was all about being light, Goody has focussed on bulking up for Weymouth to ensure he is more competitive in stronger winds. Every month Y&Y features expert advice about how to perfect your sailing technique, the very best marine photography, boat tests and the latest sailing news for competitive racers.
Sign me up to receive emails on the latest news, exclusive offers and competitions to your inbox. We have a fabulous, safe resource in the creek and dinghies are a natural route for aspiring sailors into the sport.
All our training courses use the clubs own fleet of modern Laser PICO dinghies, but other types of dinghy are most welcome to join in all dinghy sailing activity.
The dinghy group meets throughout the season to develop sailing skills, race around some cans and generally have a good time.


LSYC accepts no responsibility for loss of life or injury to participants or others or for loss or damage to vessel. They have given a whole generation the impression that rowing, paddling and sailing are difficult and possibly dangerous when in fact they're good exercise and a real pleasure. It's hard to beat a sea kayak because you can put it on the roof-rack, drive to somewhere nice, go afloat for a few hours without pollution or scaring off the wildlife, and go back home. You can fill it up with inflatable buoyancy bags as in this Canadian canoe, or install airtight buoyancy chambers doubling as seats along both sides of the boat and in the bow. Other boats usually require a soaking-wet crew to get into a position where, by hauling on a rope, they can roll the boat back upright and scramble in. To make progress against or across a strong wind you need either lots of power or a low, streamlined profile. She's really much too too heavy to be on this website, but she does have her own page because she's beautiful! Probably the best introduction to the subject of small boats which can be both rowed and sailed. Eleven editions between 1878 and 1913, and still the reference work on classic yachts and sailing canoes. If you have a light and seaworthy rowing or sailing boat which you built yourself, we'd love to see pictures. The hull is only about 35 cm deep and completely covered with a moulded deck in which there is a small depression, like a shower tray, for the sailor's feet.
This is great except in designs which have too much flotation so they float very high, making it difficult for a crewman in the water to reach the centreboard and urging the mast underwater into a full capsize (1). Their masts are too tall for safety in high winds and can't be taken down to make safe progress under oars. You can't do that with many commercial dinghies although older Mirror dinghies have a gunter rig, which means a short permanent mast which doubles in height when you put the sail up. They are available new or second hand, or you can join the traditional sail revival and build your own like the Laïta design shown here.
It rows surprisingly well for a short sailing dinghy and can be sailed by one or two adults. Rather than cut through steep, choppy waves, it slams into them and is therefore wet and slow when sailing to windward on exposed water. A nice boat, difficult to capsize even if you accidentally let go of both sheet and tiller during a strong gust (done that) but it's getting a bit big and heavy to haul up a strange beach in gathering darkness, and it has a tall one-piece mast so you can't take down the top half in windy conditions. An honourable mention for Eric Coleman's Roamer design which is an ordinary 4.25 metre family sailing dinghy except that it has watertight buoyancy tanks extending above the usual deck level, 34 kilos of lead attached to the bottom and a metal centreplate weighing a further 36 kilos. Pure rowing boats are not stable enough to carry a sailing rig, but see Rowing-Sailing Boats. An experienced sea kayaker is quite happy in a Force 4, can make progress in a Force 5, and for a time can go in a Force 6.
A kayaker can roll straight back up - the crew of a rowing boat is, at best, in for a frantic couple of minutes.
Unless you stand up to row like a Maine lobsterman in his peapod or you fit the ingenious Frontrower system designed by Ron Rantilla. Easier to find and a lovely film itself is The Secret Of Roan Inish (director John Sayles, 1994) where you can see a curragh under oars on calm water.
For a curragh, that means a framework of long, thin wood battens covered with 12-18 oz cotton canvas.
Roofer's liquid bitumen has been tried because you can buy it anywhere at a reasonable price, but it tends to shrink and pull the skin away from the frame. Most currachs have very high rocker to help them rise over steep waves, often to the extent of looking like a black banana. For cheap construction and efficient storage on the schooner's deck, the dories were built with a wide flat bottom, high flaring sides, and a tall thin transom which slopes sharply backwards.
Some kept the simple cross-section of the Banks dory which consists of just three straight lines.
Seen at a rally of traditional boats in the Golfe du Morbihan, France, the boat in the foreground is a fast, elegant rowing boat. The images on this page don't do justice to the Guideboat (sorry) which is one of the most beautiful small boats.
Strong side winds are a problem for them, but they can make good upwind progress because rowing is much more effective than paddling. The St Lawrence River Skiff has almost the same cross-section as the Adirondack Guideboat and is often the same length but has also been made in longer versions, some as much as 7 metres long.
They look like the rowing skiffs used for flat water racing but are intended for use on open water so their hulls are a bit wider and more stable. The Laser has fewer rig controls than the Finn, for example, keeping the cost of the boat to a minimum. That fi red his hunger and he went into the 2008 Games in great form, with wins in the 2006 and 2007 test regattas behind him.
A lot will depend on the conditions in Weymouth: if it’s light, Goody is favoured, windy and it’s a different story, but he will be on home turf and if he is feeling fresh, then the gold is his for the taking.
An even better alternative for plastic boats is to install a hull liner so that the bottom of the cockpit is near or above water level.
A sailing yacht will (God willing) roll itself back up thanks to a large lump of lead bolted to the bottom but a yacht falls outside our definition of small boat because the owner of even the smallest needs a road trailer, a slipway and probably some assistance to launch and recover it. The answer is often a traditional working boat design, with a few adaptations because most working boats were designed not just to be safe on open water but to carry a heavy load. Mainly about using small boats at sea but also tells how to build a curragh on a beach with minimum tools.
It can be rowed by one or two, has excellent rough water performance under oars, and sails well in moderate winds. It was extremely popular for many years but was replaced by 4.23 metre fibreglass International Laser shown below. When sailing, the sailor spends 95% of the time sitting on the outer edge of the deck, leaning backwards as a counterbalance to the wind in the sail, and often with his or her backside dragging in the water.
Just look at the carnage when any national dinghy sailing championship is hit by Force 5 gusts.
On a traditional small sailing boat, the short mast can usually be lifted out of its socket and laid down horizontal in seconds.
Awkward if home or safety lie to windward, but somebody has sailed one from Wales to the Black Sea.


If there is too much or too little wind, you can drop the sail and gaff, and get the oars out.
The solution is either Tuskar Tar if you can get it, or a mix of hot coal tar and natural pitch from pine trees, sold as Stockholm tar or Archangel tar. The hull cross-section is remarkably rounded, showing that it is intended for rowing, not sailing.
The shower had passed over and the wind had fallen but large, magnificently brilliant waves were rolling down on us at right angles to our course.
The design meant that one dory would nest in another and they could be stacked half a dozen high, like empty crates. It has a vertical stem with a very fine, knife-shaped entry, and a wineglass-shaped stern.
At first glance it looks like a Canadian canoe with oars, but it has the flat bottom plank of a dory and a knife-shaped bow and stern recalling the bow of a Whitehall boat. Extra length rather than extra width gives them enough weight and stability to sail well on open water, if the sail is small and the crew are careful. However they are still less than 1 metre wide, which is about the minimum distance between rowlocks, so as with rowing skiffs the rowlocks have to be on the end of metal frames bolted to the sides of the hull (outriggers). It is designed to disintegrate progressively if excessive force is applied to it, for example if the shell is capsized by wave action, so that the hull is not damaged.
Designed by Bruce Kirby in 1969, the Laser is by far the most widely-sailed Olympic dinghy, with over 200,000 boats having been built. Traditional sailing rigs include the gaff with a high peak, and the crab claw rig as at Other Multihulls For Exposed Waters. A strong wind affects a one-person or two-person rowing boat more than a kayak because the rowing craft have higher sides and a less streamlined profile. A sea kayak could quite easily get out through this wave, but to tackle it in a small open rowing boat means a risk of swamping, capsize, lost equipment, broken oars and fractured ribs. This highly efficient unit can be fitted to Canadian canoes and similar boats up to 1.1 metres wide.
Every instant the steersman whirled us around with a sudden stroke of his oar, the prow reared up and then fell into the next furrow with a crash, throwing up masses of spray.
It is fast, particularly with two people rowing, but with its high sides and high rowing position and slim bow it is not suitable for really exposed waters. Guideboats were designed for fishing guides to take a single client out onto lakes after trout. However they have high secondary stability from the outward flare of the sides of the hull.
Twenty-seven years after its debut as a car-toppable ‘Weekender’, the ubiquitous singlehander made its fi rst Olympic appearance at Savannah in 1996.
The catch is that to be really seaworthy they still have to be quite heavy, but we mention the Roamer sailing dinghy and Scandinavian-style sailing canoes.
You can change position, spread out, drop anchor, do some fishing, pour a glass of wine, relax and enjoy fine weather.
Light rowing boats without ballast are often hard to control by the time the wind reaches Force 4.
We were recently told that coal tar is banned in the Republic of Ireland because it is carcinogenic, but curragh builders are still permitted to import it. As it did so the stern in its turn was thrown up and both the steersman, who let go of his oar and clung with both hands to the gunnel, and myself, were lifted high above the sea. To see them in action, see the classic film Captains Courageous (Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, 1937). The cross-section was made rounder and the flat bottom narrowed to a single plank, which produced some very nice rowing-sailing dories . They had to be light so as to be easily carried from lake to lake, and fast enough to satisfy a rich, demanding client from the city. The legendary Brazilian sailor Robert Scheidt won gold at that Games and went on to become the most successful Laser sailor ever, winning eight world titles, a silver in 2000 and a second gold in 2004. Four times European champion, he won the worlds in 2009 – a year in which he dominated the class and was probably his best yet. And he also built himself a version of the Gokstad faering, for a 1100 mile rowing trip along the Inside Passage to Juneau, Alaska. The addition of ballast such as a load of camping equipment, food and water goes a long way towards curing this. This makes them manoeuvrable in rough water and means that if they get hit from the side by a breaking wave, they slide sideways rather than tripping up and capsizing.
The wave passed, we regained our course and rowed violently for a few yards, then the same manoeuvre had to be repeated.
There are many stories of lost dories which survived a night in an Atlantic winter gale and were picked up by the schooner the next day with the one- or two-man crew nearly dead of cold. Reflecting the worldwide spread of the Laser, which is sailed in 140 countries, the men’s singlehanded dinghy will be the largest class at the 2012 Olympic regatta with 40 boats and the 2012 world championship saw an entry of 180 boats from over 30 countries.
He then took some time off to sail bigger boats (mostly a Melges 32) to ensure he didn’t get stale before the Olympics. As we worked out into the sound we began to meet another class of waves, that could be seen for some distance towering above the rest. The smaller Radial sail has increased in popularity since its introduction in the 1980s, and replaced the Europe as the women’s singlehanded dinghy for the 2008 Olympics.
Last year he was third in the Sail for Gold Regatta, third in the Pre-Olympics, fi nishing the event on a high by winning the medal race – it was enough to give him the Laser Olympic berth ahead of young Nick Thompson. The Radial uses the same hull and fi ttings as the standard Laser, but has a smaller, differently cut sail and shorter lower mast section. He was a respectable fi fth in the worlds in Perth and 2012 has started well, with a first in Miami and a second in Palma. The steersman began crying out in Gaelic 'Siubhal, siubhal' ('Run, run') and sometimes, when the mass was gliding towards us with horrible speed, his voice rose to a shriek.



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