Encouraging the sport at the grass roots

Published on January 6th, 2024

While the promotion of one design racing is the primary role of its class organization, the United Kingdom is also famous for its dinghy handicap events. It is a brilliant program, as having critical mass for one design boats is not always there for level racing, but their PY rating system always allows for the show to go on.

However, as one design classes evolve, there are equipment changes which are not all adapted by its membership. For the OK Dinghy Class, which is enjoying an international rebound from its initial launch in 1956, one of these changes occurred with the shift from metal to carbon masts.

For older OKs sailing with metal masts (‘tin rigs’), to help make them more competitive in club level handicap racing which is where 90% of UK dinghy sailing takes place, the UK OK Dinghy Class Association published an advisory handicap number under the RYA PY scheme to reflect the performance difference between the two masts.

“The new PY number is simply based on the relative performance on PY of a Laser to a metal masted OK Dinghy ‘back in the day’ and translated into the current PY handicap with reference to the current official RYA ILCA(Laser) official PY number,” noted Class Chair Karen Robertson.

“We’ve not tweaked it based on age as the OK design is proving one of those boats where fitting a modern carbon rig into a refurbished boat can make it very competitive even against new foam sandwich hulls.”

Below is a report recently published by the Class call Tin Rig Revival:

After a few years of growth culminating with British sailors winning both the 140+ boat World Championships and the 100+ boat European Championship, the British Class Association is planning on putting a significant part of its focus on developing the Class at grass roots and club level again.

With the run up to the 2023 Worlds seeing a large influx of sailors into the Class, the supply of mid-market boats remains tight as people who enjoyed the experience hang on to their boats with a view to participating in the fabulous locations that the major championships are visiting in the next few years.

These include the Worlds in Brisbane Australia in February 2024, with the 2024 Europeans being at the opposite end of the year in November at Palma Mallorca and the 2025 Worlds are at Lake Garda which promises to be an enormous and fun event.

To encourage the Class at grass roots, the Class has looked closely at how the Class has developed relative to other similar common classes. There is no doubt that the advent of modern carbon rigs has seen the OK get faster relative to that iconic benchmark of a boat, the ILCA/Laser, with the boats currently sailing off almost on the same PY number (1104 / 1101 respectively) with only 0.3% difference between them.

However, ‘back in the day’ when all OKs had metal masts, OKs were slower than the Laser with PYs of 118 and 114 respectively which was a 6.3% difference in relative performance.

While many classes have published recommended PY figures for ‘classic’ boats based on sail numbers, the OK Class Association felt that this approach was not appropriate for the OK with its proven ability for older hulls to be refurbished, fitted with a modern carbon rig and still be competitive. Indeed, it has not been uncommon for 30+ year old boats with modern rigs to be at the top of the fleet even at the highest level.

With that in mind, the Class Association is proposing a recommended PY number for metal masted OKs of 1134 based on comparison of the historical PY data between the OK (1104/118) and Laser (1101/114), adjusted down slightly to be the current PY number of 1104 plus 30 to make it simpler to remember in the dinghy park.

When clubs make their annual PY returns, they should distinguish between ‘standard’ OKs and ‘metal masted’ OKs so that the number can be refined over time.

The Class Association hopes that this will help make the older OKs with ‘Tin Rigs’ (as they are affectionately known) more competitive at club level and encourage a revival of older boats for club sailing.

To help this hoped Tin Rig revival, the Class intends to award prizes for Tin rigs at all the main open events and the 2024 UK Nationals. If demand is there, the Class will consider sponsoring a Tin Rig Championship which may even see some top sailors working up old boats to join in with the fun.

With tin rigged older boats often being available for a few hundred pounds, it’s certainly a cheap way to get into this iconic Class and the Class recommended PY makes that an even more attractive option at club level and the Class hopes that the Tin Rig Revival gains traction over the next few seasons.

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