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This article was published in the AFLOAT magazine in June 2013

 

SABRE  DINGHY SAILING 

SABRE NSW sponsored by AFLOAT Magazine

 

The single handed  Sabre class dinghy is currently undergoing a revival and evidence of this revival is no more apparent  than the growth of the fleet size of Sabres at Connells Point Sailing Club on the Georges River in the Sydney suburb of Connells Point.

The brainchild of Sabre legend Rex Fettell of Melbourne in 1970, the Sabre was designed as a relatively simple timber and ply home build that could be launched and sailed “off the beach” into what can often be the testing waters of Port Phillip. Rex saw the need for a sturdy single handed, single sail dinghy that could be raced by all ages in most conditions up to 25 knots and initially built several boats for himself, his children and his sailing mates to race. When their ease of build and degree of performance was recognized by other sailors, the popularity of the class grew and within a decade Sabres were being sailed nationally. This was a true testament to the vision of its designer and 40 years later, the class still attracts good numbers in all states. Sabres are now built in both timber and foam sandwich by both professional and amateur builders. Each are competitive and  the class is strictly one design in hull, fittings, rig and sail. 

At first glance the Sabre may appear somewhat retro due to its lack of highly sophisticated controls and running gear. However the simplicity of its controls allows for more focus and attention while sailing to fine tuning of sail shape as well as more time to concentrate on boatspeed and upwind tactics. The daggerboard style rudder blade and centerboard make for easy departure and return to the shore. Due to the cockpit shape, the Sabre is more of a boat to sit in, rather than on. A comfortable sitting position on the sidedeck is easily achieved in as little as 5-8 knots, while maximum hiking in stonger breezes is restricted by the clever positioning of  fore and aft hiking straps that tend to keep knees bent over the inside edge of the wide sidedeck. This will result in exhilarating reaching when the breeze freshens to 15 knots and more, due partly to the lightweight nature of the unrigged hull at a minimum weight of 42 kilograms. Due to its generous freeboard and buoyant forward section, the cockpit, which is not self draining, remains quite dry. Any water taken aboard is dealt with by a venturi drain in the cockpit floor. Generous forward and side deck buoyancy tanks allow the Sabre to be righted in the event of an untimely capsize.

Sabres can ideally be handled by generally agile sailors between 70 kg and 90 kg of any age. Many sailors happily continue to sail their Sabres well beyond the age when more demanding classes call an end to their dinghy careers, such is the nature of the Sabre. And being a single handed dinghy, there are no more worries about finding crew every week which can often be a problem in other dinghys of  two or more crew.

The Sabre is an ideal dinghy for both novice and accomplished sailors. Its generally forgiving and stable nature are ideal for those either stepping up from a training dinghy or starting off in dinghy racing, while their one design feature will develop the sail trimming and tactical techniques of more accomplished sailors. As a development class for juniors they should have a lot of appeal particularly when it comes to cost. While a professionally built new Sabre can cost around $12,000 sail away, there are plenty of good used Sabres around starting from about $2000 and ranging up to $8000 depending on age, condition and construction. The cost of a new mainsail is $600. Junior sailors do not need to engage the services of a sponsor to sail a Sabre and they make an ideal replacement for video games and computers. Additionally they can bridge the gap from a junior training dinghy to a more expensive and “modern” racing class.

State titles are held in most states as well as a national title held on a state by state rotation. Next season’s 2013/14 national title will be held in Perth while Sydney plans to host the following 2014/15 national title, more than likely on Botany Bay.

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