05 September 2020

Sabres Moving Forward

We live in times where we could all use a little lift – so in timely compliance we provide an update of recent developments and progress of things Sabre related despite the best interjections of Viruses, bumbling politicians and their border wars, and the unexplainable thing we call the human condition

One of the recent non-sailing highlights this winter was the launch of the new Sabre Website ( It followed many months of effort in design, review, moving postings and closure of the old website. Macaulay Hey of Peak Websites did a great job in developing the new website, project managed by Bruce Abbott and supported by input from other Sabre sailors. Bruce deserves special mention for his enormous injection time, dogged determination and sense of urgency to understand some of the technology to get this initiative developed

One of the foremost questions that arises with this now is why have a website when information is now commonly exchanged on Facebook and email? There are several benefits to a website. The website complements these communications. It is a reference and storage location for information on Class information, events, technical information and contacts etc and an easily found location for people wanting to know about Sabres.

One of the website outcomes was the start of a new Sabre Forum, this now administered through a Facebook group. Historic Q&A’s are readily available in an archive on the website. When constructively used, a forum can greatly assist sailors to get up to date information, valuable insights and the most enjoyment from their boats. Obviously, the move has proved popular, with more than one hundred Sabre sailors around Australia having recently signed up.

The Sabre Forum has also enabled members to join a recent Sabre performance meeting using Google Meet software. Ten sailors identified performance topics that were focus areas for improvement and these were addressed by leading Sabre sailors Alan Riley and Murray O’Brien. Thanks to Alan in particular for initiating this.

Sail Evaluation Developments

Various factors have not worked in our favour including the Corona virus and the weather elements (gales and calms), however the Sail Evaluation Team (SET), led by Gary McLennan, our National Measurer, has managed to conduct good levels of testing and we are now getting an informed view.

You will recall that several groups sailed in a wide range of wind and sea conditions with the original shark sail last season. This proved extremely helpful in refining some of our initial thinking and ideas as reported in the February and April postings on this website. Of note, it led to a decision to continue to use Dacron and a sail plan and batten arrangement to suit the profile and weight distribution of current Sabre sailors.

The sail pictured, crafted by Irwin Sails in Vic in consultation with Clifton Sails in SA, is a modern design in context with the Sabre hull and suited to current Sabre sailors. It is now being evaluated in terms of appeal, performance and suitability for the Sabre in a range of sailing conditions and sailors’ experience and weight ranges. Throughout July it has been sailed some two to three times per week against boats carrying the current Sabre sail and apart from some minor tweaking, it appears to be a good design and performs well with none of the draw backs of the initial designs. Ahead of the SET is the need to evaluate the sail with different masts and additional lighter range skippers in 15-20kt winds.

A grey day on the Bay in the Melbourne Winter

The Sabre Sail (Advanced Prototype) Design in action

Unfortunately, Victoria is now working through enforced Stage 4 lockdown which means that sailing is off for at least until mid-September and our sailing gear has all been packed away. We hope to continue this testing program when permitted, most likely next at McCrae Yacht Club.

As a reminder we point out that the evaluation criteria for the new Sail design have been previously circulated and they also available on the website. Any decision by the SSAA on a change of Sail design has not been determined, may not in fact occur, and importantly will allow for any current sails to fulfil their competitive sailing life. If you are holding back from buying a new current Sabre sail, then we suggest you do not as there will be a significant phase in or lock out period should any decision on the Sabre sail design be made.  

That said, the feedback on the prototype sail to date has encouraged us to step up the testing. Following a recent meeting of the SSAA, two duplicate sails are now being made. This will enable an accelerated process  to assist with recovering with lost time under COVID and will enable a National testing programme with a broad base of inputs and is in line with the intent for a fully objective and transparent process. One sail will remain in Victoria to allow the testing to be concluded and the original sail (now sporting a number 7) is being despatched to Perth for further evaluation. The third sail will be despatched initially to Tasmania. Both sails then will go to other states. In all tests we expect an objective assessment of this sail against the previously mentioned criteria. Following the various evaluations, a summary report and recommendation will be made to the SSAA on any future Sabre sail design.

We are very cognizant of the interest in this project and of course the many sailors who have invested in the current Sabre sail. Obviously, any decision to change or not will need to be carefully made to the overall benefit of current and future Sabre sailors. We prefer a correct, albeit slower, decision be made over a speedy and potentially incorrect one.

Amateur built boats

As we mentioned in our April report, the Sabre was designed to be inexpensively constructed by amateur builders from timber and marine ply. This brought great success and a rapid growth in numbers. In recent years most new Sabres have been professionally built in FRP for a number of good reasons. However, particularly under the home confines of lockdown mode, there has been a revival in interest in the home built amateur wooden boat building – the challenge with this is to ensure that a wooden boat can successfully compete against the FRP boats.

The Sabre construction notes are being reviewed with a view to providing modern lightweight construction techniques that that will assist with this intent. Currently, notes provided by Frecheville Heaney on improved construction methods are being provided to prospective amateur builders when they request a new sail number. The review may take some time to develop correctly and will be assisted by CNC techniques including ply panel cut outs and Mylar templates. We plan to bring you more information of this later in the next report.

Sabre Nationals

Last but by no means least, the SSAA has reluctantly decided that due to the ongoing uncertainty of travel including interstate access due to border-bubble rules, the Nationals planned for Canberra in January 2020 will be postponed for one year. Most classes have already or are in the process of postponing their championships and unfortunately it seems we will be required to follow suit.  Negotiations are currently underway with Canberra YC, SSANSW and SSAA with a target date of 5 to 12 January 2022 and we expect those dates will be accepted. We will keep you informed at the first opportunity. Meanwhile, the state venue schedule for subsequent national titles has been pushed out by one year.


Yours in Sailing

SSAA and State Associations