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Footy Racing at Southwater Country Park, 27th October 2006

Richard Alford, winner of the 2005 Chris Dicks Award, invited me to collect the trophy for presentation at this year's forthcoming AGM. He suggested that we meet at the Southwater Dabblers' sailing water and have a sail with a group of Footy boats. Never having sailed my Footy design 'BUG' against another Footy, I was delighted to take up his invitation. There was an air of expectation about this afternoon sail. How would this rather crude hard chine prototype perform against the Southwater experts?

There were 10 boats, mainly New Zealand designer Brett McCormack's 'Bobabout's, Richard's award winning 'Footloose' and Nick Burden's 'Buttercup' designs. Only the latter and the 'BUG' had swing rigs, but many of the sails, set conventionally, were colourful and beautifully made from florist's wrapping material or very lightweight film.

The scale of the lake near the control area in a small bay is ideal for small boats like the Footy Class, whilst still being open to the prevailing SW winds. It was warm and sunny with a very fluky 1-4 mph south-westerly wind blowing parallel to the launching platform/control area. I was most surprised and delighted that the 'BUG' was competitive. Although it looked bulky with its higher bow and longer boom, it also had a bit more sail and the combination was obviously effective. Off wind the swing rig power was evident with the wind slightly off the side, but also its soft dry- cleaner's bag sails set well and could respond properly in the lightest airs. The best competition came from Richard's 'Footloose', which is a beautiful looking multi- chine hull which goes well and makes it the Dabblers' top boat.

After a few races at or near the front of the fleet, the small rig was tried on the 'BUG' and in the very lightest of airs it was able to finish half way down the fleet. The small 'BOTTLE' boat rig was then tried. This made the bug look very old-fashioned with long booms and a huge sail area. The wind then piped up to three or four mph and the 'BUG' was overpowered, also finishing halfway down the fleet. This demonstrated that, while the class rule allows unlimited sail area, the restriction of just 2 rigs to be used in an event is likely to prevent huge differences in performance because the wind is never constant enough to be certain that you won't be overpowered.

After the racing, John Cadenhead, who brought the 'Bobabout' design over from New Zealand showed me a great variety of rigs including a balanced Una rig design, which looked very interesting indeed, and a new McCormack moulded hull. There was more real design interest in this small group of tiny boats than in many a 1 metre fleet. It is good to see that the real spirit of model yachting is still alive!

Many thanks to the Southwater Dabblers for allowing me to play!

Reported by Roger Stollery