Question 3

3.     If no new boats are built or if there is a general decline


Should we look at making a yawl more accessible and affordable by looking at a fibreglass yawl to keep costs down?  Research has been carried out and it would be possible to take a mould off an existing yawl or create a mould off an existing design and build fibreglass yawls in a way that would ensure they performed in the same way as a timber yawl.  The stiffness would be the same, the weight distribution would be the same, the weight would be the same and the shape would be the same.  


They could be left on a mooring, they would have significantly less maintenance, they would be cheaper, there would be no racing advantage, they could have timber decks and even timber top planks and transoms if the owner decided.


Being less precious, it would promote loaning, hiring, borrowing, etc. which would encourage more participation.  There are a number of classes that have successfully gone down this route and the class has flourished.

Enter the debate.





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Question 3:

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Big Debate Question 3

15 thoughts on “Big Debate Question 3

  • 09/03/2017 at 2:47 pm

    As a possible owner* of a Salcombe Yawl I hope that I won’t be considered presumptuous if I comment on this thread.


    It seems to me that the current status of the Yawl as a restricted class benefits only a few wealthy owners, who can afford to build a new boat which will give them a slight edge in a highly competitive fleet Phil Morrison and Paul Howlett can carry on deigning new, slightly faster Yawls forever, but it won’t advance the state of racing dinghy design one iota, unlike the International 14 fleet, where innovation has shaped the way we sail today.

    It would be possible, if the Class were to move to a one design, to “productionise” the existing wooden boat so that it remained exactly as it is now, but with a significant reduction in cost. I looked at this some years ago, when I sailed an XOD, and I estimated at the time that it would reduce the cost of a new boat by about a third. A number of one design classes in the USA have done exactly this, and the Lyman Company used to build thousands of clinker hulls a year, so the concept has been proved to work.

    The disbenefit, of course, is that to achieve a reduction in cost of this scale the Class would have to become a strict one design, and owners would not be able to incorporate their own ideas into the boat in the way that they do today.

    Sevuring the Yawl’s future

    An issue for the Yawl is that it is perceived as, and in reality currently is, an expensive, technical boat sailed in one rather exclusive holiday resort, which leaves it very vulnerable to fluctations in the level of local interest. In reality the boats are perfectly suited to being sailed almost anywhere in the UK, and for what they are, they are very cheap to buy secondhand.

    If the Yawl was marketed as a high-quality, traditional wooden daysailer, as well as a pure racing boat, then I think that secondhand boats would find buyers much more readily. The boats need not be lost to racing entirely, as a programme could be set up to entice their new owners to Salcombe for Regatta weeks etc.

    There is equally no reason why racing fleets could not be set up in locations other than Salcombe, although the Class would have to make a conscious decision to do this, and commit considerable effort and resources to the project.

    Either of these developments would give the Class a greater strength in depth, and a more secure future.

    Behaviour on the water

    I am appalled by the behaviour encountered by the owner of Y69: it is contrary to the spirit and the rules of racing, and I have to ask if he felt inhibited for any reason from lodging a formal Protest. I have no interest whatsoever in buying into a class where this kind of behaviour is tolerated, however competitive the event. The spirit of a Class resides in it’s owners, not the boats, and attitudes of this kind do become common knowledge, and can kill a Class stone dead.

    * I would use the boat as a daysailer in Chichester Harbour, but I would hope to persuade my daughter, who is a far better sailor than me, and competitive in any dinghy fleet, to sail her in open events in Salcombe

  • 01/02/2017 at 5:42 pm

    This idea should definitely be binned, too much of an over reaction and will end up causing more problems.
    GRP boats will be one designs, unless we are all supposed to pay for individual moulds ( not very likely).
    For those who wish to go that way, as MB says, buy a Devon Yawl, creating yet another set of moulds would be pointless.

  • 18/12/2016 at 5:26 pm

    I still believe there should not be two separate fleets.This would make current red boats accessible to less experienced helms.Toallow fibreglass boats would further depress the secondhand market for wooden boats.
    If a fibreglass hull is permitted which design would it be taken from and in which fleet would it sail?

  • 16/12/2016 at 4:25 pm

    Fibreglass doesn’t seem to be the issue, it is lack of demand for the existing boats which I suggest is stagnating the market. I would upgrade y148 but suspect I would find no buyer.
    I do like the suggestion that we need to keep the boats on moorings as I am sure that makes a difference

  • 02/11/2016 at 9:12 pm

    Plywood/ epoxy or fibreglass: Chatting to Tris Stone some weeks ago he commented that a yawl takes around 1400+ hours to build and the planked hull is not a big part of this (the decks, coamings and innards take longer and then you have c/b, rudder, spars, fittings, paint and varnish). Taking out the ribs and rivets will not actually save much hours or material cost.
    A new yawl costs, say, £50k but with good s/h red fleet boats on the market for just £16-20k any new build faces huge depreciation in value the day they launch. To get round that the production cost would have to fall by what, a half? As there is little scope for savings with the rig, sails, c/b and fittings, it would require a huge reduction in the cost of the completed hull to get anywhere near that.
    The comments that the problem is demand, not supply, seem closer to the mark.

  • 01/11/2016 at 9:47 pm

    GRP – no. Plywood – perhaps.

    I suspect a significant saving in new boat cost could be made if cold-mounded plywood boats were allowed. This lowers the raw material costs and enables much faster building (fully epoxied, no rivetting) – manhours being the major proportion of a build cost. To me it maintains the traditional nature of having a hand- built wooden boat, whilst reducing initial outlay.

    I’m not convinced a fibreglass boat could be built with the same stiffness and weight distribution as wood, and I sympathise with other comments – I have no interest in ‘Devon’ yawls.

    However, I fundamentally agree with the points above – people buying brand new boats might not be something we need to address presently with supply significantly outweighing demand in the preowned market…

  • 01/11/2016 at 10:37 am

    It’s tough to think of a class in which the old wooden boats have survived the introduction of fibreglass ones.

    Agree with Dave on the wet sailing topic…

  • 31/10/2016 at 11:10 pm

    I am not convinced that GRP boats offer any fix, and may create another division. Cost cannot be the issue while at least four red fleet boats, each capable of winning races are openly up for sale at a fraction of their replacement cost.

    Wet sailing has not been addressed in the Big Debate, but in my opinion the move to dry sailing has taken away from the joy of racing a Yawl in regatta weeks … with a knock on effect to the craik in the Bar afterwards.

  • 31/10/2016 at 4:16 pm

    How much would a fibre glass yawl cost?

    The tradition of sailing from a mooring should be an integral part of the class and should be encouraged. As with other benefits such as loaning, hiring, borrowing.
    Can I make a fibreglass version of Nuffin?

  • 31/10/2016 at 3:02 pm

    I’m not sure another GRP version of the yawl would solve the classes current problems and it could lead to even greater confusion for those that might be interested in joining the fleet. We already have the Devon/Salcombe Yawl and the Blue/Red fleet distinctions, so any more complication could really muddy the waters for a newcomer. Too many choices in a situation like this will invariably lead to potential buyers walking away. We should be simplifying the fleet system and boat choices, rather than increasing the range of options (I think we should all sail together, regardless of boat age, and split the fleet into performance related flights).
    Admittedly it might reduce purchase and maintenance costs, but it could equally dilute the historic importance and significance of the yawl.
    If there was a massive demand for new boats and excessive cost was being discussed regularly in that context, it might be a more relevant consideration. However, as things stand it doesn’t appear to be the solution –
    I doubt if a 30 or 40% saving on the cost of a new yawl would result in an immediate glut of orders…

  • 31/10/2016 at 11:31 am

    This seems to defeat the development of the class, if you take a mould from an excising boat, they will all be the same.
    Personally I like the tradition of the class and its history, my feeling is if people want a Fiberglas boat they should change class. Interesting idea mentioned restricting the class to a fixed amount of boats. After all Salcombe dose not have much more room for any more boats.

  • 30/10/2016 at 3:30 pm

    Perhaps we should allow Devon Yawls to race with Salcombe Yawls. The are afteral fiberglass versions of Salcombe Yawls, and I have been told that according to their handicap the Devon Yawl is faster than a blue fleet boat!

  • 28/10/2016 at 3:51 pm

    I wouldn’t be against grp yawls if it was that a lack of supply was holding the fleet back . It seems to me though that the real problem is that not enough of those with boats want to go sailing in them and not enough people who haven’t got yawls want to buy the ones that are out there.
    If more of those with yawls sailed them then maybe those without would want to join the fun

  • 28/10/2016 at 11:17 am


    Buy a Devon Yawl…

  • 28/10/2016 at 8:53 am

    Hi – I am a relatively recent Yawlie ( 4th year in!) – a couple of suggestions are noted below……

    The Problem

    It seems that this can be outlined by a) a large portion of the red fleet wanting to sell their boats so that they can then buy a newer, faster boat, and b) the blue fleet who are generally happy with their lot but want more people to race against.

    1) There are no new boats being built. This is obviously down to the expense foremost but is possibly also to do with a large portion of the red fleet having the desire of a new boat, but not until they can offload their current boat. It’s simply a case of an illiquid market with plenty of stock but no demand as most blue fleet sailors seem happy where they are and most new yawl sailors would be intimidated by starting their yawl career in the red fleet (as was the case with me).
    2) The red fleet undoubtedly has an image problem. There were two occasions during regatta week ( on successive days) that we in Y69 were beating to the windward mark on starboard and met the red fleet running down the channel on port. On both occasions there was absolutely no effort to give way and on both occasions we in the priority boat had to take avoiding action. Not even an apology! Just some blank expressions that suggested that we shouldn’t have been there! This does not help the cause!
    3) The blue fleet had a disappointing number of boats out during SYC regatta. I know that a couple of boats were missing due to illness. We lost one quite capable boat to the Gold fleet (which they won by a comfortable margin), and there were a few gear issues, but it was a shame to only see 8 – 10 boats racing regularly – especially when there were around 15 entered. We should be looking for a minimum of 15 boats to race against in the regatta.

    Possible Solution

    1) We make the fleet a restricted classic fleet. We restrict the sail numbers of the yawls. i.e. there are no more new boats built after, say Y200 or year 2025. This will give existing yawls a value. If people want to come into the fleet, they will have to source and buy an existing yawl. If someone wants to commission a brand new ground breaking design boat – they have an opportunity to do so. It may unearth some of those boats that are no doubt sitting dormant in barns or garages which is a shame. This would obviously seem to be bad news in the long term for the boat builders but the reality is that the way things stand currently, there are no new boats being built, nor are there likely to be in the foreseeable future. There is not a boat builder out there who is relying on an income from building new yawls. But – as the fleet gets older, the boats require more maintenance. Decking, planking, ribs, paint & varnish will all keep the yards busy. This would hopefully solve the stagnating problem of the glut of second hand red boats on the market and rejuvenate the existing fleet – red or blue.
    2) We race together as one fleet under handicap. During regatta week we should aim to have a total of around 30 – 35 boats racing in the afternoon. If numbers are greater on the start line than the 20 allowed, we flight into fleets. This would also help the existing red fleet embrace the spirit of the blue fleet as we would be racing as equals (at least on the water).
    3) Any boat that wins the gold fleet has to move up the following year. The gold fleet serves a purpose but any boat that is easily capable of racing in the afternoon should do so.
    4) In order to possibly stimulate the building of a few new yawls in the next 10 years, the suggestion put forward by John Smithers about a red fleet boat being able to race in the blue fleet (or in this case have a blue fleet handicap advantage) for NEW yawl owners is introduced.

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