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80 years on, still sharp

They have some amazing sailing in Australia in some fantastic boats. One I hadn’t heard of was the Australian Sharpie (or Lightweight Sharpies as they used to be known), not until my daughter informed me she was taking part in the Aussie Nationals a couple of weeks ago.

Originating as the 12.5m Sharpie in 1931, this is a boat akin to the Star in its endearing appear to its sailors. Similarly out-dated in some people’s eyes the class proves that you don’t need a carbon hull and rig and easily flown asymmetric kite to go fast, have fun and have a great class atmosphere.

At ¼ inch short of 20 feet under what is not exactly a small rig with fully battened mainsail it is not a small dinghy by any stretch and sails with 3 up with one on the wire and capable of planning upwind. This provides plenty of excitement for her crew when the wind gets up and with that symmetric spinnaker can prove quite a handful at the corners. 

From the Editor: The LW Sharpie originally sailed with a single luff spinnaker, with a wire insert. Effectively, a big headsail. This sail was gybed by throwing the pole around the headstay and then picking it up and replacing on the mast. Many of the australian skiffs and local classes used similar single luff ‘spinnakers’.

I was working with a Sydney sailmaker, Jack Hamilton, when the double luff spinnakers were being introduced, and we made many of the originals. Also at the time, we made the first of the flat 505 spinnakers for the Kerwood Brothers who won worlds with Jacks sails. Like the ‘Code Zero’ so popular today, which is a remake of the Blooper of the seventies, all of these things come, go and are rediscovered.

Regards, Rod Ogilvie.

Although much modified since the original the Sharpie it retains much of the aspects of the design that was even an Olympic Class back at the 1956 Games although gone is the gunter rig and the class now allows carbon in the boom and spinnaker pole, some gentle, careful and sensible modernising without wiping out the competitiveness of half the fleet.

Second hand boats can be found for just a few thousand Aussie Dollars making this a class that will not break the bank for someone wanting to ’give it a go’

Head over to you tube where there are a few videos of the recent Nationals held out of Mounts Bay Sailing Club, Perth, Western Australia where 52 of these guys battled it out for this year’s crown.  – SS.