Tuesday, April 12, 2022

_________________________ COMPLETELY OK _________________________

 This internet photo shows an OK Dinghy that is pretty much identical to my new boat in colour and setup.

Well shipmates. This season, I ended up being the only Zephyr sailing dinghy sailor in Northland. One of the two other Zephyrs I have been racing against got sold, the other is on the market. So I had been sailing pretty much all season in a mixed fleet and got fed up with the lack of competition. So I went out and bought myself an OK Dinghy. Four reasons:

1 - There are three other OK Dinghies in Northland to race against. Doesn't sound like a big fleet, but it's much better competition and more fun than racing in a mixed handicap fleet.

2 - The OK Dinghy was the second boat I owned. I graduated from my 7 foot long NZ 'P Class' yacht straight into an OK Dinghy at 16 years of age. My OK was KZ 29 - with a bright red hull, varnished deck and wooden spars. So the OK is a boat I know well.

3 - Despite my delight in owning a beautiful, recently renovated and well sorted Zephyr the OK Dinghy has always been able to turn my head - all that was required was a new context to provide a reason to change.

4 - The OK Dinghy is a bigger, more powerful and challenging boat to sail. It has over 20 square feet more sail area and requires a bit of specialist knowledge and nuanced skills to get the best out the boat. Skills that I will have to relearn. The big bendy rig requires de-powering as the breeze builds and can be a real handful downwind in big winds. 

My new boat - NZL 563 is a Dan Leech hull 'tweak' of the original Knud Olsen* design. (There are various versions of the OK that have been designed over the years, all within the tolerances of the original design measurement parameters). She is built in plywood, is a light boat (with corrector weights to bring the hull up to the minimum class weight), has a carbon fibre mast, rudder and centerboard and is well set up with a couple of good sails - one, a North brand sail well matched to the masts bend characteristics. 

[* The OK gets its name from the reversal of the OKs designer Knud Olsens initials.]

My first foray into battle with my new OK dinghy was a couple of weeks ago in the last of the OYC twilight series. I managed to beat the other two OK dinghies boat for boat and was first boat home in the fleets last race beating all the Lasers home which was particularly pleasing. 

I love competing and learning how to get small boats sailing fast. The OK Dinghy provides a great challenge and will take a lot of practise and learning on my part to get the best out of boat and myself.

Getting the best out of the boat is not executed by belting oneself on the head twice on the very first sail, once when tacking and once when gybing in high winds - a belt from the mainsail boom that required a dozen stitches to the head - but that's another story. Suffice to say, yesterday I became the proud owner of a bright blue well padded sailing helmet.

Opening day 1967 at the Pleasant Point Yacht Club, Christchurch, New Zealand. I am sailing my first OK Dinghy KZ 29.

This excellent publication edited by Robert Deaves is of particular use as the section on technique has advice written by a range of OK Dinghy sailors regarding tuning the rig and sailing the boat in a range of conditions. A similar publication called 'Finnatics' also edited by Robert Deaves focuses on the Olympic Finn. This book is also of great use as the Finn rig is simply a larger edition of the Ok Dinghy rig.


Dan Gurney said...

Completely OK indeed. I think the world of the Zephyr dinghy. It looks like a really great design with enough energy behind the class to put together a fantastic Nationals regatta.

That said, like you, my first love back in the 60's when I began sailing was the OK dinghy. Unlike you, I wasn't lucky enough to actually own one. (Instead, my serious sailing began when I crewed on a 505 when the North American champion and several other amazing 505 sailors were in our local Palo Alto fleet.) My first intoxicating taste of single-handed sailboats came in the next decade on a Laser which in many respects was an inferior design to the OK dinghy.

Now I'm happily sailing my Banshee among Lasers, Force 5's, and Banshees. We don't race formally, but sail happily, in close proximity to each other, only in nice weather because we're all retired and can go when the weather is perfect, which on Tomales Bay is about once a week. Our sailing days don't resemble a swimming competition; they resemble improvised synchronized swimming. Our sailing feels more like an ecstatic, transcendental dance than a track and field event.

I've never enjoyed sailing or the company of my sailing friends more.

Good on you to get yourself an OK dinghy. It's great to to know you're in a boat you can race one design, a boat that is so much more than OK.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Great news, and good to hear from you... not surprised about clouting yourself, the boom looks quite low? Wonder if you could get away with a rugby scrum cap? :o)

Alden Smith said...

Hi Steve - Good to hear from you. Yes the boom is very low, but that fact needs explaining. Both the OK Dinghy and the Olympic Finn sail to windward with the boom pretty much touching the leeward deck - this is because having a bendy mast the boom gets hauled well down by the main sheet - it's the way the rig works. The boom pops up when you tack or gybe so you can get underneath it........ SO LONG AS YOU HAVEN'T GOT THE BOOM VANG ON!!!!........ I HAD THE VANG ON, DOH!!!! So I was suitably punished for my efforts. I shouldn't really have simply dived into racing without having had a few nice preparatory and re familiarisation sails beforehand......... What's that old saying? 'Older, tireder, none the bloody wiser.'

A rugby scrum cap would be better than nothing I guess but my new helmet should do the trick, combined with a nice piece of foam that I have glued either side of the boom in the offending area. Also not forgetting to release the boom vang should help.

Barubi said...

Dyslexics rule KO.
Our Laser courses sometimes cross the OKs. I envy the deeper cockpit that makes for a much more comfortable hiking and the number of strings to adjust as a excuse for not sailing well.
I sailed my brother’s Finn once - that’s one boom you don’t want to head butt in a gybe. It won’t give you a headache, it’ll just decapitate you.

Alden Smith said...

Hi Dan, Good to hear from you. And thanks for your description of your own sailing background and your current situation. I love your philosophy of basically sailing for sailings sake. Although I am competitive and love racing I absolutely empathize with simply sailing for sailings sake - sailing is its own intrinsic reason.

I did briefly own and sail a Laser. Many people love them, but I found it a difficult boat to sail at my age mainly because I found the hiking position simply didn't suit my age or my past experience. But many people have sailed them for years and love them, so I don't knock the Laser - I think it's great to get out on the water, whether it is in a Laser, an OK Dinghy or a bathtub (The seaworthy variety).

What I love about the OK is that the depth of hull allows for a generous cockpit that you can sit in when the weather is light. Also the side decks in modern OKs are angled in such way that I find hiking out pretty easy - easier than I find hiking in the Zephyr. I also love the way the rig can be continually changed when sailing to suit the wind strength.

Having owned an OK back in the 1960s, owning one again in 2022 is a bit of a trip down memory lane. I think I sold my OK Dinghy too soon back in the 1960s - so I have a bit of time to make up.

I like your comment about the combination of sailing and friendship. I think is very important. One of the comments made continually in strong classes such as the Zephyr, the OK and the Finn (and others) is that the camaraderie and friendships that are made are as important as the competition - I think this is true across a wide range of amateur sport.... and as you have found sailing doesn't have to be competitive at all to be enjoyed.

Enjoy that Banshee!

Alden Smith said...

........ and I forgot to mention that a great exponent of sailing for sailings sake is the other commentator on this blog post - STEVE! and his boat 'Sparrow'. Steve just gets out there and sails his great little boat for the pure joy of it!! I identify strongly with this approach.

Alden Smith said...

Hi Barubi - You are right on the money with your comment on Finn booms, and as I have found out, OK Dinghy booms - they will indeed decapitate you if you aren't careful. I consider that I have had a timely warning - Don't use any vang tacking upwind and if using the vang downwind, release it when gybing! If you observe these rules the boat is safe to sail.

I was very, very lucky. I could have been very badly concussed but escaped with a couple of glancing blows that hopefully won't be repeated.

.. and yes, the OK cockpit is useful, commodious and simply nice to sit and move around in, especially in light weather and when tacking.

The number of strings can't be used as an excuse for sailing badly - bad sailing in an OK is the same as bad sailing in a Laser - the culprit is the 'nut behind the wheel' but the number of strings are essential for being able to de-power the rig as the wind increases. There is a new sail control that wasn't on my 1960s OK - an 'Inhaul' that pulls the tack of the sail back towards the mast, something that I will need to learn how to use.

George A said...

Best of luck with the OK. The Finn is bigger, the Europe is smaller. All three use a free standing rig. All three have low booms--I feel you pain! I've resisted getting a helmet but at my age it probably is over due. I don't have the flexibility of a teenager...

Alden Smith said...

Thanks George - it will take a bit of luck and the relearning of some essential skills, one of which is the art of ducking very quickly when the boom comes scything across the deck. A helmet is not a complete insurance against concussion but it's better than nothing at all. I think a few days on the water without the pressure of racing consisting of simply practising tacking and gybing should bring me up to speed. At my age the rule will be that if I am in doubt regarding gybing in high winds I will simply do a 'three sixty' through the eye of the wind - thus completing a 360 degree circle before continuing on my way - any extra time spent doing this maneuver is better than a wallop on the head.

Best of luck with your own low boom maneuvers and my advice would be to get a helmet! and perhaps we can share experiences. I am aware that wearing a helmet has two disadvantages, first it raises the booms target by a couple of centimetres and it blurs the awareness slightly in terms of feeling the wind in ones hair.

Alden Smith said...

......... I forgot to complete that statement ......"I am aware that wearing a helmet has two disadvantages, first it raises the booms target by a couple of centimetres and it blurs the awareness slightly in terms of feeling the wind in ones hair BUT IT'S A FAR BETTER THING THAN WALKING AROUND LIKE A HEADLESS CHICKEN.

hahsee said...

Have you heard of A/V "Traveller" a Harrison Butler 30' cutter rigged sloop owned some many years ago by a Doctor Calvert and built by Smith &Co ( probably got the name wrong, may have Smith & Sons) of Whangarei.if so could you contact me -youcouldtryme@gmail.com thankyou regards Richard

Alden Smith said...

I don't know what "A/V" means?

But I do know about a boat called "Traveller". My Uncle Claude built a Harrison Butler designed yacht called "Traveller". At the same time Claude's son Alan built a similar sized yacht designed by Bert Willowcott called "White Water".

Now both "Traveller" and "White Water" were sold so that Claude, Alan and son / brother Rex could start Smiths Boatyard on the Hatea River in Whangarei. This was the middle of the 1950s. Later on Peter Southey (who married Claude's daughter Joy) joined Smiths Boatyard - and the rest as they say is history - many wooden boats for clients and the very successful 'Pacific 38' yacht were built by Smiths Boatyard when it was in its heyday / most prolific boat building years - approx 1955 - 1990.

Alden Smith said...

....... and, I don't know who Doctor Calvert is but a photo I have somewhere of "Traveller" taken not long after she was launched show her with cotton sails, wooden mast etc - shows her with a cutter (two headsails) rig.

I do have the classic book written by Harrison Butler where he expounds on his "Meta - Centric" yacht theory amongst a number of his great small boat designs - I will take a look and see which of his designs are around 30 feet and which of these may be "Traveller" - which may be a bit difficult as Claude built "Traveller" with his own cabin profile.

Richard Calvert said...

S/V sailing vessel A/V typo.I have a 29'6" yacht Duyfken designed by Ian Outred who I think was influenced by the Carmen design.thx for your update on the Smiths.She is a flush decked cutter sloop, but has a more modern underwater profile, one foot more beam and 6" less draft.A fast offshore ( Bass Strait beauty often mistaken for a Carmen, anyway so much for my rambling at this late hour in rainy Sydney.

Alden Smith said...

Ah, yes - thought it might have been a typo - I know what a S/V is.

You are welcome to the update regarding "Traveller".

I am intrigued by your description of your own boat. The Swanson Carmen class is one of my very favourite yachts which I have blogged about a few times on this Blogsite.

I would be very interested in seeing a photograph of your boat. Perhaps you could attach a photo and send it to my email address.