Soaring costs sinking Sabot's

13 November 2006

Sabot fleets are shrinking says Queensland’s Ian Grant, who sheets the problem home to expensive fiberglass boats taking the little Australian dinghy out of the reach of many families.

The physically demanding sport of dinghy sailing has a long association with the heritage of our nation yet it continues to slip in popularity as the nation’s modern generation turn their attention to other less expensive sporting challenges.

Queensland Sabot fleets which had produced so many young champions over the past four decades have declined dramatically and the numbers are continuing to slide.

In many respects changes to the class rules casting aside an affordable plywood dinghy and replacing it with an expensive fiberglass hull has placed the Sabot beyond the reach of most families.

Several champion dinghies which represented Queensland during the 2005-6 Australian championship bought inflated prices of $4000 to $7000 which is expensive for a fully rigged second hand 8ft snub-nose dinghy.
There is no quick fix to the problem as the chase to own the fastest Sabot continues between the more affluent families.

Sure every child who has an interest in sailing deserves the opportunity to experience the Sabot fellowship but the current entry level cost has placed it beyond the reach of a majority of lower income family budgets.
The elite sailors also deserve to race with the best hull, sails and equipment and therefore the new generation Sabot dinghy will continue to be modified and improved.

This class should be reclassified as a Grand Prix Sabot and race in a separate club, State and National competition while the State associations should call for an expression of interest to race the older timber boats in a classic division.

Most Queensland clubs have a number of ‘Classics’ gathering dust in their dinghy racks and they are eventually destined for the scrap heap unless they are restored for junior fleet racing.

They are great little boats well built from the best timber but more importantly they have the potential to provide a cheaper option for children to enjoy traditional dinghy class racing.

The sheltered water courses located on the Pumicestone Passage at Caloundra, and Mooloolah, Maroochy and Noosa Rivers are the perfect venues to launch a round-robin interclub regatta for the Classic Sabot class.

Each venue has a long history of promoting junior sailing with the Mooloolah River course producing several outstanding Australian champions who launched their careers with racing in timber Sabots.

World 420 championship winning helmswoman Lisa Charlson encouraged to race a Sabot against the boys after her older sisters Fiona and Andrea became the first all girl crew to win the Australian Junior championship valued the opportunity to gain experience and confidence from sailing a ‘classic’ in club racing on the Mooloolah River.

The Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club which recently hosted a successful South Queensland River championship for the modern Sabot class is the perfect location to launch the wooden Sabot revival.

But the idea which has the potential to offer a low cost sailing experience for young children will remain as a pipe dream until the class association and Clubs combine to form a committee to promote ‘fun racing’ for this classic timber dinghy.


by Ian Grant

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