Chris Leyland, influential Australian Sailfish racer and builder from the 1970’s has contributed an interesting and detailed post
Building an Australian Sailfish
It is quite strange that after so many years, this strange little craft that I sailed in the 70’s, stays with me and still has a strong , even endearing place in my memories.
Many people visiting this site may wonder why a simple “sailboard” style dinghy, is being talked about again, and can even be seen as a valid alternative to the existing stronger classes. It is quite simple really, the Sailfish is fast, sporty and fun, but also quite surprisingly simple and very economical to build; even for those people who have never built a boat before.
If you can use a few simple tools, you can build a Sailfish, for quite a surprisingly small amount of money, far less than many similar sized classes.
I sailed the Sailfish when I was a teenager in the mid 70’s, and had success in Club, State, National and even in “yardstick and handicap based inter-class” levels. The reason I am putting in my 2 cents worth here, in the boatbuilding section, is that I have built and repaired several Sailfish, including the co-building of the NSW authourised mould for the fibreglass Sailfish and several fibreglass/timber deck hulls.
Although this original F/G mould is no longer in use, there is always the possibility of building another in the future.
Mostly though, I wanted to assure people that are thinking about building a timber Sailfish, that if you can follow some basic instruction, use a pencil, a saw and tape measure and be capable of applying glue/fasteners in the correct positions, a Sailfish can be home built, part time over just a few weeks, or a few full time days if you are prepared to really go at it! You don’t need special skills, and many boats have been built by people that have NEVER used tools before. Granted, if someone really knows what they are doing, a beautifully crafted boat is quite something to see. However, there is nothing wrong with a painted hull that may hide a few first time imperfections.
There are many options out there for people that are “wanting to build”, but are a little apprehensive, including support by email or phone that is being trialed. So if you have an issue with construction, contact via the website with someone with experience is only an email or phone call away.
The choice of Timber or Aluminium spars is available, a selection of sailmakers and even a junior rig for those with not enough weight for a full sized rig. Fittings and hardware are standard off the shelf items, none of them “exotic” which keeps prices down as well.
The focus on a sturdy construction as mentioned in previous posts, around the mast support and centreboard area, is no different than many other boats, and in fact, being “encapsulated” between the deck and bottom sheeting actually makes it stronger than many classes that have free standing cases and mast step assemblies. This can be easily reinforced with stronger materials when initially building, with the much superior glues and fastenings that we have with today’s technology, than were used back when these boats were racing in large fleets years ago. They are a strong sturdy dinghy and many an older Sailfish, won the top positions in State and National Championships.
A Sailfish can be a lot of fun, it can be tuned and raced, just as well as any other high performance dinghy. It is “one design” so no one has a real advantage with a “faster hull” design, it is safe, easily righted after a capsize and a good trainer. Although some people may think that such a boat is not really a racing craft, or even sail like a real boat, as it is seen as just another sailboard, nothing could be further from the truth. The Sailfish in full race trim, can keep up with all but the fastest Lasers, non foiling Moths and other fast classes, like small skiffs, proven by the fact that some “Club Champions” over the years were Sailfish sailors. Some similar training boats or dinghies are significantly more expensive than building a Sailfish. The Sailfish is well balanced, very responsive, and will teach skill, balance and coordination. They are challenging, yet forgiving, and once mastered, can be a pleasure to sail in all conditions. The Australian Sailfish, is NOT JUST a fun boat, it is also a full on, high speed, single handed racing dinghy, for Teens and adults, but can also be sailed with junior rig by 1 or 2 children.
Chris Leyland, Fury, 1257, Furyous, 2135 & Papryka, 2125.