The first blog post: what’s the problem?

if you love the sport of sailing you already know the feeling of freedom that helming your own dinghy around a lake or harbour gives you. There’s no path you must follow and no engine to start, you decide where to go and the wind and water is the way you move along. If you were lucky enough to sail as a child you won’t have forgotten the feeling that you finally get to decide where to go and what to do.

I know some people think of sailing as an expensive, even elitist, sport but I don’t believe that. I grew up sailing Mirror dinghies which were designed by a DIY television celebrity of the day, Barry Bucknall, and a top boat designer, Jack Holt. The 60s saw the start of a craze for dinghy sailing and racing in the UK that gave many people their first taste of sailing and led to an extraordinary series of performances at the Olympics from UK sailors such as Rodney Pattison, the super-fit Royal Navy sailor of the late 60s and early 70s to the modern-day medallists Iain Percy & Andrew “Bart” Simpson, Ian Walker, Ben Ainslie, Shirley Robertson, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb, Pippa Wilson, Hannah Mills, Saskia Clark and Paul Goodison, to name a few.

Lately the cost of sailing seems to have risen and a lack of spare time plus competing activities seems to have led to a drop in the number of people wanting to sail dinghies. That has to change: sailing is such a unique experience and gets adults and children away from the pressures of modern life in a way that very few other sports can.

So what is the point of this website?

Rotor-Rig is a name I gave to a number of projects to try to help dinghy sailing at the “grass roots” level – a really bad term for a water sport I know, but I hear it a lot. Sailing’s grass roots are the local clubs that give everyone a first opportunity to learn dinghy sailing and racing in a safe environment. The first project is “Boat Timer” – an app to make timing races and recording the results quicker and easier, hopefully meaning that sailors see their results quicker and fewer volunteers are needed to run a race. You can get the app for your laptop at https://boattimer.com as well as an Android version in the Google Play Store. There’s also an app called Rooster Signals that might help with sound signals for training races.

There’s more to come though. In Covid lockdown I started to work on Jetty Map, an app not only to map the location of sailing clubs (that’s already been done by the RYA, among others) but also to map the club buildings, start and finishes lines and racing marks and – if they have standard courses – the courses they use. Almost every club website has a map of their location, but adding information relevant to club racing makes a club easier to understand for those new to it. I haven’t finished Jetty Map yet, but you can see an example of the mapping of racing marks in this map of Chichester Harbour clubs.

I write software for a living, so these projects are familiar territory for me. But there are plenty of other problems to solve. I am not the only one concerned about the number of unused boats in most sailing club boat parks. They are cheap to buy secondhand, but avoided for racing by most sailors for a number of reasons. Yet we have a surprisingly large number of new classes of boats aimed at racing sailors for – what seem to me at least – large sums of money. I bought my old RS200 for £2,000 a number of years ago but if I want a new one it is going to cost me around £12,000. I think we have to remember that this sort of money for a sport you do one day a week is beyond a lot of people. I don’t have all the answers to this, but I am kicking some ideas around for a new class of dinghy called the Frensi. More on that in another blog post.

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