Avon Sailboats

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One Design Sailboats

Sail a One Design?

yes, you!

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If your small sailboat wasn't made by some recluse in the high sierras, it's probably a one design.

What does one–design mean?

One-design is a racing method

In a one-design regatta, all boats are the same. They compete one on one. No boat has an advantage. No handicap is used in scoring. Whoever crosses the finish line first in a race, wins1 that race. One-design racing is

Exciting every moment

When you race, individual skills (boat speed, tacking, gybing, timing your start. . .) are tested. When you race one-design, you see how your skills stack up moment by moment. If you pass somebody, or out maneuver them even once, you'll feel great. Simply finishing a race is satisfying and rewarding.

There are many advantages to one-design racing and fleet sailing. It's not just about winning.

Racing is fun, and a learning opportunity

You get to play with others—and others get to play with you. You'll likely sail more, and get better. The better you get at anything, the more you'll enjoy it.

Little fish, big sea

The more you race and the better your skills, the more likely you'll begin traveling to larger regattas too. Competing with those who have different experiences than you helps even the best of sailors improve.

Good sailors share their knowledge

The actions of even one sailor can greatly affect the growth of a fleet, their one-design class—and the growth of the sport overall. Most everyone better than you will help you. The better you get, the better they must get, to keep ahead of you—and it's the journey, the learning, the improving, that's fun.

Alternatives to one-design racing

You can race in a mixed fleet: a group of various types of sailboats. In a mixed regatta, a handicap system, usually Portsmouth Yardstick, factors into the scoring.

In Michigan, mixed group racing is offered at Stony Creek, through the Creek Fleet, on Cass Lake at PYC, and within organizations like CRAM.

Advantages of Sailing a One Design

More Sailing, More Fun

Not only does racing improve your skill at sailing, it immerses you into a group where you are likely to find camaraderie. A popular-in-your-area one design is most likely to have a local fleet. Just learning to sail? Fleet members may offer to help you learn. They want their fleet to grow. Active participation of newer sailors helps build— and maintain a healthy fleet. You can start a fleet if there's not one in your area.

Lots of Advice and Suggestions

There will be lots of opinions on rigging a one design, sailing it well, and sailing it fast, from others who sail that same one design. If you're new to sailing, you might find owners and ask their suggestions. Learn what your class association has to offer. Whole books are written about some one designs. The Laser, Sunfish, and Optimist all have books written about them.

Specialized Products

Parts, accessories, and specialized products will likely be available at the local dealer who services your one-design. If you are in a remote area with no dealer, parts may be available from the manufacturer, or over the Internet.

Ease of Buying or Selling

The more popular the boat, the more likely it can be bought new and used, in your area. If you're buying, know the advantages of a new one. If you're selling, know that potential buyers of your one design may be savvy, so be prepared to discuss the condition, equipment, and price.

When a one design is introduced

all boats are identical within that one-design class, and sometimes, it stays that way, a continual test of who's the best sailor, not who sailed (with a lighter wallet making it) the fastest boat that day.

There's lots of one-design fleets in southeastern Michigan; Optimist, Sunfish, and Laser all race in and around metropolitan Detroit.

Keep in Mind

One-designs popular for decades may be more costly than similar style sailboats that are working to build a reputation. Rigid building specs, small–production costs, or builder/s' financial support of class racing, may burden the cost of a one-design. Newer designs may offer convenience features or other benefits desirable to new sailors/ new–boat buyers. Price usually relates to quality and/or convenience, but not always.

Some take pride in sailing age-old one-designs, rarely the easiest or simplest of boats. Any improvement perceived as advantageous to a racer threaten a one-design class. Improvements are rarely made quickly, if at all.

The Sunfish and Laser are both decades-old one-designs that have made improvements and are still priced within reach of a new-to-sailing buyer. Kudos!


Don't choose a boat based on popularity or brand recognition alone. Learn about various types of small sailboats: dinghies, board boats, daysailers, catamarans. Think about which might suit you best.

Rarely will one particular boat be perfect forever. Skills grow, bodies and needs change. Pick your small sailboat to fit you as you are today. Start sailing, keep sailing—or get back into sailing.

1Many skills are needed to win a sailboat race. An infraction of the rules may cost you the win, even if you did cross the line first.

copyright ©2008 lindy rymill, avon sailboats


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  • optimist

Copyright © 2008 Avon Sailboats • SMALL SAILBOATS & KAYAKS, METRO DETROIT, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN • 1033 East Auburn, Rochester Hills • r9.6.6