Off she goes, Iain Oughtred's slightly foreshortened Penny Fee, at 15ft. Sails by Jeckells, spars by the wonderful Jeremy Freeland at Collars. The rest by Messrs Burke and Morgan (that's Jonny by the way...)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Laser or Flying Fifteen?

I am at that age when I'm not sure quite how old I am. Mentally, certainly, I'll always be about 12 but physically it's hard to convince myself that over five decades have passed since Mrs Morgan's second-born entered the world, a small, sickly yellow thing (he had jaundice).

A case in point: I have enjoyed racing Flying Fifteens these past few seasons, and at times they are quite physical. At times they comes close to the broad reach, crazy, on the edge planing speeds of a Laser (when the tiller goes scarily light and there's a high-pitched hum from the centreboard like a glider's variometer in a strong thermal.)

The Laser has a visceral appeal: sailing at its simplest. You sit on a Laser, whereas you are half in and half out of a Flying Fifteen. It is half dinghy, half keelboat. My friends are saying "Sell the Laser, buy a Fifteen. You're passed it." Nonsense. There are Laser sailors in their 70s, and undoubtedly 80s. I've just subscribed to a blog called Proper Course, which advises: "Cheat the nursing home: Die on your Laser". Up here in Ullapool, when the wind comes down in great blasts from the hills, and with no warning, that could well be on the cards.

For the time being I'll keep the Laser, as a reminder of how young I am really just as I keep a red Honda VFR 750 in a shed, which I fire up from time to time but seldom dare take on the roads (the potholes are truly horrendous after the cold winter).

I realise that keeping two boats is bound to end in tears. One will get neglected and sulk, shedding vital bits at crucial times. Maybe it's time to declutter; sell the Laser. Last time I did that was in 1992, when I sold the very same Laser to an old school friend. Fifteen years later I bought  it back for the same price. It was like seeing an old friend. With a yellow Laser again in the drive I feel complete, and younger, even if I seldom use it. Some people surround themselves with a comfort blanket of books; others collect things. Those of use who have more than one boat feel more secure, surrounded by our boats. It makes no sense, costs a lot and yet...


  1. Keep the Laser for sure. Around here (Rhode Island) people are spoiled for choice in terms of what boats to sail. I know many people who sail and race all kinds of fancy boats. But so many of them have a Laser too even if they only sail it in the winter.

    Nice blog by the way. Keep it going.

  2. I need to get a Laser, and a Dart 18 and while I'm thinking about it I've always wanted a Salcombe Yawl, and of course I need to finish (start) the SCOW restoration................

    How many boats is enough, clearly more than 2!!

  3. That old Laser can't be costing much to keep, and it'll be nice on sunny days when you haven't got any sort of crew to hand and there's nothing pressing that you need to do. It's easily justified, if you can cope with the disdain of some of the wooden boat enthusiasts.

    I think we're all aware that half-impractical boat-related dreaming is a huge part of the boat thing, but it's interesting to be reminded that it also applies to boatbuilders.

  4. Hmmmm I have a Laser too, but I lent it to the local club a few years ago, and only got the hull back! However I own half a Topper Topaz which can also hum when pushed, have a Triumph Tiger for feeling young, and a Ural 750 with sidecar for when I'm feeling Russian? And last year I finally acquired my dream, a King's Cruiser 28, mahogany on oak,1965, potentially built by Mr rassey himself and in need of some work but in good nick generally... since then I never miss an issue of Classic Boat and always read your column...