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Buying you first Dinghy

Things to consider when buying a dinghy

The list below is designed to give you an insight into things you should consider, please remember that the key to making the right decision is talking to the training team, other club members, suppliers, perhaps visiting a trade shows where you can see many different types of boats and talk to suppliers on the same day.

  1. What boat will be used for
  2. Consider what you want to use the boat for recreational sailing, cruising, racing or a combination of these.
  3. Consider whether you are going to use it on inland waters, on the sea or both.
  4. Are you able to use the boat at the club for example at NBCSC boats must have a Portsmouth yardstick between 1051 & 1386 inclusive. These types of restrictions are not uncommon and are designed to ensure that very fast dinghies are not used on small lakes.
  5. What other boats are used at the club. For example if other members have the type of boat you are interested in you can obtain advice from other members and if racing is your interest guarantees that you have competition. At NBCSC popular boats that race include lasers, GP14’s , Solo’s, Toppers and Mirrors.
  6. If you are buying a boat for a junior consider whether they might want to race and if so have a look at RYA pathway boats Optimist, Topper, Mirror, Feva, and Cadet. Also consider if the boat is upgradeable i.e. older juniors who decide to sail a 4.7 laser can change a mast section and sail a laser 1 with full rig as an adult.
  7. If you want to race has the boat been measured and does it have a measurement certificate. Do all fittings and sails meet the class standard.
  8. Single or double handed / experience level / comfort
    1. Decide if you want to sail single or double handed. There are some dinghies which are able to hold more than two people on the market.
    2. Ensure the boat’s you are looking at meet your requirement for example a mirror is a double handed dinghy which can be sailed by two children, an adult and a small child but is very cramped for two small adults. Manufactures web sites will give you a recommendation as to how many people each dinghy type is designed for and the maximum weight in many cases a dinghy should carry.
    3. Consider the level of experience you and your crew have and whether you want to remain dry!!!. Some boats are more stable than others
    4. Consider your needs in terms of comfort and ease of movement, for example, some dinghies have higher booms than others, some do not have a kicker (they use a gnav) giving the crew more room to move around, some boats have big cockpits with lots of leg room others do not.
    5. Some boats can be sailed single & double handed which is an option if your crew is not always available.
  9. New or second hand
    1. New boats come directly from the manufacturer or their distributor and often come with some form of warranty. Some manufacturer’s also sell new boats which have a cosmetic fault at a reduced price.
    2. Used boats can be purchased from a variety of sources, here are a few examples ;
      1. Club members (word of mouth)
      2. Adverts on the Club website (ours or other clubs)
  • Adverts on the Club notice board
  1. For sale section on class association web sites
  2. Internet sites ie;;
  3. Reconditioned boats sold by dinghy manufacturers / distributors
  1. Always inspect a second hand boat before buying it and if you are unsure what you are looking for seek advice before viewing or see if an experienced sailor will view the boat with you.
  2. Before viewing check whether the price is reasonable, this can be done by visiting the sources listed above and checking the specification and age of similarly priced boats.
  1. Boat construction
    1. Older boats tend to be wooden while newer boats tend to be made of some sort of plastic.
    2. If you buy a wooden boat you will need to be prepared to spend time maintaining it over the winter months.
    3. Plastic boats take less maintenance. The rota moulded boats like toppers, pico’s etc are great for kids because they cope with bumps better !!!
  2. Try before you buy
    1. If the boat you are interested in is sailed at the club ask a member if you can try their boat.
    2. Some manufacturers will let you try a boat before you purchase it.
    3. Some people selling boats privately will offer to let you try the boat before you purchase and show you how to assemble it if they don’t ask yourself why!
    4. Find a commercial centre where you can try the boat you wish to purchase.
  3. What to look for when inspecting a boat
    1. If you have the opportunity to sail the boat you are wishing to buy you will soon identify any issues. With new boats there should be none so the list beneath is more relevant to second hand boats.
    2. Ask where the boat has been sailed i.e. fresh water or on the sea, the latter will age a boat quicker if not washed down after each session.
    3. Ask what the boat has been used for and how regularly it has been sailed, some boats can be old in terms of age but have been used little, while other may be newer but have been used frequently.
    4. Check that the hull is dry after your test sail. If you cannot sail the boat take the bung out and look for signs of water. Ask the owner if the hull is dry.
    5. When viewing look for any visible signs of damage / repair to the hull, rudder and dagger board. Ask if any repairs have been undertaken.
    6. Check scratches on hull and ensure they are superficial.
    7. Check the condition of the spars, sails and ropes.
    8. Check fittings are all secure and not loose / worn out.
    9. Check that the sail number and hull number are the same; this gives you the correct age of the boat.
    10. If the boat you are buying is wooden look for black marks on the wood inside the cockpit which are visible under the varnish, this is often a sign that there has been or is a leak.
    11. If buying a launch or road trailer with the boat inspect these to ensure that they are safe. Pay particular attention to the road trailer, especially the tow hitch and wheel units.
    12. Most design of boats have know weak points i.e. laser mast step, mirror dagger board casing therefore before viewing find out if this is the case for the boat you are looking at so you can focus on this area during your inspection.
  4. Getting boat home and moving boat
    1. Ensure if the boat is not at NBCSC that you can get it home. Options are trailer and tow bar or maybe in a hired van.
    2. If you are going to sail at different venues or take the boat on holiday with you will need a launch and road trailer. You might buy these with your boat or separately.
  5. Storing boat
    1. Boats can be stored at the club for a small fee each year but road trailers cannot be stored on the boat park so think about where you will store this.
  6. Insurance
    1. Please remember to get your boat insured, this is a club requirement. There are many companies who do this including;

Noble Marine –

Newton Crum –

J G W Direct –

Bishop Skinner –

You will find many more on the internet.

Class Association web sites

The link beneath will allow you to view all class association websites

Class associations are there to promote their boat and offer advice / services to their members / potential members.


There are many manufacturers, listed beneath are some examples who supply boats used at the club or in the RYA Junior pathway scheme;

RS Sailing (Feva, RS Vision)

Laser Performance (laser 1, radial and 4.7, Pico, Bahia, Laser 2000),

Trident (mirror),,

Topper International (Topper, Omega, Xenon),

Comet, (comet zero, duo and trio),

Trade Shows

Dinghy show – March each year at Alexandra Palace London

Southampton Boat show – September each year at  the Mayflower Park / Town Quay.


RYA Junior Pathway

The RYA recognise certain dinghies within their Junior scheme, full details of this can be found at;



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