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Flying Fifteens celebrate 4000th boat constructed

by Rupert Leslie on 24 Jul 2012 21 July 2012
Bill Shand is allocated Flying Fifteen sail number 4000 © David Meldrum

The 21st July 2012 marked a milestone for the Flying Fifteen International class and its several thousand members around the world with the launch of the 4000th boat constructed since the design came off the drawing board of legendary designer Uffa Fox in 1947.

"The coincidence of being able to allocate boat 4000 to Australia's most prolific flying fifteen builder, 83 year old Bill Shand for what may well be his own last fifteen, was a very fitting opportunity and terrific thing for the class to be able to do," said FFI Commodore Greg Wells. "To have reached this milestone, and I think be the first of the ISAF recognised international keelboat classes to do so, is something the class is extraordinarily proud to have achieved. Today is a great day in our history," he added.

Bill Shand started building Flying Fifteens' in Gipplsand, in South-East Australia in 1961, and has produced in excess 250 boats from his moulds through until 2010, owning and racing 25 of them which, other than the first one, were all called "Relience".

He has been an active player in the development and refinement of the class, with many of his boats claiming international and national championships, and regional honours over that time. His contribution to Flying Fifteen sailing in Australia and internationally have seen him awarded life membership of the FFI Australia, and the prestigious Uffa Fox Gold Medal from FFI.

Shand picks up the story, "I had a few bits and pieces lying around my workshop a year or two ago and thought I'd build a final boat for myself. Unfortunately falling through a boat hatch and breaking some ribs slowed that idea down. Late last year I learned there was a spare spot in one of the containers coming out from the UK for the Australian 50th Nationals in Perth earlier this year. I elected to get an Ovington hull from the UK manufacturer shipped out, and drive the 7000 km round trip across the Nullabor to collect it. So this boat already has a bit of history and to be allocated the 4000 number was both unexpected and a great honour from FFI."

Over the past few months Bill has fitted a Shand keel and rudder, a Selden rig, Pinnell and Bax sails, and his usual range of fittings, systems and innovations to the boat.

On a cool winter afternoon on the 21st July 2012 on the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, with not much breeze, long time friend and crew David Parish was on hand to help splash the ceremonial champagne, and for the launch and maiden voyage of Flying Fifteen 4000, appropriately named Relience 4K. A large group of well wishers and fellow "fifteeners" were on hand to witness the launch and celebrate the occasion with Bill.

"My 50 year journey in the Flying Fifteen Class has enabled me to meet and race against many wonderful people around the world, in a beautiful 2 man keelboat that is a delight to sail, and to have a lot of fun and enjoyment along the way" said Shand.

"Flying Fifteens are sailed on all 5 continents, in 15 countries, and over 65 years the class has formed a strong international network of country and regional associations and its world governing body, FFI.," said Commodore Wells "The class had 110 boats at the 2011 Worlds in the UK and continues to grow at the rate of 30 to 40 new boats each year. With next year's World Championship in Hong Kong, we are keen to significantly increase our presence in South East Asia. Hopefully boat 5000 might be around for the 75th Anniversary of the class in a decade from now."

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