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National 12s at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show

by John Meadowcroft 18 Feb 2015 14:25 GMT 28 February - 1 March 2015
Neal and Freya Lillywhite enjoying their 25 year old N12 `Indecision` N3271 at the 2013 Burton Week at Brixham © Gareth Fudge

In a crowded market of sailing dinghies the National 12 has its own niche as a thoroughbred racing dinghy that has stood the test of time. An established class with a strong Class Association organising an annual programme of events for the 3,500 boats that have been built since 1936.

The boat is suitable for lightweight combinations and has a wide mix of husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, parent/child combinations doing well. From the perspective of getting your family into sailing, why drive a long way to watch your kids sailing when you could go sailing with them! You don't have to follow particular classes if the goal of an Olympic medal or the commitment to your family of joining a squad is not for you or them! Or you can seek to join such squads at a later stage in your sailing development, or even do a bit of both.

The 12 is suitable for lightweight combinations. The jib is easily handled by a child and there is no complexity of a spinnaker. However for the helmsman the boat is a joy to sail and if time on the water is limited as you train a novice gently then the boat is a joy for the enthusiast to play with on shore. As the child develops and grows they learn a lot about movement about the boat and taking responsibility for sharing in timing, tactical decision making and rig controls.

Neal Lillywhite learned to sail as a child on his parent's yacht, windsurfed his way through his student years with the odd lecture attended. Then into grown up jobs and Neal was sailing keelboats on the South Coast at weekends. Now in 2012 with a young family, Neal acquired "Indecision", the first Design 8 from the drawing board of Phil Morrison. Kevin Driver at the Boat Yard at Beer did a fantastic refurbishment to bring Indecision back to her former glory.

Neal has sailed with 11 year old daughter Freya and such is their enthusiasm that they have enjoyed sailing together at Carnac, Salcombe and the Burton Week Championships at Pevensey Bay among a number of venues visited in 2014. Says Neal, "Without doubt sailing the National 12 over the last couple of years has been the most enjoyable sailing I've done (and that's a quite lot). It's a technically interesting and rewarding boat to sail, plus the wonderful dynamic of sailing/racing with your children. The unexpected bonus has been the friendliness and welcome of the class association and makes a huge difference when sailing with kids."

To further celebrate the National 12 Class this year we have created 12 Fest to be held at Northampton Sailing Club on 20/21 June. This is a rally for 12 owners with a party on the Saturday night, after a day of race coaching from Mark Rushall, Graham Camm and Tom Stewart. We will also run the Junior Championships and will run some very informal racing on the Sunday. It is the event for all 12 sailors to attend this summer and to celebrate the joy of the boats that we own.

The National 12s will be exhibiting 2 boats at the RYA Dinghy Show on 28 February / 1 March at Alexandra Palace, London on stand B46.

1. Neal Lillywhite's Design 8 N3271 "Indecision", built in 1987 by Arnot Dobson and refurbished by the Boat Yard at Beer in 2012. Neal is a member of Burghfield SC and sails with his 11 year old daughter Freya. They won the Admirals Cup prize for older boats at the 2014 Gul Series and were widely travelled on the Open circuit, visiting Carnac, Salcombe YC Regatta and Burton Week.

2. Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne's Dead Cat Bounce N3530 "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", built in 2010 by Boat Yard at Beer/ P&B and winner of Burton Week and the Burton Cup in 2010 and 2012. Graham and Zoe won the Bloody Mary pursuit race in 2014, were the leading 12 at Carnac, won the 2014 Inland Championships and placed second overall in the Gul Series.

More information about the N12 class on

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