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What was intriguing at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show 2023?

by Magnus Smith 6 Mar 16:30 GMT 25-26 February 2023
One Merlin Rocket owner clearly has an influential young daughter - seen at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show © Magnus Smith /

Determined not to let moving house (the day before) stop him from working,'s website developer, Magnus Smith, attended his favourite boat show during the last weekend in February.

The first thing to get his heart fluttering was the remote-operated self-bailers on his favourite class, the Merlin Rocket. But wait.... two other classes sported such systems too! Why has this idea made a return after not being seen since 1970?

Jon Turner's latest Merlin seems to be going for extra carbon tube well as the usual string fetish. Across my wrist in the photo below you can see the bar which makes pulling the traveller easier, then my fingers are holding two more, and a fourth can be seen looking after the jib leads at top of picture.

Black carbon tubing is all very well, but I'd prefer a vibrant hue if possible. The Scorpion class delivered.

Sailboat Trailers seem to agree, and are breaking the long-held tradition that trolley wheels must be red... or faded to pink. They now sell them in pink to start with. Hot pink!

Unusual colours catch my eye, as you can probably tell, so I stopped to talk to one National 12 sailor who clearly felt that carbon and wood both deserved a place on his lovely pale sea green boat.

I was also glad to see that the Cadet class, despite moving from wood to plastic in the years since I last sailed with them (sob!) now offer a decent range of colours.

An International Canoe of an unusual colour (white, in this class?!) required a second glance to see exactly where tiller extension ended and jib-boom began.

A second, and perhaps third, glance was also needed for the Thames A Rater rudder, which quite frankly was shocking. I feel the urge to write to Mary Whitehouse. After I've checked it again.

Passing by the excellent range of dinghies for the disabled it was noted that the Hansa class came in more sizes and colours than previously spotted. Although the designer may have forgotten the need for the top of the jib to connect to the mast SOMEWHERE! No?

Nearby, the catamaran section was a shrine for any sailor who thinks two is better than one; although Nacra apparently disagree when it comes to booms. Not only was there only one on the F18 and F16, the class seems to be returning to the bendy boom experimental period of the 1960s.

Experimental ideas also ran wild with the Amateur Yacht Research Society who were displaying a radical new design of one-man sit-down yacht. It wasn't just the delta sail (lateen?) which raised an eyebrow with its mast stepped on the transom, but the hull was deliberately designed to get the skipper's bum wet. Perhaps it solves the issue of installing 'heads' on such a small craft?

I couldn't tell if the above vessel would have taken longer to build than the incredible model GP14, which was alarmingly accurate in every tiny detail. The following photo shows a giant hand adjusting the outhaul.

For those wanting quicker projects than hand-crafting from scratch, I found the answer with the Tideway class. Plastic doorstops are great for stopping centreplate vibrations/damage when towing.

Almost as simple was a Barton product I hadn't seen before, for making halyard falls much neater and less prone to tangling.

Hammond were exhibiting their range of drysuits again, though it seems a little futile when my purchase from them in 1992 is still going strong. Who needs a replacement when the suits last so well?

Beach Perfect had a demo of a new beach mat in from the USA, which seemed nothing short of black magic. No more fighting a losing battle to keep sand off your towel - it just disappears. How long before they can make shoes out of this stuff too?

The Comet class used a touch of humour to draw the eye towards a great campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer. The boat name was enough to make me scan a QR code and see the owner's Facebook page, and from there to to check my own risk level.

Another cancer charity had representation from an RS Aero sailor who declares his intention to become the first ever singlehanded dinghy sailor to go around the 250 islands of England and Wales; all in aid of Cancer Research UK. See his website at now, because before summer is over he will have made it!

The Bainbridge stand had a lovely land-yacht which made me wish there was more of this sort of thing at a WATERsports show. Yes, seriously!

But I must get back to being silly again. Let us continue...

I didn't enjoy eating the free snacks put out by The Green Blue so I went to a Greek stall (that must have been run by some sort of filo pastry marketing board) and had the most mind-blowing experience of the show: a vegetarian quiche that tasted NICE! Not only that, it wasn't insanely overpriced.

Since you don't want a photo of me eating, I'll end with Harken's illustration of the size of their product range, well worthy of a chuckle. There is a small block suspended inside the larger block, if you look closely.

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