Take a look at the beach at Blairgowrie on any weekend in summer, and you won’t be able to miss the line-up of Sabres with their distinctive red topped sails. Sabres have been strong at Blairgowrie for several decades, and remain the biggest racing fleet in the club.
About the Sabre class
Welcome to the Sabre – one of Australia’s most popular single handed racing dinghies. At 3.7m in length, the Sabre is similar in length to the popular Laser class, although has a little less sail area. It is amazingly light-weight, with a minimum hull weight of just 41kg. The boat is easily launched single-handedly, with most boats using a beach trolley for easy storage, rigging and launching. The boats are easy to sail, and can offer lively performance in downwind planing conditions. They are also a comfortable boat to sail, with their deep cockpits and rounded side tanks. – this is a boat you sit in, not on.
The Sabres can be built in plywood, fibreglass, or fibreglass with plywood decks. They can be home built in plywood, professionally built and home painted and fitted-out; or fully professionally built. It is a ‘one-design’ class, with a series of measurement rules that ensure that one Sabre is the same as all the rest. The Sabres are an Australian class, and some 1700 have been built so far.
So who are Sabres suitable for ?
You will struggle to find a boat that can be competitively sailed by a more diverse range of people. In fact, Sabres are sailed by people from 14 to 80 in age; and in weights from 45 to 95kg. And don’t forget – you don’t need a crew – so you won’t be left on the beach when your crew can’t sail.
Unlike the Laser class, the Sabre is not an Olympic class, and the less serious nature of the racing and the sailors reflects this. The Sabre class therefore appeals to the 99% of sailors who aren’t aspiring to the Olympics ! The Sabre with its hard chines was designed for Port Phillip Bay (and its signature ‘chop’), and this makes for greater stability, and a boat that rides waves and responds well. It is often noted that other key points in the Sabre’s favour are that it does not much require as much crew weight, strength or stamina as the Laser. Additionally, Sabre sailors are not as prone to lower back problems due to more upright position when hiking..
As you might have guessed then, that leaves a fairly large proportion of the population suited to the Sabre ! A couple of groups deserve special mention – teenagers and women. The Sabre over the years has proved to be a great boat for teenagers making their first move out of training classes like Minnows or Sabots once they reach say 50kg. (And past Blairgowrie juniors like Wayne Bates, Peter Wilson and Adrian Kamer all had huge success in the class as teenagers). It’s also a great women’s boat – as illustrated by the huge success that Black Rock sailors Maree Early and Fiona McCulloch have enjoyed in recent years. As with teenagers, it is a boat that isn’t going to over-power you.
So whether you have never sailed before, if you are coming back into sailing after a long break, you want to change gears after years in another class, or you just want great fleet racing – think Sabre.
And why just sit on the beach watching your kids or spouse sail!
What is the racing like ?
So why is the Sabre racing at Blairgowrie so good, and why do we enjoy it so much ? There are quite a few factors that make all the difference when it comes to providing great sail racing.
- We are a one-design class where it is the skill of the skipper that is the deciding factor. In turn, we sail as our own class, rather than in mixed-class fleets. This means that we enjoy great, close racing. Don’t under-estimate how enjoyable it is to participate in racing where you find yourself within a couple of boat lengths of other boats right around the course !
- We offer amongst the biggest fleet sizes in Australia – with 100 boats for example taking part in the 2003/04 championships at Blairgowrie.
- Races are a mixture of ‘scratch’ and handicap – with the latter providing a means by which up & coming sailors can get some recognition for their achievements.
- Never raced before ? We all started sometime – give it a try ! There is a broad range of experience across the fleet, and you’ll always find yourself competing against boats no matter what your standard.
- And finally, we’re a friendly bunch – sailors socialise well before and after the race.
Why Blairgowrie ?
One struggles to find a nicer place to sail off-the-beach boats in Victoria than the Southern Mornington Peninsula. The coast arcs around to Sorrento and Portsea to the west, and Arthur’s seat to the east – creating a delightful back-drop to the sailing area.
In turn, the prevailing South-Westerly sea-breeze blows straight off-shore at Blairgowrie. This means that we generally sail in flatter seas, and don’t have to launch our boats into breaking waves.
We store and rig our boats on grass in front of the club, and have plenty of free parking around the club. The club has an extensive fleet of patrol boats including multiple state-of the art RIB rubber–inflatable craft.
At Blairgowrie, the Sabre represents our biggest racing fleet. We have some 50 – 60 boats on the register in total, and in the peak of summer we will find over 30 of them taking part in some races. In fact, not only does that make Sabres a big class at Blairgowrie, we are also the biggest Sabre club in Australia.
There is a major junior sail training program at the club between December and February each year – catering for the larger Sabres & Lasers alongside the Minnow class.
How do you buy a boat ?
Most people new to the class will start out with a second hand boat. Prices start at maybe just $1,000 for a boat with a lot of miles on the speedo, and climb to maybe $6,000 or more for a ‘late-model’ boat.
A great place to be looking for boats is the Sabre Association website. sabre.org.au. The Melbourne Trading Post is another useful spot (particularly for older boats), and don’t forget the notice-boards at Sabre clubs like Blairgowrie, Black Rock, and Albert Park. Try putting up a wanted to buy sign too if Sabres are scarce.
For new Sabres, you have lots of options. The Sabre website also lists the contact details of 5 different builders of new plywood and fibreglass boats. These can be supplied as hull only, or all the way to ‘ready to sail’ complete with trailer and beach trolley. We’ve got a number of examples of these at Blairgowrie, built by YMS in Adelaide or Martin Sly of Victoria. Have a look at these around the club if you are interested.
There is no clear outcome as to whether the plywood or the fibreglass boats are faster – so it comes down to personal preference. Another option is the fibreglass boat with timber decks – giving the lower maintenance of fibreglass, with the classic beauty of timber.
The Sabre Class Association
The Association organises a national championship each year which rotates through Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, SA (Adelaide) and Queensland, (Brisbane/Southport). We typically see around 10 Blairgowrie boats head off to this event which is held at Xmas / New Year. Numbers range from 40 to 100 depending on the state.
There is also a state championship held in February /March. Additionally, there is an an excellent coaching weekend at Black Rock in Oct, and a club-based teams event in late November. Championships are a superb opportunity to gain experience in bigger fleets, and they attract sailors across all skill levels (ie not just the hot-shots!). They also feature a series of championships within the championships such as the Juniors, Masters and Womens events, as well as Divisional sections.
How do you find out more ?
The Sabre website – www.sabre.org.au – contains a wealth of information on all things Sabre.
Why not also come and have a chat with some Sabre sailors ?
Some of our regulars include:
Andrew Graham – Loitering with Intent – 1760
Wayne Bates – Outabaloo – 1610
John Petchel – Aquaholic – 1729
Andrew Little – Scram – 1756
Callum Burns – Purple Patch – 1743