What is a Minnow?
It’s an 8 foot long dinghy, with a minimum hull weight of 20kg, and a single sail – sailed by one person. The class has a series of measurement rules to ensure it is a ‘one-design’ class. The hull features 3 separate buoyancy tanks giving the twin advantage of a cockpit that doesn’t completely fill with water after a capsize, and providing a nice comfy side for sitting on. The class rules also prevent the use of exotic (read expensive) materials like carbon fibre hulls, kevlar sails, and tapered masts. And let’s not forget out favourite feature – the distinctive blue sail shared by every one of the 1150 Minnows built so far. All hail the blue sail !! (or Sailing, not Bailing as a former bumper-sticker boasted!)
What age group are Minnows suitable for?
Most kids are ready to start sailing by themselves in training once they turn 8. That should see the start of a period that can easily extend to the age of 13 or so – by which time they’ll just be getting too big to fit in the boat. (Actually – some kids stay in the class up to the age of 16 or so if they haven’t gone thru an early growth squirt).
Isn’t 8 a bit young to be going out in a boat single-handed?
We’ve had a whole generation of kids at BYS who have started their sailing careers in Minnows at this age – they’ll be fine. Sailing is a fabulous character builder – it teaches independence, quick thinking and decision making, and gets them outdoors away from the TV and computer. And all the while, they are being watched by our patrol boats and the control tower (and they have buoyancy vests on, and most wear a wetsuit!)
What training is available at Blairgowrie?
Blairgowrie offers a large sail training program for our juniors. It is broken down into 5 different groups reflecting the different levels of experience. The minimum age is 8 (as at November each year) Training happens on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings in January, and on Sunday mornings in November, December and February.. During this time, those beginning will learn to rig their boats, to sail them in the sheltered waters between the shore and the moored boats, and to right their boats after a capsize. By the end of their summer, one of the special occasions is their first sail down to Rye. Parents are strongly encouraged be part of the training program.
Beyond the beginner group, the kids are taught more advanced levels of boat control, and to sail in stronger wind conditions. They will also enjoy their first introduction to racing. For all groups, the sail training is conducted by experienced and qualified members of the club, and the boats are overseen by plenty of club rescue boats.
When do they start racing?
We find that some of our juniors are ready to enter our club races after just a year in the sail training – and there are very few who won’t be confident to try their first race after 2 years.
The Minnow racing is split into 3 sections. First there are Minnow A and Minnow B. Both start together, but the Minnow B sailors do a shorter course of one less triangle. For the Minnow B’s then, that means usually a triangle, and then a beat to the finish. For those just starting out, the Minnow T (for ‘Training’) racing takes place just out from the club.
For many, the first race will seem a bit scary. Don’t worry! Ask one of the other Minnow parents or sailors to explain the courses, flags and starting/finishing procedures if you’d like a helping hand. Pick a day when it’s not forecast to blow too hard, and perhaps set a goal of at least getting through the start-line and up the first leg.
How do I buy a Minnow?
With Sorrento and Blairgowrie being the biggest Minnow clubs in Australia, you’re in the right spot for buying one. There are 3 main avenues for buying a second hand Minnow. Firstly, look at the noticeboards at Blairgowrie and Sorrento. Next, go to the Minnow class website at www.minnow.org.au – where there is a ‘for sale’ section. Finally, there is always the Trading Post.
Second hand boats suitable for starting out training typically start at around $800. For a top racing boat , the prices come in at around $3,500. You can of course get a brand new one, with them being built by several professional boat-builders – or they can be built at home. Most of the earlier Minnows are made of plywood, although many newer ones can be bought with fibreglass hulls. Minnows retain their value well, and many people find themselves ‘trading up’ after their kids have completed their first year or two in the class.
What events happen away from Blairgowrie?
There is a very active Minnow class association in Victoria. Highlights of the year include the National championship – which Blairgowrie last hosted in January 2005 and 2009. With the main fleets in Blairgowrie and Sorrento in Victoria, Lake Cootharaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Rockingham near Perth and Darwin – the national championship moves around Australia. These championships cater for all levels, and are a great event for kids and parents alike. Separate fleets for Novices and the experienced kids; trophies galore, and lots of sponsor’s giveaways.
Another not-to-be missed event is the annual Lidgett Cup at Daveys Bay in February. With over 30 Blairgowrie Minnows in this 120 boat fleet of juniors, it is a packed weekend of coaching and racing. Soon after comes the Victorian championships in late February each year, a Traveller’s series, the Winter Series at Albert Park Lake, and several fantastic coaching weekends.
Does anything happen off the water?
There is no doubt that the kids have a great time and make great friends at the club and the various class events. Just in case they run the risk of getting bored in-between these times, there are a range of events organised by the club for the juniors such as an all-day ‘Mystery Day’ excursion, a junior skippers on keel boats race, and a video night. And let’s not forget the social interaction between the parents too!
How do I find out more?
Lots of options here. Try the two key web-sites for a start – Blairgowrie www.bys.asn.au and Minnow Association www.minnow.org.au. Come down to the club on a sail training day and observe things for yourself – and ask some questions.