Adventures with an old wooden racing dinghy Part 2: going to the races

Nick Lightbody
13 min readMay 27, 2021
The Scorpion Inland Championships 2021 at Notts County SC started in light conditions ©David Eberlin

Sailing clubs run Open Meetings where they welcome all comers to compete, generally in a specific class of dinghy. This gives them the opportunity to raise funds, promote their club and test their own members’ skills against the best in the fleet. These beautiful on the water photos of Scorpions are all courtesy and copyright ©David Eberlin. Thank you David.

Getting prepared

With the boat ready to race we needed to drag that old bag of sailing clothes out of storage and find something to keep us comfortable whilst jousting with the bright young things of the Scorpion fleet. A good wetsuit seemed essential as no doubt the brain making appointments the older body couldn’t quite keep would result in some aquatic activity, hopefully limited.

Neoprene shrinkage

Whilst well aware of the dangers of shrinking cloths washed at the wrong temperature no one had ever warned of the dangers of old neoprene shrinking with age. Our faithful O’Neill ong John wetsuit – a wonderfully soft pull on design with no nasty zips – acquired at a Californian Worlds by my old Racing Sailboats colleague Colin Merritt – and transported home in a 505 – had inexplicably shrunk and no longer fitted me. Surveying the sailing Long John market the front zips really didn’t appeal when imagining being crunched up in light weather in a fairly narrow 14ft dinghy.

Unable to find any modern equivalent of the 1980 vintage O’Neill the better option was to buy a metre of 3mm double lined neoprene from Lomo in Glasgow and hand sew some supplemental panels into the sides of the wetsuit to re-establish a comfortable fit. After careful measuring it seemed clear that we needed from 70–90mm of additional width on both sides from shoulder to hips tapering down to nil at the knee.

There followed a couple of evenings of happy hand sewing with our Wm.Smith & Sons sailmaker’s palm & needle and Bainbridge flat sewing thread resulting in a surprisingly nice result.

We were, however, unenthusiastic about suggestions we should offer this as a service – apparently older people’s wet suit shrinkage is a common problem – but hand sewing is a lengthy and laborious business with no easy shortcuts.

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Nick Lightbody

A British former lawyer designing sustainable micro responsive web sites because “less is better”.