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Poole AB’s @ 60

The Poole AB Dinghy Celebrates its 60th Birthday at Parkstone Yacht Club   AB50 EarlyAB 50 built in 1960

  • The AB sailing dinghy, a simple, classic children’s sailing dingy, first designed and built in Poole in 1958, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
  • On Saturday 8 September 2018 the Class held its 60th birthday party which included A parade of sail in Poole Harbour of all the ABs afloat, an AB veteran’s race and a ‘Masters vs Juniors’ race between current AB children and distinguished ex-AB sailors.
  • Poole Harbour hosts a large, vibrant fleet of these little boats and, with their colourful hulls and sails, they are easily recognised out on the water off Baiter Park every Friday and Sunday.
  • ABs are sailed by children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.
  • ABs continue to be built new in Poole by local boat-builder Chris Somner, but are also made by amateurs out of ply-wood.
  • Parkstone Yacht Club hosts the largest fleet locally with 90 ABs regularly sailing and racing.

 

The AB dinghy was designed and built by Mr Harry Poole, from Poole, Dorset in 1958. At the time, he was a well-known sailing enthusiast and instructor in the town and was specifically looking for a small boat for young people to learn to sail on the clay pits in Hamworthy. With nothing suitable on the market he set about building a boat that met his needs; it needed to be big enough for one adult or 2 smaller people, yet small enough to use the minimum resources that were available in those post-war years and be as affordable as possible. After 9 prototypes, the tenth boat turned out to be just right. She was originally part of a fleet of ABs taken to Ayre Bay Sailing Club in West Scotland by Lord Strathclyde but subsequently returned to Poole Harbour. By Current PYC Commodore Rob Jarratt when he was AB Class Captain. As a testament to the design and build of those earliest ABs, she is still sailing and racing today along with, we think, up to 112 other ABs in the Poole area alone.

 

ABs have been in almost continuous production over the last 60 years. They are simple enough that a keen DIYer can obtain the plans from the AB Association and put a boat together in the shed over a winter. Alternatively, Poole boat builder Chris Somner, has a mould and can turn out a complete GRP boat or, if the buyer prefers, a GRP hull with a beautifully varnished wooden deck.

 

In 2017, Chris built just such a boat for his own daughter. For a bit of fun he invited 5 other dads to join him in an ‘evening class’ and, with Chris a step ahead in the build, he guided them to fabricate the marine ply decks, thwarts and buoyancy tanks. Each boat took rather longer than the 100 work hours predicted but the team worked together and it became something of a social club in its own right. The result is 6 brand new ABs that are outstandingly beautiful. The Dads, and their children, are rightly proud of the results.

 

AB Number 424 at the Beginning of the Build and on Completion

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We know that ABs have been sailed all over the country over the years and they have been the boat that inspired generations to take to the water. Even some Olympic level sailors, such as Annie Lush, first became impassioned and learned their sport in an AB. Today, Parkstone Yacht Club in Poole is the hub of AB sailing. The registered fleet currently stands at 90 boats regularly sailing on Friday evenings for fun and Sunday mornings for racing from April to December. The club’s new and fabulous club house on the North shore of Poole Harbour includes first class training facilities which will ensure current and future generations of sailors can continue to be inspired and learn the sport both ashore in the clubhouse and afloat in their ABs.

 

Harry Poole’s design has stood the test of time. With a Mainsail and Jib sail plan drawn by Richard Roscoe and at just 8’6” long it is big enough (just) for an adult to join the children in the boat for their very first magical experience of sailing. With children as young as 5 or 6 able to hold the tiller under supervision, the accompanying adult can easily allow the young helm to take command while still being there to resume control when required to avoid collision and put the boat back on course. Yet the AB is small enough that a confident child of about 7 years old can sail the boat by themselves or with a friend.

 

When the ABs race on a Sunday morning, a child-and-parent fleet and Bronze fleet of beginner sailors, race a simple course between 2 marker buoys set across the wind; separately, a Silver and Gold fleet of more accomplished sailors or double handed crews, race a triangular course that includes an upwind leg and requires the children to understand the rudiments of racing rules. These children are generally up to 12 years old and, on graduating, are confident and capable sailors, well able to handle bigger boats and a variety of rig configurations.

AB Dinghies on the Slipway at Parkstone Yacht Club’s Brand New Clubhouse

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This group of young sailors plus their parents make for a very sociable fleet; while learning to sail, these children are also learning social confidence, sportsmanship and making deep friendships. Perhaps Harry Poole would be surprised that such young children now sail ABs if he thought it was originally a boat designed for youth and smaller adults, but the tremendous and ongoing success of the AB dinghy as a beginner boat for kids is a testament to the special characteristics of the AB.

 

Double Handed Regatta in Parkstone Bay in June 2018

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The AB’s 60th Birthday Party. On Saturday 08 September, Parkstone Yacht Club and it’s fabulous brand-new clubhouse were open to all AB owners and AB veterans who were invited to come along and borrow a boat.  Many were overjoyed to be reunited with the boat they learned to sail in years previously and the session finished with a lively AB veterans race of 35 boats in 20kts of wind won by Johnny Currell the 2018 British para sailing world champion.  The current AB kids were then challenged to a race from ‘AB Masters’ who were led out by British Olympic sailor Annie Lush and J24 European champion Duncan McCarthy, both sailing the AB they campaigned in as children.  Lastly, all the Club’s seaworthy ABs combined with visiting boats took to the water for a Parade of Sail with the salute taken by Parkstone Yacht Club Commodore (and previous AB Class Captain) Rob Jarratt. The massed fleet totaled 84 ABs from the oldest (number 10 from 1958) to the newest (429 launched earlier this year). With 146 sailors on board out on the water together, it was an extraordinary exhibition of these joyful little boats and a blaze of colour on the harbour.   By the end of the afternoon, the AB Association was delighted to record a census of 113 AB dinghies accounted for and the celebration continued in the spanking new clubhouse in the evening with a wonderful reunion of old AB friends. It is safe to say that the future of this classic children’s dinghy is as bright and colourful as the boats themselves. We should not forget, though, that the rude health of the class is due in no small part to the tremendous support the fleet has had and continues to receive from Parkstone Yacht Club, which can be rightly proud to be the home and mentor of the very special AB dinghy.

 

For more information about the AB class visit:

 

AB Number 50 Racing Off Baiter Park in 2018

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