Want some easy, fun sailing this summer? launched from your yacht or car, the latest sailing tender ideas give that instant sailing buzz. Toby Hodges and Sam Fortescue report
While we all crave as much helming pleasure as possible from our cruising yachts, the reality is that after making realistic space, volume and budget compromises, they may not always be that exhilarating on the helm. But once you reach a destination or anchorage, what’s to stop you, your friends or kids getting your hands-on tiller-sailing fix if you can stow the right sailing tender aboard?
You could argue that the development of lightweight, modular or inflatable dinghies in recent years has solved a headache for some yacht owners – now they can go for extra volume, or switch to a multihull perhaps, safe in the knowledge they can get the spray-in-the-face dinghy experience from a tender or toy once anchored.
Stowage space, whether on deck, on davits or in a locker, governs what options are available. In the past the choice has fallen into three categories: a rowing dinghy you can sail, a nesting dinghy, or a sailing inflatable (such as the Tinker Tramp). And while these categories haven’t necessarily changed, the design and technology lately has made the products immeasurably more appealing!
The ability to stow a quick-to-rig toy in the boot or on the roof of the car, has also unlocked the potential to explore a multitude of different sailing waters easily. These designs have brought to sailing what inflatable paddleboards have brought to watersports.
Best sailing tender
OC Sailing Tender
This has been at the top of my wishlist for tenders for some time, but now the family-run New Zealand company has come out with a rig for this lightweight composite boat that has just doubled the appeal.
OC Tenders was developed by experienced cruising sailors who were after a dry, stable, maintenance-free tender which is light enough to pull up a beach. A wide hull shape with plumb bow and flat run provides stability and volume and early planing ability, while foam sandwich construction makes it solid (puncture free) and light enough to carry. These also happen to be key elements for many modern performance sailing dinghy designs.
OC Tenders is unveiling a new Sailing Tender version this year, a kit which transforms two of its existing tenders into sailing dinghies. The main difference is a centreboard case which attaches to the thwart with a mast step below, neither of which can be removed, but only add 6kg weight. The rest of the sailing components are stored in bags which fit inside the tender, including a 6m mast in two sections, boom (both in 30% carbon), centreboard, rudder, hiking straps and 7.5m2 sail.
OC has a video of the tender surfing along and another of how easy it is to right it if you capsize. The boats weighs 68kg for the 3.3m or 74kg for the 3.5m, while the sailing components add just 15kg. Both are also available in carbon versions (a NZ$4,000 upgrade). The slight catch may be the cost, and that it’s a small company with low production run and high demand.
Price: OC330 from NZ$23,500 (circa £12,000).
It may be a nesting dinghy, but there’s nothing clinker-built about the Reverso Air. From the outset, the team behind this pocket beast of a boat were focused on performance, and that is what you get in spades. It has been clocked at 16 knots and readily takes to the plane, surfing down anything from harbour chop to long swell.
Reverso is built in Brittany using advanced composite construction. The 3.40m hull is infused in honeycomb sandwich, for stiffness and light weight, and carbon reinforcing is added where the loads are greatest, such as the mast step. The mast itself is a tube of high-modulus carbon fibre weighing just under 3kg, and the sail is 7m2 of high-tech membrane from Incidence.
Part of the stellar performance comes from the hull shape, designed by Charles Bertrand. A broad beam, flat bottom and deep chines provide stability for sailing with kids and a great platform for planing when a gust blows. “It is the lightness of the boat which makes it fast and efficient, allowing it to accelerate quickly,” says founder Antoine Simon. “Also, the quality of the materials, which give a dynamic response and transmit the forces, especially with the rigid hull.”
The boat is designed to take two grown-ups or an adult and two kids, so you can refine your technique in company if you like. Simon says this makes the boat ideal for teaching kids or going out for a solo burn.
Assembly is pretty simple and can take less than two minutes. The hull is composed of four parts, the heaviest of which weighs 16.8kg. The sections clip together along the coaming using stainless-steel levers. Then you add tension along the bottom of the boat using two Dyneema lines with a 1:14 cascade that puts on 600kg of compression.
When disassembled, the parts nest inside each other, fitting readily into the boot of a family car or an SUV. Measuring 1.45m x 0.92m x 0.72m, the folded boat is also designed for easy fixing to a trailer or towing-ball platform behind a car.
Accessories that improve the storage and use of the boat include a bag, (€490); smaller padded bags for the four mast sections, centreboard, tiller and rudder; a mounting mat to protect the boat on rough surfaces (€170); and a folding beach trolley (€490). And there’s a GPS speedometer (€499), specially designed for mounting at the base of the mast.
Price: Reverso Air €8,913 plus €1,090 shipping.
Foiling is no longer limited to pros and daredevils. AST’s beautifully designed foiling dinghy makes it possible for almost anyone to experience the exhilaration of flying on water. With a top speed of 25 knots-plus and a really simple control system, it is easy to get airborne.
The key is the mechanical foiling system, which requires no trimming. A foil on each side of the 3.85m hull resembles nothing more than a giant spider’s leg, or a wonky ‘7’. The foils are loose-mounted in such a way that they can cant slightly according to the tack you’re on. When the boat goes about, the leeward foil rises and the new windward foil drops. It requires no electronics or hydraulics – just a bit of elementary physics.
You control the boat using a T-shaped rudder whose foil supports the boat aft and helps keep you balanced while foiling. With foils deployed, the effective beam jumps from 1.58m to 2.10m and the draught from 15cm to 1.10m, giving the boat excellent stability.
AST says the hull will fly from 8 knots of true wind, thanks in part to the lightweight layup, with an overall weight of 55kg. The foils, rudder and mast are all in carbon fibre, while the hull is in a lightweight foam-epoxy sandwich.
With a cool reverse bow, open transom and hiking wings, this boat looks the business. It can support up to 95kg of crew weight, so could in theory take two children. But this is really a solo sailer, designed for thrills and spills. AST offers two different sails, 7.5m2 or 9.5m2.
The foils can be folded flush to the hull for transport., there’s a custom-made aluminium trolley for launching and towing; padded covers for the foils and rudder (€269); and a Velocitek SpeedPuck to measure your speed (€399).
This is not a cheap option… but it is a fun one.
AST also does a non-foiling L12 Lowrider – a 3.82m planing performance dinghy, which weighs just 30kg.
Prices: AST Folier €15,631 inc VAT, L12 Lowrider €8,824 ex VAT.
IZIBoat germinated from a desire to make sailing easy, fun and accessible to all, by creating a catamaran that is ultra fast to assemble (less than 15 minutes). No tools are needed thanks to a neat plug, lock and tension system. While speeds of 14+ knots are reportedly achievable, it is more aimed at accessible sailing, regardless of age or ability. So it can seat four and is intuitive for new sailors thanks to joystick steering – just tilt the stick the way you want to turn.
The brainchild of François Tissier, who dreamed of a dinghy with ease and stability while living in the South Pacific, it took many years of R&D and 11 prototypes. The beach cat measures 500x62cm, so can easily be stored in a garage and its five components weigh 152kg, so it can be transported on the roof of a car or even towed by a bike or e-bike.
Price: from €8,990.
This is a fun sailing boat that you can row properly for recreation too. The first Liteboat XP was a 20ft model which we tested four years ago and were so impressed with the sailing ability, we jointly gave it a European Yacht of the Year award. It’s also excellent for rowing enthusiasts. For those still sceptical, consider that it’s drawn by in-demand IMOCA designer Sam Manuard.
The new 5m/16ft model is more compact and lighter still (100kg). There’s no cuddy, but it still sports a sliding rowing seat, carbon oars and outriggers and a catboat-style rig with two part carbon mast and a 7.5m2 boom-less sail. But it’s when reaching with the 6m2 gennaker that you’ll really get the buzz. It converts from sailing to rowing mode in under a minute. It’s an efficient explorer that’s blast to sail, will keep you fit and avoids the need for a smelly, noisy outboard.
Price: from €14,500.
Best inflatable sailing tender
The original Tiwal 3 is already marking its 10th anniversary, the design having been at the forefront of using drop stitch technology to create a really stiff inflatable. Now the boat has been turbo-charged, tweaked and improved. The result is the Tiwal 3R, with a top speed of 14 knots and a helming position just millimetres off the water.
It comes deflated in two bags weighing around 30kg each (plus a smaller sail bag), and comprises a concave inflatable hull and anodised aluminium ‘exoskeleton’, which transmits the forces from the mast, rudder and daggerboard. It also provides two raised hiking ‘wings’ which allow you to balance the 6m2 or 7m2 sail, tailor-made by North Sails in Xi V2 racing laminate.
The 3R’s performance boost stems from a number of small steps. For instance, the hiking bars have been extended aft so that you can shift weight back when the wind picks up. The aluminium frame is stronger and stiffer for better power transfer, and the hull is a more efficient shape, courtesy of the rail on the stern. The mast and boom are now 90% carbon for lighter weight.
Assembly takes 25 minutes – a little longer than the original Tiwals, because of the additional elements of the frame and control lines, according to founder Emmanuel Bertrand. Experience says there is a bit of fiddly slotting of aluminium tubes together, which can be trickier if sand gets into the joint. The boat is rated for crew up to 200kg, which allows for two adults or one grown-up and two children. Really, though, you want to be sailing this alone at top speed. And with a choice of two sails, you can go out in pretty much any conditions.
Price: from £8,140.
Dutch brand DinghyGo has built a reputation for the reliability of its growing range of sailing inflatables.
They are not performance oriented, but are easy to assemble, have bags of buoyancy and can be stored in two mid-sized bags. The range starts at 2.30m LOA, but the flagship Orca 375 is the latest release, with a 4.8m2 mainsail and a 1.1m2 jib.
The four-piece mast requires three soft stays to keep it aloft, while the foot is anchored through a thwart.
With 650kg of payload capacity, you can bring three adults and a heap of camping gear with you.
The Czech sailor behind the MiniCat brand teamed up with round-the-world sailor Laura Dekker to launch the Guppy.
At 3.00m LOA, it is the smallest boat in the Minicat range, with a capacity for two, but weighs a staggeringly small 26kg itself.
Perched on two big 33cm floats, just a small aluminium frame does the job of supporting the mast and the trampoline. The mast and its 3.9m2 sail is stayed to a short bowsprit, and the whole takes just 15 minutes to put together. Stub keel fins help reduce leeway.
Its light weight makes it eminently portable and easy to stow.
Price: €2,665 ex-VAT.
Granted, it can look a bit daft watching middle-aged folk pumping and flapping away while trying to get a giant inflatable wing to lift their mass onto a skinny foil. But once you’ve experienced that feeling of pure flight, silently skimming over the surface, there’s no going back.
Whether for surfing, windsurfing, or even kiting, any solid boards take up valuable locker space. All of which arguably makes an inflatable foil board and an inflatable wing the ultimate in compact sailing fun.
The foils typically disconnect from their masts and pack in protective bags. The inflatable boards can also be used to wingsurf or paddle on in displacement mode. Or try towing one behind a tender – with a foil you only need very small speeds (around 6 knots) and, with practice, you can be surfing a wee wake.
The smaller volume boards better suit surf and wingfoil use and the larger boards are for wing and SUP enthusiasts.
F-One’s Rocket Air is designed around its rigid boards, and range from 75lt (4ft 11in) to 185lt (7ft 11in) and prices from £625-£825.
Naish, meanwhile, has models of its new Hover board from 80-170lt, which have composite carbon plates on the bottom for the foil join for a stiff ride.
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