HUGH AT OCEANZ1 REPLIES TO HIS COMMENT'S.                       May update now and then.


This may read to some as a thinly veiled attempt to sell boats, by offering a solution to get more people sailing. 
But I promise you if I was not selling Topaz yachts I would say exactly the same things. The below are the very  reasons I decided to import Topaz sailboats.

                                       PLEASE DO TRY AND PERSEVERE TO THE END
                                                                       MANY THANKS, HUGH.

Come on ##### "keep it real"

Short term solutions to "big problems" means the same sh#t happens on another day.

Introducing another class is not the answer to Yachting's woes!

Why split the current Numbers.

Rule 1. Keep what you have while you have it.

Reply: What, no new designs? Is this to be the future of sailing in NZ? Should this be the way of progression in NZ sailing? Does vintage car racing attract the same numbers as Formula 1? Are Americas Cup boats not the latest in technological design? Is it not natural progression to build better, faster, stronger designs? Clearly the old adage of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” no longer applies, so why should NZ sailing not progress in the same way as any other sport? This has been going on for so long in NZ sailing, it’s no wonder the number one issue facing sailing clubs is how to attract new members, with such antiquated designs how on earth do you expect, or hope to attract the general public?, surely it’s now time to take our heads out of the sand, for if sailing in NZ will not embrace change it might as well close up shop. Has the design of windsurf boards stopped? Has the design of keelboats, power boats, kite surfs, jet skis, surfboards, you name it, stopped progressing? Then ask yourself why sailing clubs are struggling? Just like in business if you cannot see change coming and you do not adapt to it you will go under and that's what is happening out there in NZ clubs. This may be a bitter pill for the old diehard clubbies to swallow but they must learn how to adapt or die, people need a reason to join Clubs, with boats that are attractive to them and are good access points into sailing. A young NZ sailor back from the Splash worlds in Europe was amazed by the variety of exciting and advanced sailing dinghies over there, in comparison to what is sailed in this country. Why is this?  

rule 2. Introducing another class does not keep most current members sailing. getting their current class more active helps!

Reply: True, most members will probably stay with what they have and know, it could possibly be the fear of the new i.e. the trend towards gennaker sailing, even though it is way easier to sail than with a spinnaker driven boat. So why worry so much about splitting current numbers? Current members are probably sailing their first or second boat they have owned and believe it to the best boat in the world and that every potential new member should buy one, so increasing the fleet. From what I have seen in many clubs there seems to be way too much politics going on, with some members seemingly to have a hidden agenda that suits THEM & ONLY THEM and not the club or potential new young sailors into the sport. If it was their business we were talking about they would probably be bankrupt! real quick. It is not a difficult one i.e. give the customer what they want with great service and a smile. They don’t care that the boat maybe unsuitable for him or her, and thus the likely loss of a potential member. We are talking about developing the sport and making it more attractive to new sailors. Preserving the status quo won’t do it. The idea of "getting their current class more active helps!" yes BUT IT IS NOT WORKING, IS IT!

rule 3. Long term scenarios. Young non sailors who have a choice of activities need to be targeted. (these people don't really care what they sail, they just need a bloody good. sexy and exciting reason to get into it)

Reply: Couldn’t agree more with the last part but not the first. Of the current classes just what do you class as bloody good, sexy and exciting for young non sailors? They are antiquated designs that are well overdue for an overhaul and I would disagree that " these young people don't really care what they sail" I know I would.

Does NZ need to get over this class thing? Sailors in the UK buy what they want to sail and have fun and are not nearly so class lead; therefore they enjoy sailing more and way more often, not just racing or only in the summer. I may sound like a Pom here, but I am a third generation Northshore boy (Churchill Rd, Murrys Bay). They get more experience and enjoyment out of sailing simply by the fact of being out there more and in something they actually enjoy sailing on. Then if they feel the urge for high level competition, they can go down that route by buying into the class of their choosing.
Just look at their medal tally since we last won Olympic Dinghy Sailing Medals in 1992
                             GBR Gold 9 Silver 6 Bronze 3
                             NZL   "    1   "     1      "    2 ..............(All Windsurfers)
2012 Olympic update:GBR   "    1   "     4      "    0
        (add)              NZL   "    1   "     1      "    0   
With GBR having more Olympic Gold's than any other country.
Update:Great Britain is the most successful Olympic Sailing nation with (upto and including 2008) 28 Gold, 15 Silver and 12 Bronze medals since sailing was introduced in the 1900 Paris Olympics. (Source 2011

So can New Zealand learn from this and attract more people into the sport? i.e. start to use the business part of one's brain? and if so Yes if it started to use boats that would attract newcomers and not the usual old clapped out designs of 50 + years ago. So why has this be happening? is it because clubs and their members believe they have a vested interest in preserving the status quo so as to stop diminishing numbers of their classes, which is continuing to happen because of their old designs and consequently the loss of total membership numbers due to not being able to provide an exciting modern alternative. Isn't it time for clubs and authorities to wake up to this and stop the rot?

Dinghy sailing is far, far more popular in the UK with huge memberships of clubs, where the split between recreational sailing and racing is approximately 75% 25%, in NZ the split is probably 5%/95%. As a matter of interest there are over four times the number of sail clubs in the UK, one for every 25 km of coastline length, as apposed to 1 club for every 123 km in NZ. So there are a lot more people in the UK on the water, without the pressure to go racing, but with a much bigger pool of potential talent, and a greater interest in the sport.
As an idea of how popular sailing in the UK is (according to Grant at Boat Bits, with his experience of being in the industry for over 20 years), on any given Sunday in the whole of NZ there are approximately 900 dinghy sailors on the water and in the UK 1 million. On a per capita basis and considering their climate those are impressive figures...

In the UK there are 60 million people vs. in NZ 4 million people.      60 divided by 4 = 15 X more people in UK.
               1,000,000 divided by 900 = 1111.11
                  1111.11 divided by 15 = 74 X more popular in the UK. So where are we in NZ going wrong?

CLASS, CLASS, CLASS AND THE OBSESSION THERE OF!!!!!  Again the fear of diminishing numbers, due to new classes coming along, i.e. evolution of the sport. Hence the present antiquated designs in NZ that will only repress the development of sailing in NZ. Do you want to see Europe sailing off into the distance? So yes… young sailors in NZ do need to have access to bloody good, sexy and exciting boats, but because of our anal obsession with the class thing they are being forced in to the very opposite. Is it time to wake up! Is it time to let the kids decide? Are kids being forced into these boats purely for World champs/Olympic glory at the expense of the vast majority and sailing in NZ in general?

Rule 3. the Biggest reason kids (our future) don't take up yachting is because the whole yacht club, boat buying and learn to sail thing is to expensive and to difficult. Make it simple and exciting and "wallah "we get the numbers.

Reply: Yes buying a boat does cost money, especially if it involves cheque book racing (a very bad thing) and it seems totally endemic in NZ i.e. such and such hull/sails/foils/carbon this that and the other is the best, ending up with the kid with the richest Daddy wins, while the best sailor doesn't. So why even bother sailing the crap in the first place when they could have brought a great new modern strict one design boat for nearly half the price that their kids would have actually wanted to sail in? No wonder people think racing is a rich man's sport and don't want to get involved, when Clubs say these are the classes we race in and that is it! why? when this is the very attitude that is killing the sport? Then to go on and say it will cost them next to nothing to buy a starter boat i.e. shagged and no good for anything, plus of cause the huge ongoing expenses of these boats, with next to no hope of regaining the loss come resale time. They are not told the true cost for their kids to become truly competitive in the junior classes, the parents only realize the true cost once they have been pretty much hoodwinked into buying these old class boats, on the back of we only race these. Who are these Clubs serving the community or their own self agendas? But buying a modern one design boat, sorry for the plug here but this is one of the reasons nearly everyone in the UK has gone over to plastic, there is no need to change hulls every 6 to 24 months like GRP to stay on top competitively (plastic is non porous = no weight gain) and a boat that is easy to rig, bloody good, sexy and exciting in the first placed helps, i.e. "Make it simple and exciting and "wallah "we get the numbers".

Of possible interest: To give you an idea of how big the UK dinghy sailing scene is in the UK; They have the largest Dinghy Sailing Boat Show in the world at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace in London, where Topper International have the largest stand. In the past it used to be staged at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, the cost to Topper for their stand? try close on one million dollars back then and they would still recover their costs! They also exhibit at the Southampton Boat Show and the Excel London Boat Show. While they were at that show I called them on a weekday morning and they had just sold thirteen boats in the previous hour!. At the Auckland International Boat Show you will be lucky to sell one boat at the whole event! Boat Bits at Takapuna sold a Laser once!. Admittedly I usually sell four or five boats in the proceeding month or two through being there and I think that allot of this is mainly down to brand awareness and hopefully should improve as time goes on.

Note 1/ It has taken the Splash Class over 20 years to get where it is now, even after ISAF Racing Class approval they still had a struggle with YNZ for National Class approval. Since YNZ dictates that the boats should be Nationwide and have active fleets. I hope you are starting to get the picture here i.e. time taken to sell enough boats to satisfy YNZ for Class status, people only wanting to buy Class boats no matter how bad, along with the current Club mind set, so NZ has always been way behind the times in what they can offer the general public Class wise. I often get calls from prospective clients asking how many boats there are in the country and is there a class yet and that they think my boats are great, but it is the usual 'catch 22' they have to buy the boats for the numbers to grow and being new to the country, having to go though the usual Club's attitude's to the new. I just hope it doesn't take 20 years for the mentality to change in NZ. But on the upside of things we are now starting to get applications for quotes on boats for funding from enlightened Clubs and Schools starting to trickle in for which I am most grateful for. (5/2010)
Note 2/ When I first started Oceanz1 in June 2005 it was for me at that time a huge relief to find someone out there with the same mind set as mine as regarding this subject. Please see: (Zephyr Dinghy Class website) and click on Old Zephyr Site then Neds-Locker.
Neil Kennedy is a well known yachting journalist and commentator. Currently a business man in Bangkok, he maintains a keen interest in the NZ yachting scene.
These are the first in a series of articles suggesting that all is not well in NZ yachting and proposing some solutions.

He was very supportive to me back then and had a great deal of sympathy for the task ahead of me. We exchanged a huge amount of emails while he was in Bangkok and later he came out to NZ and we met up, he was very intrigued to see the Topaz yachts and was blow away by their design and finish. I will always be grateful for his huge knowledge on dinghy design; probably more than anyone in NZ, and the great support he gave me. Re reading his articles helps me to rein still my faith on the path I have chosen to take and for this I will be always in his debt.     

Rule4. why do boy racers have such huge numbers and do such silly things???... well its cheap to buy a wreck, there are few rules to owning one and it is easy to drive. on top of that they find it exciting being dangerous. (the PC world / Fun Police has restricted what they can do to have fun)... basically there is no dramas compared to buying a boat learning to sail dealing with yacht club politic, fees, rigging area Hitler’s... blah blah blah.

Reply: True. So why not buy a boat they will truly enjoy, learn to sail in, while getting an adrenalin rush on the water and not on the roads, having lots of fun and time blasting around recreational sailing, we’re not talking about a jet ski here it’s a sailing dinghy! Then when they think they can beat everything on the water and build a hunger for more competitive racing, they will dive at the opportunity to join a sail club.

rule 5. Sailing is a white, rich mans sport predominantly!. yet the European population is in decline compared to Asians, Polynesians... in this country. Sorry to point out the bleeding obvious but do we target the majority of NZ'rs for our sport???.. last time i looked wee had a school regatta that had the elite schools competing with white kids. Where's Otara, porirua,??? wheres the YNZ approach to other ethnic groups???

or are we happy with the way it is??

Reply: Good question. I think I covered most of it previously. Personally am against any form of positive discrimination, it’s a free society, but I’m no politician, I’m not trying to cure cancer or feed the starving, I’m trying to gets kids excited about the sport and on the water, of course people can choose whether or not to get involved in a sport or not, all we can do is encourage everyone no matter what their race, or background should be. Schools/teachers can be educated to encourage learn to sail programs, that go beyond race/class. I have heard that there is always money available in the school budget for this.  

rule. 6. Learning to sail and becoming competent is hard enough without all the cost and drama associated with it.

Reply: Yes sailing should not be expensive, and you can learn to sail yourself with a book for help, I did! admittedly after windsurfing. But a good one design, strongly built hull, with high quality fittings and a good high second-hand value come resale time will help keep costs down greatly and prove to be a wise investment in the long run. I cannot believe what people pay for a new but old design ultra top spec sailing dinghies in NZ in the hope that one day their child will become the next Russell Coutts. It is totally nuts especially when you see the tiny little anciently designed dinghy sitting there like a joke, which it is, I mean really if the rest of the world could see it, the laughter would be  intense. But don't get me wrong there are some lovely old designs out there, beautifully looked after old wooden Zephyr's and the like that should be cherished as part of our heritage. But what I am talking about is attracting the general public here and getting the young involved. Unfortunately there are some real naff boat choices on the class progression trail so much so that sadly a lot of kids drop out of sailing altogether and no one seems capable of sorting it out. However there does exist National Commodore meetings, so I suppose thought's from club members can be expressed.

Why did windsurfing become so popular... well when all you have to do is learn to reach and Gybe and all you need is a board and sail and wind / sea.... it's easy. No big learning curve, no club fees / politics, no YNZ taking your money for other stuff.

Reply: Yep I agree again. But you can!!!!! (and without a safety boat in tow in case it sinks! All Topaz Yachts are unsinkable) "learn to reach and Gybe and all you need is a board and sail and wind / sea.... it's easy. No big learning curve, no club fees / politics, no YNZ taking your money for other stuff." but in a sailing dinghy! and just in case no one has ever heard of it in NZ it’s called recreational sailing. But it helps if you have a bloody good, sexy and exciting boat in the first place! ....mmm tricky one in NZ I know. And "Why did windsurfing become so popular" well this is basically in essence what I am trying to say but in sailing dinghy terms, it became popular because of being attractive to the general public i.e. bloody good, sexy and exciting! I do hope we are starting to get the picture here and that the penny is starting to drop!

Generation Y are a "want it know and want it easy" bunch of inwardly focused brats! but unfortunately they are our future. Thus if you can't make them do it (govt rules and reg's. "anti Smacking"etc... ) then you have to give them a reason to do it!...

The reason to go sailing... DANGER! ,

reason to go sailing.... to show off!

reason to go sailing..... the dream of being a legend!, a star!. to show off thie scars!...

Look at skateboarding... why do they stuff their bodies on a bent bit of plywood....

to show off, to rebel, but mainly because it is instant ego gratification and cheap fun!

We need to invent the next "skateboard revolution" in sailing...

Bring on - cheap plywood skiffs that reach backwards and forwards trying to sink the other guys.

Bring on "demolition derby on the water!" simple, fun and dangerous.

more numbers involved means spreading the cost of our sport between more people and that makes it cheaper. more in means more chance of more sailors which mean more world champs more medals..blah blah blah.

Reply: Yep agree with everything. I think I have answered the first half again and again but just in case it hasn't got through yet here it is summed up " bloody good, sexy and exciting for young non sailors"  Second half of question: But who is going to make all these plywood skiffs and at what expense time wise and end cost? A certain club in NZ has just tried this with wooden sailboat kits from Australia, the eventual cost to build $10,000 each!!! and they are already starting to fall apart and the reason they brought them? it was one of those "suits THEM & ONLY THEM" pushy club members with a not so well hidden agenda i.e. that it was what his son sails and Daddy wanted to try and make it a class over here for him, so now everyone has to suffer the dammed things and so it goes on in much the same way in clubs all over NZ, sad I know. So all in all a very expensive lesson and a complete waist off time and money. So back to your cheap! plywood skiffs, just who will be having to repair them again and again, oh and isn’t that in effect introducing a new class?? ..mmmm what was your first beef about now?? Anyhow and what do you think they will be worth on the second-hand market come resale time?
If you are after a “demolition derby on the water” I’ll give you just one guess as to what boats you will need! now, think about it.

Great to hear that someone out there realizes that sailing in NZ has to move on and is willing to share his thoughts and feelings on the subject.

I do realize that a lot of my response's will probably get right up a lot of noses of the old school, who have always believed that the P is the boat that has made NZ sailors what they are “if you can sail a P you can sail anything” and that Russell Coutts used to sail one (not many choices back then), as if it was mainly the boat and not his raw sailing talent that was responsible for his, along with others sailing successes! But since his Gold Olympic Medal in 1984 in a Finn are we still hanging on to this idea? i.e. no Dinghy Olympic Gold Medals since then! Never mind that the 'P' has probably but more young potential sailors off sailing than any other boat? By way of an example, I meet one middle aged man working in a chandlery in Westhaven who is now a keen fisherman. He told me that he had “tried sailing once, it was a P Class, I went out and swam back and that was the last sailing I attempted,” no wonder fishing in this country is so big; all the potential sailors have taken it up! It's a bit like at one extreme putting a sail on a plank of wood and asking people to sail it, some will and the vast majority will think you are mad. We are talking about good access points here and wanting to get people into sailing.
I also bumped into Jim Young (widely regarded as New Zealand’s most innovative yacht designer and now retired) on Takapuna beach while some of my boats were out sailing, we spoke for a good hour or more about yacht design and he shared his anguish over what they are putting young kids into and expecting them to get all excited over the sport. His most interesting statement was over another certain learn to sail class of yacht which I dare not name, but you will probably guess. His comment was “Do you know what the worst designed boat to ever hit the water is? The………… is, and that’s what they expect our young kids to sail in!”.
One member of a club on the Northshore expressed his concern that regularly Mum and Dad would turn up at the Club wishing for their child to take up sailing only to be meet with the words  “I am not sailing in that! i.e. zero beach cred".
Now I also happened to have met the first man in NZ to attempt bringing in the Laser and because it wasn’t a class boat at the time and was concidered a "great beach boat" by the usual "Hard Core Yacht Clubbies" (what are these people on when they say things like that!... it is pure ignorance fear of the classes etc etc) sadly he went under, but look at it now (once given class status of cause), as with the Hobiecat. Now that really does show the sad mentality, and fear of new designs in New Zealand. So people who do wish to race are pretty much forced into buying these old class boats no matter how bad they are!
And hearing other statements like: ‘if it was good enough for me it is good enough for them”, or that “you can only race in class boats” i.e. the attitude of preserving the class at all costs, and no handicap racing, we’ll be letting in new classes next! Or such and such is the only boat out there (based on what?). With this in mind I do pity the poor young hopefuls wishing to enjoy the sport. New Zealand is supposedly a country full of individuals not just sheep, with individual thought – we invented bungee jumping for God’s sake!
So, in sailing why can’t we start to think outside this class box thing? Let’s all have a leap of faith and let NZ sailing catch up with Europe and join the 21st century.

Sorry that the above sounds downbeat I wish it wasn't so, and that my writing is somewhat emotive and impassioned, I guess that is just me. 

Hugh Jones.
                MD Oceanz1 Ltd.      Web:

                               You may well say that I have a biased opinion, being the importer of sailing dinghies. But it is for the very reasons I have outlined above that I have chosen to be an importer. Please do ask yourself however, is it wrong to be a New Zealander and want sailing to progress in what I believe and feel to be the right direction, for the future of sailing in New Zealand? I know a lot of you out there probably think I am the curse of sailing in NZ due to that preservation of the classes’ thing, but I see my boats and modern boats like them as being the very opposite and if anything the very savior of sailing in NZ. Now think of this, if Topper International fails over here, who in their right mind is going to bother with NZ in the future? It will be just too much of a financial risk given the current mind set over here. Then NZ will continue to be a country full of second-hand boats doing the rounds and old clapped out designs.
I find it truly amazing that the majority of sail clubs have a fear of the new and won’t even look at let alone sail new designs no matter how good the boats are, and that I find weird in the extreme, I suppose it all comes back to that class thing again.

Does New Zealand have to remain a backwater of old and out dated designs?

UPDATE Oct 09: There could be at last be some light at the end of the tunnel; From ISAF Doc......  "ISAF has realized that most of it’s Recognized Classes are not necessarily the best boats in which to introduce the sport of sailing to newcomers or in which to teach and develop sailing skills. They also have acknowledged that in the past a number of classes have been incorrectly favored by National Sailing Authorities, and in turn clubs and schools around the world on the back of this ISAF Status".

So as to help remedy this situation they have now introduced the ISAF Connect To Sailing Partnership.

"Connect To Sailing's overriding goal is to revitalize grass roots participation in all categories of sailing outside elite activity and put sailing firmly back into a growth sport with a focus on youth.

There is evidence to suggest that participation in sailing around the world is in decline and the age of active participants increasing, as sports seek to compete with each other to attract participants and compete with a multitude of other interests seeking to attract today's youth.

As a first step, the Connect To Sailing concept aims to bring together the organizations involved in and supporting the sport of sailing in a country, such as the member national authority, the sailing industry, sports council, boat show organizers, commercial sailing schools, media, NGO's and GO's etc. By working together in partnership (or Task Forces) these organizations will share their resources and experiences to achieve a more integrated approach to the development of the sport. It will only be a shared approach with all stakeholders working together that we will make a significant difference.

Part of ISAF's mandate is to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to participate and benefit from the sport.

ISAF has a community - its members - the national sailing authorities around the world who in turn link into their own national and regional networks. ISAF will look to MNA's to show leadership in the development of the Connect To Sailing programs in their respective countries.

The initiative needs global support to move forward and ISAF will actively engage with its Member National Authorities and ensure that ‘Connect to Sailing’ is on the agenda of each country. It is then the responsibility of each nation to identify its partners and move forwards together to identify the best strategy for the development of the sport in that individual nation.

The goal is to ‘develop sailing across the world’ by specifically ‘engaging youth and facilitating participation’ ie. to get more young people sailing. This represents a departure for the ISAF who have previously focused more on the promotion of elite racing classes."

YNZ's response to ISAF's Connect To Sailing Global initiative: From page 13 of their "National Participation and
Development Plan 2008 to 2012" Click here to read in full

Connect to Sailing, as expressed by ISAF, has the overriding goal of revitalizing grass roots
participation in all categories of sailing outside elite activity, and to put sailing firmly back
into a growth sport with a focus on youth. This aligns with one of ISAF’s strategic goals: to
promote sailing as one of the major participatory lifetime sports, and to provide increased
opportunities to participate.
Similarly YNZ’s first strategic goal is: to promote and grow participation in sailing as a
lifelong sport while enhancing its development at all levels. The sport’s visibility and appeal
are important in this absolutely critical area. Good media coverage and effective
communication are central to visibility and connection.
Sailing must be able and willing to open its door to those who are interested in participating.
It must continue to build attractive entry points and encouraging pathways. It is the variety
which means for many, sailing becomes a sport for life. It is a sport that can cater for a huge
range of interests, tastes and budgets.

From page 31
Subject          Strategies                           Action                                  Outcome
Develop and     Integrate Windsurfing          Liaise with Windsurfing New        Another option for young sailors.
Grow Junior             into club Programs            Zealand to work towards a       To widen the base of windsurfing Participation                                              solution to alignment of              in NZ and create a bigger pool for                                                                     windsurfing LTS and racing         high performance. Use the 'dark                                                                        with historical YNZ activities          side' appeal to attract new                                                                                                                                    sailors.


Topper International: Official Connect to Sailing Partner.
We are delighted to announce to you that Topper International has been invited to be an Official Connect to Sailing Partner.

All Topper Topaz Yachts have  'ISAF Connect To Sailing' Approved Status 

ISAF has awarded the Topaz Uno Sailing System, Taz Race, Vibe, Xenon, Omega, 16 & 14 Cats: 'Learn to Sail Recommended Boat' Status

                                                                            If anyone out there agrees or not with the above please                                                               do feel free to email me with your comments at:

ISAF Learn To Sail Recommended Boats

From ISAF......

Through the Connect to Sailing programme, ISAF have developed an initiative to enhance the Learn to Sail Programme to include a system of clearly identifying boats and equipment for use by Member National Authorities(MNAs), the national governing bodies for sailing around the world, for developing and teaching sailing in their nation.
The ISAF Learn to Sail programme is based around supporting the development of sailing in a nation through a clear and consistent international programme. The scheme covers many aspects of setting up training centres and the responsibilities of the parties involved. Within this programme there is also the need to identify suitable equipment appropriate for training.
The boats and equipment selected have proved to have suitable availability to MNA's and also offer a supply structure to reduce costs to the MNA's and Learn to Sail Programme training centres.
These boats have been independently assessed by ISAF to be ideal for developing and/or teaching sailing within the ISAF Learn to Sail programme; they also undergo safety assessments such as European CE marking or coastguard assessment.
The effective equipment categorization such as entry, intermediate and advanced level helps MNA's to understand the equipment and sign post a pathway from grass roots to Olympic level.

Feedback from one enlightened NZ Topper Topaz Uno Race X (+ standard main) owner:

There has been a lot of interest during the season in my Topper Topaz in Gisborne, Wairoa and some Napier sailors have had a good look too when I sailed at the Wairoa River and Mahia Regattas (I came 2nd at Mahia)!
My Topper has certainly "stirred up the mud" down here at the Gisborne Yacht Club which I suppose one could say is really an improvement in many ways, if you compare it to the malaise and decay of many years of lethargy and non activity. The reaction to my Topper has been mostly positive but there has been a lot of rather negative vibes coming from the "Hard Core Senior Yacht Clubbies" who are entrenched in the old "CLASS RACING" mentality of the last 100 years. To give you an example; the Club Captain and Vise Commodore colluded together in an article for our club news letter which is emailed/posted to all club members and in this article they pronounced that "the Gisborne Yacht Club has a list of preferred yachts ie Optimist, P's, Starlings, Lasers,Laser Phase11, Hobie 16, Hartley16, Farr 6000, Nolex 22 and 25 and that they strongly recommend members purchase these boats" for reasons to keep so called fast yachts and competitive class sailing prominent in the club. Notice their list does not include the Topper! I think they must be jealous or something?

You can understand my anger and utter disappointment at my fellow respecting senior club members and officials resorting to this type of tactic to retain their "CLASS RACING" formulae. To top it off, they are doing this while fully aware that their club membership and boat numbers on the water are dwindling at an alarming rate!! These same guys often comment "I don't know why people don't want to sail at the club any more? or how can we attract more members to the club? It is this typical "Hard Core Senior Yacht Clubby" bigoted attitude that has and still is contributing to the demise of sailing clubs and membership numbers in the whole of NZ.. These guys days are numbered I hope because their yacht club is dying and they can't see that people don't want competitive racing any more, they want recreational fun and safe sailing!!
Hugh's Note: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" - Albert Einstein.
However there is a positive spin off to all the controversy My Topper has created here. We now have 6 new lasers and 2 Laser Phase11's but they old boats on there last legs, a fleet of 12 in all and it has created some new activity, sailors, boats and interest in off the beach sailing dinghy's that we have not seen for many years at our club. On the down side the catamaran fleet has almost disappeared completely but I feel this is a symptom of the "CLASS" Hobie 16 ONLY mentality and when we had a mixed fleet of 20 mixed sized, make and models of cats we had lots of fun without the competitive class attitude limiting what boat you could afford or prefer to buy!

It is early days yet and I will keep chipping away at those old clubbies and I think eventually people will see the light and allow change to happen towards new modern designs and materials of yacht. I faced the same attitudes 30 years ago when I bought my fibreglass Buffalo 14 surf cat, they said it we a "WHAT A FUNNY LOOKING PLASTIC BANANA BOAT" but 30 years later this boat is still the current Poverty Bay and Wairoa Champion and beats some pretty hot Hobie 16's and Paper Tiger boats/sailors too. I think eventually all the old Lasers will self destruct and people will be looking for a durable maintenance free sexy cool modern yacht like the Topper to replace them and I will have the last laugh!!

Hugh at Oceanz1 response: Yep it typifies exactly what I have had to put up with for the last six years and the NZ Club mentally and consequently the stagnation of Clubs in this country. So thank you Rick for making me feel that I am not alone in attempting to drag these diehards into the 21st century, plus your thought's on the subject and being a true individual with vision, not bowing to the collective dictates from the unenlightened and choosing to put your money where your mouth is.

2nd updated Feedback from Rick in Gisborne 09/05/2010:

Hi Hugh
As I promised the following in some feedback from me on my new Topper Topaz Race X after a very successful season sailing in Gisborne /East Coast. My Topper Topaz which I’ve named RIKKI TIKKI TURVY has been absolutely fantastic fun to sail and has brought that “WOW” factor back into my sailing days! I have limited time available to devote to sailing these days with a busy rental car company to manage 7 days a week but my Topper Topaz is very easy and quick to rig/de-rig and being pocket sized (no bigger than a Laser) fits perfectly on its easy launch beach trailer into the limited space available in our dinghy shed storage space at Kaiti Beach.
What a fantastic “Little Pocket Rocket” the Topaz is to sail: The Topaz is a fast racer but safe and stable, it’s so much fun with heaps of adrenalin pumping speed if you want to push your limits with the gennaker broad reach blastoff that the Topper Race X system allows. However the Topaz is without the high initial purchase cost, complicated time consuming rigging/de-rigging and the high maintenance/ongoing repair costs of the so called race approved Olympic or NZ dinghy class boats.
Topper Topaz is a Very Competitive Racer: I’ve competed this season locally and at the Wairoa River and Mahia Regattas which are organised by the Wairoa Yacht Club and my results have been very encouraging when I take into consideration that this is my first season as a serious dinghy sailor (I’ve mainly sailed cats for the last 30 odd years) and a 2nd placing in the Senior Open Dinghy’s at the Mahia Regatta was real great justification for my switch to the Topper Topaz. The gennaker sail deploy/retrieval system is a breeze to use and really puts the “WOW” factor back into any downwind sailing, with a good 15 to 20 knot breeze producing an absolutely exhilarating speed acceleration and now allows a small dinghy to cover a great deal of distance very quickly with all the fun and exhilaration of a windsurfer, jet ski or catamaran.
A Perfect Learn to Sail Yacht: I’ve also made a conscious effort this season to support our local junior “Learn to Sail” classes which are run by our yacht club on Saturday afternoons. Initially we started the 16 kids sailing with us in a couple of Sunburst dinghies to give them confidence sailing with a senior sailor onboard plus a few optimists for the more confident kids to show them the ropes. The kids soon tired of the same old tried and true learn to sail course lessons and wanted to have a go themselves so they progress onto the Opti’s, some with success but several with frequent capsize/swamping and the resulting fear as the kids watched their swamped Opti’s fill to the gunnels and bailing like crazy to allow them to start sailing again however most needing rescue from the tender boat/instructor.
On my suggestion we then added the Topper Topaz and rotated the kids initially two at a time then later singularly as crew with me helming but then as they gain confidence the kids took the helm with my guidance as crew. All the boys and girls loved the chance to sail on the Topper and looked forward to this rewarding part of their learn to sail days, you could see the excitement on their faces, they competed to get first on the Topper each week and the buzz back on the beach as they all competed to help retrieve the Topper onto its beach trailer and help out washing it down and de-rigging it, was great buzz for me to witness. Often several of the young lads commented that they thought my Topper was really a fast cool boat and they loved to have one of their own to sail some day.

Noticeable side effects of the Topper Phenomenon:
1)The very noticeable side effect on this seasons learn to sail course was that virtually all 16 boys and girls completed the full course, attended every Saturday, and the majority pasted their elementary learn to sail YNZ certificate courses. Young learner sailors “Motivation” was unprecedented once they’d had a go on the Topper Topaz!!
2)Three of the young lads have now progressed in their first sailing season from the Learn to Sail course onto sailing Opti’s and again onto Firebugs (tried P’s once but didn’t like them) in our formal junior yacht racing series at our club on Sundays, with I might add, considerable success. They are now talking excitedly about buying their own Starlings for the coming season and their mothers are in full support both on the beach and at the club house.
3)Our “Learn to Sail” course instructors have commented on several occasions that they haven’t seen so much interest and excellent attendance from the kids compared to other seasons but they can’t understand what is responsible for this change in the kids motivation. I might suggest that perhaps the Topper phenomenon has had something to do with this but our old hard core clubbies will never admit this!
4)The senior dinghy fleet at our club has increased from 3 or 4 to 12 this season with a few old clubbies considering returning to sail once again next season. Unfortunately the makeup of these new dinghies is largely “Tired Old Lasers and Laser Phase 11’s that will probably self destruct in no time hopefully! I feel that it maybe coincidence or not but perhaps my Topper Topaz has seemed to have stirred up a lot of sand and undoubtedly renewed interest in off the beach dinghy sailing at our club. I am hoping that this interest will eventually bring some positive change in the “Old Hard Core Clubby” attitudes to the “Same Old Class Boats” of yesteryear and hopefully they will try some really modern material and designed yachts like the Topper that are attractive, durable, low maintenance, sexy and above all “COOL TO YOUNG PEOPLE”!!
Bye for now and I will send you more Topper Topaz feedback from Gisborne in the coming season.
Regards Rick

From a new Topaz Taz Client that has seen the light:
I read your blog and I’m all for helping you in anyway possible. Your reasons are pretty much why my two kids have given up on the opti.

It is through this revitalizing effect on grass roots sailing that ISAF have chosen the Topaz range of sailboats for their world 'Connect To Sailing' initiative. It is through their ability to attract new sailors into the sport with their modern attractive & exciting user friendly designs that all Topaz yachts are ISAF 'Connect To Sailing' approved.