David Glenn races on a Daring for the start of Cowes Week

Saturday 6th August:

Being a thoroughly decent lot, the Daring fleet avoided
shouting about their 50th birthday this year in order not to detract
from the celebrations surrounding the XOD’s centenary. “Afterall, none of us
will be around when this class reaches its 100th,” noted David Gower
aboard whose Daring Dolphin I had the considerable pleasure of sailing on the
first day of Cowes Week.

For some reason I’ve always perceived this stunningly good
looking one design class as marginally elitist within the White Group, yachts
typically sailed by syndicates requiring a string of names to identify

But this is a misconception. The Daring, designed in 1961 by
Arthur Robb as an evolution of the one-time 5.5 Metre Olympic class enjoys its
increasing popularity precisely because she is economical to run, gives her
three to four person crew a considerable if wet work out in all conditions and
provides very satisfying racing indeed.

On Saturday there was a brief reference to comparisons with
women but I’ll gloss over that…

I was surprised to hear that running costs of about £6000 a
year (therefore £2000 a head in a typical syndicate) includes mooring, winter
lay-up, a scrubbing programme and just about everything else one needs for a
season of excellent racing. Lallow carry two spare masts, spinnaker poles and
other equipment to ensure damage doesn’t keep boats away from the racecourse
for long.

David Gower’s glassfibre Dolphin (the class owns the moulds)
sports a modified deck design which allows easier handling and a slightly
larger cockpit aperture. “I think it’s true to say that we’re all a bit bigger
than people were 50 years ago,” said David who also pointed out that the
requirements of the 5.5 Metre rule are hardly relevant today. He kept his keel,
rudder and rig from the original boat.

Readying Dolphin at her mooring and bending on her bulk
purchased, Chinese made sails – “we work hard at keeping costs down,” said
David – the Daring’s 2.5 ton displacement could be ‘felt’ beneath one’s feet.
She barely moved, her initial stability providing a welcome platform and a
refreshing change from a modern, twitchy machine. More importantly it means
that differences in crew weight are unlikely to effect performance to any
measurable degree.

We sailed just three up David, myself and kite-sailing
architect Kristi Roger. I was quite alarmed at Kristi’s petite stature but she
had the ‘front’ of the boat taped and her light-footed end-for-ending
thankfully kept the considerably less sure-footed heavyweight off the foredeck.

David admitted his tactics were mediocre choosing the middle
of the line for the west going start against the new flood which would have the
21-strong fleet short tacking along The Green in time honoured fashion. Also in
time honoured fashion were a number of groundings although when we hit I
reckoned we somehow gained a place as we didn’t fall back on the tide….

Concentration is everything and I particularly liked the
courteous manner in which helmsmen communicated with each other when calling for
water or room. It was Christian names all round often with a polite enquiry
about one’s health.

Deft tactics saw Dolphin wriggle free from the middle of the
fleet allowing boats ahead of us in the leading bunch, referred to by numbers -
“where’s 7? Keep an eye on 36, is that 3 out in front?” – to be lined up in our

Unlike the leaders, who misjudged their leap of faith into
the tide, we managed to lay Gurnard without tacking which enabled us to keep in
touch. We picked off a couple and then sailed what were effectively two
windward leewards in the area of Ryde Middle.

This is where the closeness of the boats really showed and
we had a right old battle with Steve Sleight sailing 4 – Audax. Despite some
shiftiness in the breeze the final beat to the finish was still about getting
out of the last of the flood and was a classic test of working wind and tide.
Audax misjudged this first and coming back on starboard we took a large chunk
out of her to lead.

Thinking we were now on an accelerating tidal magic carpet
to the finish we stayed out leaving Audax to slip inshore and, disastrously for
us, into much less tide, possibly even some early ebb. We were accordingly clobbered and had to settle for a 6th
with Dauntless, Defender, Decanter (dark red hull) and Dreamer ahead of us

Taking the helm as we sailed home I was amazed at the
yacht’s lightness and directional stability. It all added up to a very
rewarding experience.