Close control makes the Daring a true one-design, but what is it like to belong to the fleet? 2/8/06

One design is a flexible term – the idea that the boats being raced are identical is often dubious, with continual refinements and expenditure by individual skippers bringing some boats technically far ahead of their supposed competition.

Not so the Daring fleet. All hulls are built from the same mould which is owned by the association, and strict rules govern new sails and even hull scrubbing – sails are made in batches by the same sailmaker every two years so that the fleet race with near-identical cloth, and hull scrubbing is done fortnightly, with half the fleet one week and the other the next. The result, says Daring sailor Jane Peckham, is a fleet that offers level racing on an affordable budget. “If you’re time-poor and all you want is limited budget racing, Darings are great,” she said. “You can turn up in Cowes, you don’t have to work out how to get your Etchells to the latest open meeting, you don’t have to work out how many people will be on the line or how to get time off – you can just turn up and have a decent race. It’s fairly mixed ability, so everyone has someone to race against.” At the end of the season, the entire fleet is laid up and maintained by Lallow’s boatyard in Cowes.

The reason behind the limited travel and time requirements of Daring racing are simple – well over 90 per cent of the fleet are based in Cowes, so there is no demand to go farther afield to race other Darings. Most boats are syndicate owned, and with a membership of over 200 aged anything from 13 to 80, a healthy attendance is guaranteed for the two races the fleet holds each weekend between April and October – usually at least one of the boat’s owners is available to race. A good range of trophies from past benefactors also encourages participation.

Dauntlessis one of the earliest Darings, built in 1961, and is a little unusual in that she is consistently sailed by the same crew – split three ways between Milo Carver, Richard Romer-Lee, Giles Peckham and his wife and son Jane and Hugo. Giles Peckham and Milo Carver usually share the helming, but for this year’s Cowes Peckham was unavailable. The rest of the team have so far ledDauntlessto some excellent results, currently in joint lead position in the fleet.

Talking to Jane Peckham and Milo Carver yesterday, one thing was clear – Daring owners love their boats. Carver commented on the day’s race: “They don’t have much freeboard and get very wet, but they aren’t that tender. We had big spinnakers up today without much problem. You just need an extra hand to pump.” He continued: “They’re also not very weight sensitive – you don’t need 280kg on the rail to go in a blow.”

The social side is also good, commented Jane Peckham. “There’s an active programme of events after sailing,” she said, “and our prizegiving in December. Added to that we’ve got good social links with a lot of clubs all over the world.” As if to prove the point, as soon as we finished talking, the team headed off to get ready for their annual Cowes cocktail party.