Scorpions Big Success at RYA Dinghy Show 2019

Stand D26 was definitely the place to be at this year’s annual RYA Dinghy Show held at Alexandra Palace, London over the weekend 02-03 March. With two fabulous wooden Scorpions from the Duffin/ Paintcraft stable, genuine real ale from the Burton Bridge Brewery and lots of friendly Scorpion sailors on hand to promote the class, provide advice and answer visitor questions, the stand was positively buzzing all day Saturday and most of Sunday.

Star of the show was new Scorpion 2044 ‘Tallulah’ featuring a racy yellow and white epoxy hull finish with gleaming varnished decks, sycamore gunwales/ inlays and the cockpit finish which have become Nigel Potter’s hallmark over the years. Selden spars (Cumulus section mast with B072 boom) and P&B laminate sails with a seductive graphic courtesy of Class Chairman Chris Yates/ Office Outlet complete what is undoubtedly a beautiful boat; in fact the first new wooden Scorpion registered since 2012 and a welcome return for Belfast-based builder Alaistair Duffin’s undisputed craftsmanship.

To leeward of ‘Tallulah’ but definitely not in the shade was Nigel’s own Scorpion 1958 ‘Barbarians for Breakfast’ which he currently sails at Notts. County SC and campaigns on the Silver Scorpion circuit. Another Duffin Marine creation, ‘Barbarians’ was built in 1999 although many visitors to the stand thought that she too was a new boat, having been comprehensively refurbished by Paintcraft just over three years’ ago. Her Superspars M1 mast is a departure from the more usual (stiffer) M7 section and appeared with new HD sails in time for last year’s Scorpion Nationals held at Tenby SC.

Comparing notes: Nigel Potter inspects the jib fairlead arrangement on Scorpion 2044 ‘Tallulah’ whilst Steve Walker ponders over Scorpion 1958 ‘Barbarians for Breakfast’

Having the two Scorpions side by side made for some interesting comparisons of their respective spinnaker systems, rig control arrangements and general fit-outs. In terms of hull lines, decking, gunwales/ side tanks and cockpit space the two Duffin boats are visually identical. The most noticeable difference lies with the spinnaker launch/ retrieval and control lines. ‘Tallulah’ has a ‘split’ or half-tank under the foredeck and an offset chute set back from the bow on the port side (as introduced in 2013 by Simon Forbes on his FRP Gosling-built 2018 Championship winning boat 2034 ‘Tough Screw’). A chute aperture of 0.040 m2 (max. permitted by RYA under Class rules) theoretically allows for faster spinnaker launch and recovery times, especially when combined with twin carbon poles and an ‘automatic’ pole launcher system such as the TMS EZi fitted to the mast face. The spinnaker halyard/ drop line is routed through the cockpit so that either the helm or crew can launch.

In contrast, ‘Barbarians’ utilises a ‘full’ bow tank, no chute and a more traditional single-pole system. The spinnaker is stowed in one of two lightweight nylon bags at the front of the cockpit (port and starboard sides respectively) and must be manually launched by the crew as the helm hoists (they also gather it in and stow in the ‘right’ bag during the drop procedure – the crew thinking ahead to decide which bag based on the next offwind leg of the course). Nigel explained that the 4:1 purchase ‘pump action’ system fitted to ‘Barbarians’ achieves a quicker launch time than that possible for a chute boat but is of course much more dependent on good crew/ helm coordination and practice (having sailed Scorpions with both systems over the past few months I can verify this is indeed the case although the elegant simplicity of the single-pole ‘bag boats’ does seem to appeal to my relatively inexperienced crew)! Nigel also highlighted the bow weight differential between the half-tank and full tank variants; 6 kg approx. saving for a ‘bag boat’ although we really ought to do some side-by-side quantitative weighing comparisons to establish by just how much the boat’s centre-of-gravity changes!

Past Association Chairman and life-long Scorpion enthusiast Jerry ‘The Guru’ Hannabuss talked me through some of the refinements which he and co-owner Steve Walker (Class Secretary) have implemented on ‘Tallulah’. These include the continuous single-string raking rig system (accessible even when fully hiking according to Jerry) and adjustment lines for the mainsheet bridle which are routed from the centre thwart back to the transom through tubes concealed inside the side tanks (another Gosling innovation which first appeared in 2017 on Andy Service’s eye-catching turquoise composite Scorpion 2040 ‘Ambush’). The spinnaker sheets are similarly routed inside the side tanks between the rear quarter blocks and thwart take-offs; thus avoiding those frustrating moments when the crew cannot trim the sail because the helm is sitting on the sheet! Jerry has also fitted ‘lazy’ guys to the twin-pole spinnaker set-up using a similar arrangement to that proven on his existing boat 2033 ‘Legal High’. The black anodised aluminium jib fairlead/ barber hauler fittings look highly innovative (and probably expensive) but their performance couldn’t be verified at the show due to a lack of breeze!

Jerry ‘The Guru’ Hannabuss highlighting the finer points of Tallulah’s cockpit layout and part-concealed spinnaker sheet arrangement; note spinnaker stowed on port side of front ‘half’ tank

So 2019 opens on a positive high for the Scorpion class, with a new state-of-the art Duffin/ Paintcraft boat and arguably a new dawn for all of those highly-competitive wooden boats which have been overshadowed to a certain extent by the P&B/ Boatyard at Beer/ Ovington FRP builds over recent years. ‘Tallulah’ just missed out on qualification for the show’s prestigious Concours d’Elegance award (the judges spotted that she hadn’t been sailed due to the absence of rudder fittings) but should be ready for launching this weekend 16-17 March at Pennine SC. Her planned debut on the Silver Scorpion circuit at Staunton Harold SC the following weekend 23-24 March will be watched with keen interest.

Like the idea of a wooden Scorpion and want to find out more? Prices for the Duffin hull with Paintcraft finish start at around £8,000 with different rigging options to purchase a complete boat; contact Nigel Potter for details (info@paintcraft-boats.co.uk). New wood/ composite Scorpions are also built by Devon-based Kevin Gosling at Gosling Dinghy Craft Ltd. (gdcltd@tiscali.co.uk) with the Ovington-built FRP variants available through Pinnell & Bax of Northampton (contact Steve Graham or Dave Wade: info@pinbax.com). Several complete second-hand boats are currently for sale by private owners with prices in the range £650 through £6,950; see classified section of Association website.

Scorpions are sailed at numerous clubs throughout the UK and the Association is always looking to attract new enthusiasts to the ‘tribe’. To talk Scorpions and/ or book a trial sail at your nearest club please contact Colin Bradley (membership@sailscorpion.co.uk), Steve Walker (secretary@sailscorpion.co.uk) or Malcolm James (treasurer@sailscorpion.co.uk).

Scorpion Am-Dram Society with Jerry ‘The Guru’ Hannabuss and Bradley Seaton of Paintcraft Boats attempting to emulate the ‘Tallulah’ pose

Malcolm James

South Cerney SC Gloucester GL7 5TH. Scorpion 2011.

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