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Sabre Sailing Dinghy

Australia's most popular one design single handed class. The fun Single hander that is easy to sail but difficult to master.

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Luis Mata has discovered Sabre sailing after moving from Barcelona to Melbourne

The Australian Sabre class continues to prove itself as one of the most accessible forms of sailing on offer, with the Victorian fleet recently bringing a land-loving Spaniard into its ranks and introducing him to the sport.

 It was a long way from Barcelona to Black Rock and a big challenge developing his sea legs, but after Luis Mata moved to Australia with his family he quickly found himself regularly enjoying the beach at Half Moon Bay.

Read on by clicking here.

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Our Sabre family is now navigating uncharted waters with hidden shoals all around and uncharted waters ahead. However, we know that things will eventually improve and look forward to resuming a normal life. Our President, Russell Rooney has provided words of support together with a quick review of recent Vic state activity, work underway nationally and plans for the future. This message was emailed to members of the Sabre family and can be seen by clicking here.


Hello Sabre Sailors,

Recap. News Updates emailed to members of the Sabre Family in June (link) and September 2019 (link) mentioned that Sabre Sailing Association of Australia (SSAA) had undertaken a SWOT analysis of the class which resulted in certain actions being taken. One was the appointment of an independent group of three experienced people (The Sail Evaluation Team – SET) to determine whether a new sail design was opportune, if so what it might look like and how it performed. Sailing trials commenced in October 2019 in SA and Vic, initially concentrating on evaluating the current Sabre sail against the Shark sail. The latter had been developed by a group of sailors in WA and had been used by some sailors in SA and Vic. 

The evaluation process would include in - depth discussions with sailmakers who have extensive experience in making Sabre sails, also receiving feedback from sailors.

Evaluation criteria and process were established. Whatever the outcome, we do not intend to materially disadvantage our current Sabre sailors. A tough ask!

A little Sabre history. The Sabre was developed some 50 years ago by a group of dinghy sailors led by Rex Fettell to provide a craft light in weight, capable of being built at relatively low cost and able to sail well in the 15-20 knot breeze and lumpy seas in Port Phillip Bay. Sabre history and why it has become the largest non-Olympic single handed class in Australia is seen on the Sabre website. Initially seen as an intermediate class covering those who had ‘graduated’ from Minnows or Sabots, it also encompasses people who have had considerable success in international classes. All enjoy racing in large fleets and friendly competition through the fleet. Sabres have broad participation in age, weight and experience. 

Although the Sabre hull and rigging has been refined with the advent of new materials and experience, the sail has remained basically the same outline, size and brand identification. 

With such a broad ‘target audience’ one approach might be to establish say two Sabre groups covering different weight and experience ranges, each with different sails. After much discussion, this approach was discarded since it went against the Sabre ethos of inclusion, fellowship and friendship. Reasons why people had moved into Sabres had been explored in a 2017 survey published earlier on the Sabre website.

Where are we up to? 

If we diverge from the current Sabre sail, a new design would need to be:

  • A more efficient sail, catering for the same range of sailor attributes. It should enable a Sabre to perform well with current crew attributes (weight/strength/age) in both flat water and Port Phillip Bay/St Vincent Gulf conditions.
  • A more modern appearance should reflect the same Sabre style. There has been considerable feedback regarding the striking appearance of Sabre fleets. 
  • Durable and no more expensive than the current sail.
  • Capable of being produced with varying fullness and shapes to suit different sailing conditions, crew weights and experience, as is the case with the current Sabre sail.
  • Provide for a smaller sail size if required.
  • A phase in period that minimises any disadvantage to occasional sailors

What are our initial findings?

Since the so called Shark sail has been developed and used in several states it was decided that initial trails would concentrate on its strengths and weaknesses compared to the Sabre sail. Based on recent comparative sailing trials between these sails in differing wind, wave and crew weight conditions on Port Phillip Bay, we see the Shark sail being effective up to about 15kts both up and down wind. In summary, it provides a more lively performance and feel including an enhanced ability to catch and retain waves on reaches and runs. 

Comparative upwind performance falls off as the wind increases. Although it has not been fully tested over 22kts wind strength it does not seem to match the performance of the Sabre sail, particularly for the less experienced and lighter sailors. The Shark sail is inherently less stable due we believe to its large head and full battens. Being translucent, the current Mylar cloth has poor distance visibility, a potential problem when a sailor is having difficulties and requires assistance. 

One of the more unexpected outcomes of the trial is that the Shark sail’s full battens make launch and retrieval more difficult due to the battens tendency to suddenly ‘flick’ resulting in a capsize on the ramp, while launching or holding the boat

We have received mixed reactions from Sabre sailors on the Shark sail’s appearance ranging from: ‘OK, we could get used to it’ through to ‘it’s ugly’. Others have suggested a smaller head would be more appealing. A larger window with improved visibility has been a significant plus.

Future directions.

Trials will continue and the SSAA will support SET to conclude its findings and provide feedback. The Team is also planning to get two new sails developed in Dacron by current Sabre sailmakers. The aim is to develop and test a modern sail plan. 

This is an exciting project; a great opportunity to bring Sabre sailors together, to gain publicity for the class, to contribute to Sabres 45 years of history and to ensure that it continues to move with the times.

A communication strategy is being developed and will be implemented by Down Under Sailing - including exposure in general sailing publications - online, hard copy and video. We aim to encourage Q and A discourse. 

Yours in sailing 

The SSAA Committee         

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Sabre class veteran from the McCrae Yacht Club in Victoria, Alan Riley, has gone back-to-back with two Australian Sabre titles in as many years, after a dominant display at the recent nationals at Wallaroo Sailing Club.

The top five at the event showed their experience in the class, however Riley was the pick of the bunch, winning four of the seven championship heats, along with a 2-3-(6) that saw him come away with a decent buffer on second.

Riley said he had sailed Sabres for many years and won a title in the early 2000s, but has now since returned after stepping away from the class for a few years.

"It's fantastic - I never thought I could do that (win two nationals in a row)," he said.

"I was out of the class for such a long time and to just come back in and pick it up - it's just been amazing.

"I was looking forward to these nationals because last year Craig (McPhee) and Scott (Olsen) didn't come so I was wondering 'how do I really go against them?'

"The competition's always really really good (in the Sabres), it's one of the things that keeps me coming back in the class because there's just so many good sailors."

Riley said the weather wasn't what he was expecting out of Wallaroo, which is traditionally known for consistent and strong southwesterly sea breezes.

"The first days were really cold as well, we set new cold weather records, and then we had a 41-degree day on top of it so the range has just been amazing," he said.

"We had a lot of practice in strong breezes before I came up here - it worked for the first day but after that it's been all over the place."

Riley also paid tribute to the culture of the Sabre class, saying the help everyone provides and the way new sailors are encouraged and helped was really great to see.

"Everyone's open and willing to share - it's hard out on the water but what's out on the water stays on the water and it's really good and friendly on the shore."

Finishing in second place overall was Western Australian Scott Olsen, who was fairly consistent across the board in a borrowed boat after a lot of challenges to get to the event due to affects of the bushfires on the Nullarbor.

He was then followed by Riley's local training partner in Murray O'Brien, who finished third after what was also a very consistent regatta that saw all results inside the top five.

The class now gets set to head to the nation's capital for the 2021 Australian Championships with Canberra Yacht Club set to host the event from 9-16 January next year.

For the final results, please click here.

2013 14 RQYS Nationals

Alan Riley Still


It’s now time to enter our premier Sabre sailing event in 2019/20. 

The NOR, which includes the on line entry can be found here. In order to focus your attention, the online entry is also here. Act now in case you forget later!

Sabre Nats 1920

During 4 to 11 January 2020, Sabres will be gathering at the beautiful, beachside town of Wallaroo on the pristine waters of Spencer Gulf to compete for the title of National Champion!

Come and join in the fun sailing, great food and drink in a location full of history, scenery and family attractions. Lots of things to do for the whole family.

Led by our Sabre Australia Vice President, Ryan Kelly, the Wallaroo Sailing Club is the social centre for the series. For more information visit www.revolutionise.com.au/wallaroosailing The surrounding Copper Coast is a fantastic region and can be seen at www.coppercoast.sa.gov.au and more widely at www.visityorkpeninsula.com.au

Sabre Nats 1920-1

Next move? Talk to your family and mates and make the decision to come and quickly make a booking for accommodation at this popular holiday location. Booking options are at https://www.sabre.org.au/images/nationals/2020_Accommodation_Booklet.pdf


In June, our Sabre National President, Russell Rooney, sent an email to all Sabre sailors and interested people who we have in our system. It discussed a range of topics including our success over the past 45 years, our culture and camaraderie, strategic directions of the class and ongoing development. For those who missed the Newsletter, a copy can be seen HERE.

We were delighted to get an unsolicited email from Rex Fettell, OAM, responding to the above Newsletter. Rex is the father and designer of the Sabre and his email can be seen HERE.



Congratulations go to all participants, organisers and officials for a very successful series. Congratulations especially to our  new champion, Alan Riley of McCrae Yacht Club, who lead the field home in all accept one race. He showed strong boat skills and speed in the ten to thirteen knot Moreton Bay sea breezes. Alan paid compliments to his fellow McCrae sailor, Murray O'Brien, who with a string of seconds, was overall runner up. Alan and Murray had a very  strong build up by finishing neck and neck in their club races.

Tony Carr represented the WA fleet well in taking  out third place overall by securing a first, two seconds and two thirds. Then came the two VIC Black Rock boats sailed by Steve Douglas in fourth and Bruce Abbott, representing the older sailors in fifth. Both sailed boats professionally built by Steve who also made his own sail.

Ryan Kelly (SA) put his foot on the pedal to come in 6th, ahead of his good friend, Tasmanian Chris Kiel, with Peter Ellis (VIC) next.

There was an interesting shoot out between the two junior (under eighteen years) sailors, Liam O'Brien (ninth) who edged out Lucas Upton (10th), particularly on the last day. Lauren Kiel (SA) showed her sailing skills to take out the Ladies Division.

Our thanks go to competitors, organisers and officials for a great series sailed in the usual hard and fair Sabre manner. Ryan Kelly gave a presentation of what will be a very enjoyable series in January 2020 in the seaside town of Wallaroo, SA and we urge all Sabre sailors to come and join in the fun.

Click here to see the results.



2013 14 RQYS Nationals

The summer sailing season is now over and many hardy Sabre sailors are competing in winter series races - in preparation for the 2018/19 season. A major highlight will be the National Championships to be held at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in January 2019. This was the venue for the very successful 2012 series. RQYS is a great location and venue in the suburb of Manly.

2019 Australian Sabre Championship

5 - 12 JANUARY 2019

Sabre RQYS

We have 9 races scheduled for this Championship between 7 and 12 January. Registration will take place on 5 and 6 January with a Welcome BBQ on the afternoon of 6 January and then our Presentation Function on the evening of 12 January. 


Racing Documents & Entry

Notice of Race – click here
Championship Entry – click here
Entry List – click here

Please take time to view click here to see details of the programme, venue, accommodation options etc

Further Sabre Nationals

So you can continue to plan ahead, we are pleased to announce the timing and venue for Sabre Nationals over the next three years..

They are:

2019 Queensland. RQYS Manly 5-12 January. – see above

2020 South Australia. Wallaroo 4-11 January. – for more details click here.  Please note that you should aim to secure accommodation bookings before Xmas 2018 since Wallaroo is a popular holiday location in January. There is plenty to do and see in this delightful seaside town and some of these and nearby attractions are seen here

2021 ACT/NSW. Canberra YC 9-16 January.

You will see that the Sabre Association have been guided by your responses in our 2017 survey of Sabre sailors. Nationals have been moved from our traditional Xmas/New Year timing and to more family friendly locations.

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