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Mermaids Handbook

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Little, if anything, in this booklet will be new to established Mermaid sailors. Much of it may be obvious even to the uninitiated. However, it may just be worth pointing out to newcomers some of the things which we all take for granted or which has become second nature to most of the Old Salts. This is the sixth edition of the Handbook and if read and understood is guaranteed to improve your sailing performance. As with all yacht racing we emphasize that you should be familiar with the current Racing Rules of Sailing and the Mermaid Class Rules.

James Mitchell

Captain of Mermaids

h2. Introduction

The following sections will detail all you need to know about Mermaids and their performance but this introduction will summarise the important aspects.

Adult Training Week will equip new Members to master the mysteries and techniques. The Course has evolved over many years and has a large and enjoyable social aspect, which counterbalances the technical requirements of the Keelboat Syllabus. Experienced and qualified helms will only need to be check tested by a designated RYA keel boat instructor or Captain of Mermaids.

Once qualified you can book a Mermaid in the Race Booking Diary, kept in the Race Office. Each race is detailed on the respective day and, if more than twelve helms wish to participate, heats and a final will be arranged. Inexperienced Members will need to check the Club Fixtures List to ensure they are entering the appropriate Race and to note the relevant starting time. Please ensure you have signed Notice of Race form prior to going on the water. The Captain of Mermaids, Secretary or Race Officer will conduct a draw to allocate helms to boats.

The draw is posted on the Mermaid board, together with the appropriate sail configuration and starting time. Inexperienced helms should not be daunted as different sail configurations are used to match wind strengths:

NO GENOAS will be used when wind strength exceeds Force 3. This will be interpreted as a steady anemometer reading in excess of 10 Knots or gusts in excess of 13 Knots.

NO FULL-SIZED SPINNAKERS will be used when wind strength exceeds Force 4. This will be interpreted as a steady anemometer reading in excess of 13 Knots or gusts in excess of 16 Knots. Training (Baby) Spinnakers are still allowed.

REEFED MAINSAILS will be used when wind strength exceeds Force 4 to 5. This will be interpreted as a steady anemometer

reading in excess of 16 Knots or gusts in excess of 20 Knots.

NO SAILING when wind strength exceeds Force 6. This will be interpreted as a steady anemometer reading in excess of 25 Knots or gusts in excess of 30 Knots.

It is suggested that plenty of time is given to Race preparations and an early departure to the Nanny Boat is recommended. Do not forget to take your Course Chart, together with a chinagraph pencil.

Sailing should be enjoyable and fun but at times can be demanding and even dangerous. Individuals should ensure that their personal competence is developed through training and experience in a range of conditions. It is the most important single factor in the achievement of adequate safety standards. It is the responsibility of the Helmsman of each Mermaid to decide whether to start or continue a Race in the light of his or her competence and the ability of the remainder of the crew, for the conditions likely to be encountered.

Racing and the competitors are governed by the Racing Rules of Sailing, which they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when a competitor breaks a Rule they will promptly take a penalty or retire.

In every Race you will learn something new about the boat, crew, wind or tides and it is important to ensure that the experiences gained improve your performance.

When the Race is completed please ensure that the Mermaid is left as you would wish to find her for your next Race. All sails should be correctly stowed, sheets and other cordage left tidy and the boat secure on her mooring with the mooring rope secured by the bow fairlead pin.

Some Members might find the prospect of continually racing an exhausting experience. Whenever Mermaids are not allocated for Racing or being used by Charterers, Members may take them cruising, within sight of Nettlestone Point or within the East Solent. Arrangements should be made with the Secretary.

h2. Class History

The first Mermaids came to Seaview in 1907. They were gaff rigged and privately owned by the "gentlemen" Members of the Club. In 1922 these Mermaids were replaced, with a design by Westmacott, with a Bermuda rig. These were also originally owned by Members of the SVYC until 1945 when it was proposed that the Club itself should buy the fleet and finance this exercise by offering to charter the boats to the services. This was immediately taken up and warmly received by the Services and the relationship with the Military has continued on for some fifty years.

In 1963 it was time to replace this much used fleet again. Arthur Robb was commissioned to design a new Mermaid. His brief was to modernise the design by using a cold moulded ply hull and updating the rig to facilitate the use of spinnakers. The chartering was expanded and the yachts became increasingly used by Members and Charterers to the point where the log showed that up to 200 races were started in a year. This new popularity on use caused unprecedented stresses and strains on the hull and rigs, especially when the bigger Genoas were introduced in 1993. The Club has continually updated and replaced the equipment fitted to the Mermaids bringing in Harken and Spinlock

fittings and other user-friendly modifications. After periodic surveys on hull condition and the subsequent downgrading reports, the Club had to address the problem of the deteriorating condition of the boats and the options available to the Club to safeguard this unique sailing opportunity.

After professional and financial advice it was decided that the Club should embark on a fourth Mermaid replacement programme.This was again an ambitious project, costs considerations were paramount and longevity, together with durability, were important in the planning. After much deliberation by Committee and questionnaires to Members and Charterers, it was clear that the majority were in favour of retaining the old hull design, together with updated features to enhance a new look. We therefore had to produce a boat with the same weight, sailing performance and handling characteristics of the older wooden boats, as the replacement programme would entail a number of overlap years when both new and old boats would compete against one another. Barry Stobart-Hook, together with David Thomas, the designer, did some serious number crunching, and technical research and came up with a Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) hull design. This construction would require a mould, which was commissioned by Industrial Mouldings Ltd in November 1993. An existing wooden hull was used as the "plug" for this purpose and the resulting mould is being used today to produce new hulls. We constructed two new boats in time for the 1995 season and this bought the fleet up to twelve in total. These first two were expensive one-offs as we could not cannibalise old boats in this instance. New lead keels were cast from another mould from the existing keel profile and a plywood deck plug was made to ensure a perfect fit. The boats were also the subject of notable technical input because the weight calibrations had to produce a boat exactly the same as the older existing Mermaids. The result was more than satisfactory and the boats weighed in correctly and have performed in racing in ways no different from the

older wooden boats.

The Club was then faced with the decision of how to continue the replacement programme given the financial restrictions prevailing. It was decided to "rehull" the old Mermaids and use all the old fittings, keel, mast etc to save costs. This has worked out extremely well and to date we have replaced all twelve Mermaids. Only one boat (the spare) remains as the original wooden hull. Two boats were sold to Club Members, which ensures a Class Fleet of 15.

h2. Getting Sailing

The Club is committed to encouraging the Members to learn to sail the Mermaids as much as possible. This unique, one design, evenly matched fleet is ideal for experienced and inexperienced sailors. The Adult Training Course is great fun and highly recommended but it is not essential to have attended it in order to become a qualified Mermaid Helmsman. Anybody who can satisfy the Captain of Mermaids that they are competent to be in charge of a boat can be a "B" Helmsman. In practice, this means getting a designated RYA keelboat instructor or Captain of Mermaids to vouch for you. Your name and classification will then be entered in the Clubâs records.

An "A" Helmsman is allowed to be in charge of a Mermaid in any weather where sailing is permitted by the Race Officer and is also allowed to take a boat at Cowes Week. A "B" Helmsman is permitted to be in charge in weather in which full mainsails are used. (Also decided by the Race Officer.)

Generally, anybody may helm a boat, provided that an "A" Helmsman is on board. When an unqualified person (or a "B" Helm in reefed mainsail weather) is at the helm, the accompanying "A" Helmsman is responsible and the unqualified helm must obey their instructions. Once a Helmsman has been qualified as an "A" or "B" they are entered as such into the Club records.

The interface between "A" and "B" Helm qualification and the detail contained within the RYA Keelboat Syllabus is as follows:-

"B" Helm Requirements

Required to achieve Level 1/2 RYA National Sailing Scheme on the following points:

Rigging, Rope Work, Sailing Techniques and Manoeuvres, Racing, Sailing Theory and Background, Meteorology


Has wind awareness and knowledge of spars, rigging, parts of the sail, controls, aware of sail configurations applicable to weather conditions.

Rope Work

Can tie a figure of eight and a bowline.

Sailing Techniques and Manoeuvres

Has wind awareness â understands the basic principles of the following manoeuvres:

Reaching, stopping, controlling speed, tacking, getting out of irons, upwind sailing, downwind sailing, gybing, rules of port/starboard, overtaking boat, lee shores, man overboard recovery.

Sailing Theory and Background

Aware of other boat users, has knowledge of â points of sailing, sea sailing â tides, tide tables, anchoring, relationship between wind and tide.


Awareness of onshore/offshore winds and aware of sources of weather information, including shipping forecasts.

Seaview Mermaids

Is aware of Mermaid flag signals concerned with safety at sea, to include when buoyancy aids must be worn, what sail configurations are permitted.

"A" Helm Requirements

Required to achieve Level 3 RYA National Sailing Scheme on the following points:


Able to rig a boat using all normal equipment, is well-versed with Seaview Mermaid running rigging and equipment.

Rope Work

Can tie clove hitch.

Sailing Techniques and Manoeuvres

Able to sail a course to best advantage, use a spinnaker, sail downwind poling out the headsail, to reef the mainsail, anchor techniques, to heave to, to be towed and to recover man overboard.


Understands Starting procedures, mark rounding â wide in, narrow out.

Sailing Theory and Background

Understands the sea terms â windward, leeward, abeam, forward, aft, astern to weather, downwind, quarter, amidships, pinching, sailing by the lee, luffing, bearing away and broaching.

Knows the following International regulations for preventing collisions at sea â meeting other sailing vessels, meeting power driven vessels.


Knows sources of weather information, significance of low and high pressure areas, aware of changing weather conditions, the Beaufort scale and can interpret a basic knowledge of a synoptic chart.

Grounding Recovery

Understands windward and leeward shores and lee shore hazards. Understands heel and trim, kedging off and need for prompt action.

Emergency Equipment

Is aware of all safety rules and equipment. Knows the importance of personal safety â clothing and buoyancy aids, boat buoyancy (bilge pump, airtight compartments, anchor and paddles).

Seaview Mermaids

Is aware of Mermaid Flag signals concerned with safety at sea, to include when buoyancy aids must be worn, what sail configurations are permitted.

h2. Starting to Race

The Club runs a large number of Members events during the season from May through to October. All these dates are listed in the Fixture List as published at the beginning of each year. Everyone is welcome to enter into these events, using the criteria as explained above. To enter a race you must first enter your name, on the appropriately dated page, in the Mermaid Race Booking Diary, which is located in the small Race Office just off the Dinghy Room, by the Race Deck. You can of course call or email the Office and request that you name be entered for you.

All entries should be registered, at the latest, the day before the chosen event. The evening before the event, all the race entries are put in a

draw and each name is drawn and allocated to a boat. The draw is then posted on the Mermaid board, together with the event, start times, Race Officers and tidal information. In the event that there are more than twelve names and at the discretion of the Captain of Mermaids, a second or third heat will be drawn.

This, in normal circumstances, guarantees everyone a race. The exceptions to this are few and far between and mainly due to two-day regattas. If in doubt ask the Secretary or the Captain of Mermaids.

h2. Charges and Payment

The Club offers two alternatives to Members, racing subscriptions (a) you can subscribe to an annual block booking equivalent to 15 â17 races or (b) you will be billed on each race entered at the standard rate per race (21-26 years of age â ½ price per race). The Club reserves the right to charge you for a race if you do not turn up or do not let the Secretary's Office know in good time so as to substitute your entry.

h2. The Boats

The Helmsman is responsible for safety on board. This means that if he or she considers that the wind and or sea conditions are too much, then they should make the decision to pack up and go ashore. This applies whether you are a beginner, a "B\

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