Albacore Passion

By George Roth

Dinghy sailing is a passion for many and enjoying keen racing in Albacores is part of that passion.

An Albacore is a 15 ft. vision of the boat’s designer, Uffa Fox, who planned the design in 1948 in England as a simple planing dinghy for the active sailing community – perfect for family, friends, racing, pleasure, and instruction. The Albacore today, 42 years later in Canada, still fulfills those ideals. Hulls are built of various materials such as mahogany, cold rolled over a mould, or foam core fiberglass reinforced. Spars are aluminum to a height of almost 26 ft. with foils made of laminated Sitka spruce, wrapped with a fiberglass coating.

A licensed builder, Ontario Yachts of Burlington, Ontario, constructs all new Canadian boats. The building specifications require that the hull is measured to the International Class rules, maintained as part of the copyrighted design. The class rules have been designed to establish the measurements and specifications that describe the Albacore design. The rules can only be changed by joint agreement among the member associations of the International Albacore Association.

The Albacore, by definition, has been a one-design class since its inception. The objective of the class is to maintain a standard that is simple and withstands idle design tinkering which does not add value to the performance of the boat. Clearly, by keeping fairly rigid standards, boats built 55 years ago can compete effectively with hulls coming out of the moulds today. Most importantly, the Albacore owner does not have to incur the unnecessary expense of constant upgrades in the hull. Thus, competition occurs among boats of equal caliber on the water. The bottom line: it’s the performance of crew against crew that really counts.

The Canadian Albacore Association (CAA) is the national association of Canadian owners of Albacore dinghies. The association was formed in 1961 and celebrated its 40th year of operation in 2001. Rumor has it that the late Bill Gooderham created the demand for this boat back in the early ’60s simply by planing back and forth on the Muskoka lakes. Wide-eyed cottagers apparently lined up with cheque­ books in hand at the end of their docks to place an order for the Albacore (then imported from England) following his display. A planing Albacore still has the same effect on prospective boat owners 42 years after its arrival in Canada but with one added benefit. The class now has a history supported by a well-established class association.

Albacore racingThe CAA is one of five international fleets of Albacore owner associations. The other officially formed fleets are in the United States, England, Scotland and Ireland. Additionally, we often hear from less formally structured groups in Cyprus, France and Wales.

The association has come a long way on the strength of its volunteer executives and members since 1961. Today, the major fleets are concentrated in the Ontario cities of Toronto and Ottawa, where regattas and club events occur weekly during the active sailing season. There are large groups of Albacores sailing in the Ontario southwest and the regional areas of Muskoka and Haliburton lakes, many as pleasure sailors. Smaller fleets sail in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and areas of the Maritimes on small lakes or man-made reservoirs.

Supporting the competitive side, international events are held on a bi-annual basis, rotating between Europe and North America. In 2003, Canada hosts this event in Kingston, Ontario from July 20-26 and will attract sailors from England and the US to make a fleet of nearly 60 boats. In the Toronto area, there are scheduled regattas and club races beginning in May running through September. Some are quite easy to enjoy as a spectator, such as the keen club races on Lake Ontario between the community clubs on Friday evenings. This event alone attracts from 45 to 70 boats in a race, many are beginner sailors being introduced to the passion of Albacore sailing. Some seasoned sailors/observers have said that this represents the largest on-going club race series in a one-design dinghy class worldwide. That’s quite an honour for a 55-year-old design.

So, what is it like to handle these round bottomed, flared to a tapered flat shaped hulls that allow this passion of “planing” action? From the eyes of a seasoned competitor, some word pictures as a race progresses…we call it an adventure!

To make “Albs” go well in a breeze, several things need to come together simultaneously. A well-tuned boat is a given. Making it give the jubilation you want results from having two people in the boat who understand it. In a breeze, when a crew understands the tactics of boat handling, performance comes easy. You can both relax and enjoy the moment, regardless of the weather. What you do is to live on the edge, pushing the boat to the extreme, especially on the beam -reaching legs of a course-reaping the flight down the wild side of dinghy sailing that’s the dream in all of us.

Albacore designNow the race. The weather mark is not quite a 1/8 of an inch high on the horizon, if you can see it off to the north, as is the gybe mark to the west, all set for us to pass to port. The gun goes and we’re off -often, one boat is over the line early. The rest of us hike out as we head windward, across whitecaps in the bay. We reach the first mark -now taller than 1/8 of an inch. The sole boat that went right is trying to get around first. Another is there…still another is following behind. We all

round the mark and head down on a broad reach, and whenever possible, up on a plane. The gybe mark approaches followed by a screaming beam reach. The higher we go, the faster we go, as much for the passion as for the screaming for that “fix.” Someone else gets to the leeward mark first. We’re on his heel. Back to weather…tack..flatten…hike…head up …drive the boat…tack. We’re crossing him. Now comes another on the starboard lay line. We’re around and off again on the broad plane. One more gybe…back to weather…heading for the finish. We got him…wow…another first!

The “fix” will carry on as we all roll the mind images on reruns in those moments of daydreams. May there be more days of this celebrated Albacore sailing passion.

To find out more, visit

George Roth is an avid Albacore sailor and currently holds the position of Chief Measurer on the Canadian Albacore Association.

Originally Published in Canadian Yachting’s June/July 2003 issue.


Manufacturer: Ontario Yachts

Overall Length: 4.6 meters

Beam: 1.6 meters

Minimum Hull Weight: 109 Kgs (240 lbs)

Full Rigged Weight:136 kgs. (299 lbs) 

SailArea – Mainsail: 8.3 m2

SailArea – Jib: 3.2m2

Draft Centreboard Up: 0.2 m2

Draft Centreboard Down: 1.4 m2

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