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Buyers Guide to the Xenon Dinghy

 

Buying a second hand Xenon is likely to be a safe bet. The rugged moulded construction does not appear to have many, if any weak points. The purpose of this Guide is to describe the facilities that the Topper Topaz Xenon provides to a would-be owner and make some comparisons with similar dinghies. As a start read the Xenon Overview section on this site.

What sailing will you do?

Your first consideration should be the nature of sailing that you hope to do. Do you have a sailing partner who will be able to spend as much time sailing as yourself?  The Xenon is an excellent double hander dinghy and will also sail well single handed in light winds with the Jib furled albeit with much reduced performance. However if you anticipate doing much single handed sailing the Xenon is probably not the right choice.

For 3 persons wishing to sail together and enjoy a high performance then the Xenon will be a superb choice. There are very few dinghies that would come even close to the Xenon in these circumstances.

If you are intending to both race and do family sailing the Xenon is also an excellent choice. Its performance eclipses that of many dinghies but its broad beam provides comfortable room for a family. A point not to be overlooked is the hull moulding, intended to facilitate light wind sailing, it also provides a convenient seat for the children! The Xenon is well suited to occasional comfortable cruising with the family. Indeed it has the facility to mount a small outboard motor, as an optional accessory (the mounting block is available from Topper at a price of around £110 - 2010 prices). However compared with deep bodied dinghies the storage space for snacks etc is very limited. If you anticipate substantial cruising then, although the Xenon will provide the comfort it is probably not the right choice simply because of the lack of storage space.

Where will you do your sailing?

A very significant advantage of the Xenon is its construction. The rotomoulded hull is truly maintenance free. It can tolerate minor collisions, beaching on pebbles, mud etc with no lasting consequences. For this reason it is a very attractive option for those learning to sail and who want a dinghy that can provide the thrills of high performance. Fibre Glass dinghies whilst marginally lighter and offering beautiful paintwork are highly vulnerable to collision damage and rough landings. The gel coat will chip or score and water will soak in over time. The long term consequence is that the fibre glass hull will shows signs of delaminating (the fibres begin to part company) around the areas of damage unless prompt repairs are made.

In contrast the Xenon has no gel coat to chip, its colour and strength are integral with the hull material and do not rely upon a paint finish. We have sailed our Xenon extensively for nearly four years and despite some poor landings and getting rammed in the stern by another dinghy (not a mark to be seen!) the Xenon is still in superb condition.

For these reasons, and the general high quality of its fittings (many Allen fittings are covered by a lifetime guarantee!), it makes an excellent performance dinghy for sailing centres and is capable of many years service.

Some sailing venues are probably too small for the Xenon. Even without using the Gennaker the dinghy can cover the ground at a good rate of knots in a moderate wind. When using the Gennaker even large venues seem to shrink!

The Xenon is also very suitable for sea sailing in sheltered waters, ie with safety boats in attendance. However one point to note is that for open sea sailing an anchor and flares are usually considered essential and the Xenon lacks suitable storage for this of equipment.

Price considerations

The significant advantages of rotomoulded hull dinghies have been recognised by many leading companies. Whilst Topper took the lead in this technology, of which the Xenon is an excellent example, virtually all major companies are switching to this type of construction. After the initial (huge!) outlay the manufacture of these dinghies can be done more cheaply and, from a buyers viewpoint, rotomoulded dinghies hold their price better in the second hand market than their fibre glass equivalents.

Xenons are not common on the second hand market. It is difficult to guess the reasons for this but it is probably a combination of the price performance it offers coupled with rugged maintenance free construction. The dinghies rarely deteriorate. Despite more than 4 years substantial usage our dinghy looks as good as the day we purchased it and the sails also. It is distinctly possible that a second hand Xenon purchased one year could be sold virtually at the same price a year later.

On the second hand market Xenon prices range from £2600 - £4200 (2011 prices) usually the condition of the sails and foils etc influence the asking price as the hull rarely deteriorates.

What to look for when buying second hand

The most vulnerable areas in all dinghies are the foils (centreboard and rudder) which can be damaged by poor landings. Check the state of the foils. Small chips and nicks can be repaired but if the damage is greater a replacement rudder or centreboard can be pricey.

Look for damage to the boom. In particular check the state of the gooseneck bracket and Gnav brackets. A tell tale indication of poor rigging (failure to insert a stopper knot in the mainsheet to hold the boom off the shrouds) is scratch marks on the side of the boom caused by the boom crashing into the Shrouds during a gybe.

Check the hull for damage and if any damage is found reject the dinghy. The hull is so tough that any damage is almost certainly caused by an exceptional force.  Topper claim to be able to repair damage but no information is available on the cost or efficacy of such work.

Sails - The Xenon Jib and Main sails seem to perform very well for many years. The most vulnerable sail is the Gennaker. It is a large lightweight sail. It can be damaged by rough treatment. The damage can take the form of threads being pulled causing crinkling of the sail (easily repaired with some patience) or a small tear caused by snagging on pins, shroud stays, Furler unit fastenings etc, to sizeable rips often caused by the dinghy over running the Gennaker when a retrieval goes wrong. Xenons having the black gennaker can be checked on a low wind day by launching the gennaker and looking at the material against a bright sky. Weak spots will allow more light through. Repairs are readily possible to the Gennaker and are cheaper than buying new so bear this in mind if you are confronted with a Gennaker in poor condition. A new Gennaker from Topper will cost in the region of £500  See the 2011 price list.

 

You may be offered a Xenon having a white gennaker instead of the usual terror inducing (from the view point of the boat you are bearing down upon!) black. These are complete with a large blue 'H' in the centre. These are Xenons that were sailed or produced for the Endeavour Trophy 'Champions of Champions' race sponsored and supported by Topper International. They usually have sail numbers affixed whereas the standard Xenon does not carry sail numbers (you will need to add these if you decide to take part in racing - See Adding Sail Numbers in the Maintenance Guide). Topper usually produce around 30 Xenon dinghies for this race and then sell them off at bargain prices after just a couple of days use!

 

Look for Mainsail delamination - this is rare and is due to the mainsail being left in the raised position and allowed to 'flog' in the breeze (boom is whipped from side to side by the sail). Delamination can be spotted by the slight change in colour of the usually transparent sail usually around the Clew area of the sail. Closer examination will reveal the two skins of the Mylar have parted company. This can be repaired by a sailmaker by cutting out the affected section and stitching in a new piece of Mylar. Such repairs seem to be good for some years.

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