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Xenon Dinghy as a family boat

As this rather disappointing summer draws to its close we decided that our promise to the grandchildren of a ride in 'our boat' would have to be very soon or left to next year. We were looking for a sunny day with winds below 10 knots. The forecast for today seemed ideal, winds of 8 knots and temperature of 23°C. Plenty of safety boats on the Reservoir was also a comforting factor.

We launched the Xenon with a full rig, including the Gennaker. The grandchildren were aged 6 &  7 yrs (boys) and 3 & 4 yrs (girls).  Originally we had no intention of taking out the girls - far too young. However it became clear that "anything the boys can do, we can do" was the argument being deployed, so being weak and having no control we agreed to take out the girls also.

All the children were on the small side for the Junior size buoyancy vest. The vests had crotch straps (to enable the child to be hoisted out of the water by the vest with no prospect of the buoyancy vest sliding off) and had adjustable shoulder straps. We took care to adjust the vests fairly firmly (amid a few complaints) to ensure that if the worst happened the vests would stay in place. The adjustments however were sufficient to get a good fit and we estimate the vests will last for many years. They may be Junior vests but they were not a Junior price! The Club kindly loaned us one vest. This was for the smallest of the girls, who happens to be an exceptional swimmer. It was a 100N vest and the thicker foam and the foam collar was a source of annoyance to her. The standard 50N vest would have been more suitable.

The video below shows the boys being taken out. As you can see they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We were keenly aware that if anything gave cause for alarm that may well discourage them from sailing ever again. The Xenon is a roomy dinghy. There was plenty of room for the helm (Dad1), two crew (Dad2 and Grandad) and two children. We decided to sail three up (which we have often done) to give the dinghy extra stability and make it easy to balance in gusts. If the worst happened there was one adult for each child and someone to sort out the Xenon. Nothing untoward happened.

We launched and headed out. The Xenon carried all of us with ease, it still had plenty of freeboard even with this load and the children were able to move around as they wished. The breeze was rather stronger than expected and we exchanged a few glances wondering how the children would take to the sudden heeling of the dinghy. We need not have worried. A practical session in balancing the boat followed and surprisingly quickly the children began to react to the attitude of the Xenon, sliding along the seat initially and then as they became more confident getting up on the side. At times the breeze was such that four of the crew were sitting out on the side (see the video!) and the Xenon really chewing through the waves! The children seemed to enjoy the sense of speed and the Xenon certainly behaved extremely well. With three adults onboard keeping the Xenon in balance was very easy, even with a few moderate gusts - which gave rise to squeals of delight!!

The adventure went so well that at one stage we decided to launch the Gennaker.  The children were impressed (quiet) by the appearance of the enormous sail and its initial flapping prior to inflating.... then the complaints began!  We're not going very fast! can we go faster?  As we turned downwind in the steady breeze and the gennaker fully inflated the Xenon started to glide very smoothly through the waves and the wind appears to drop. Unlike the F4/5 of last week the sense of speed in these winds disappears. The only indication of the speed was the spray whipping past the gunwhale. Some innocent fishermen ahead caused us to cut the speed run short and turn back upwind. I have the impression that the children did not rate the Gennaker run as exciting.

We terminated the sailing session amid grumbles that they wanted another go. Hopefully next year they will be keen to extend their sailing experience.

I have several years experience in sailing in the Xenon but once again discovered new benefits of its broad beam and ideal gunwhale seats and certainly look forward to the Grandchildren joining us next summer. The video below is of relatively good quality and is best viewed 'full-screen'.