Club Racing the Goat Island Skiff – yardstick handicap racing

A quick jump to the end for those wanting to know the outcome.  George’s club yardstick is 1117.  That’s the same as an Enterprise or slightly slower than an OK.  George is an experienced larger yacht racer and you can see his learning curve in this article.  I’m sure there is more to come from the sailor and from the boat.

The number of my boat designs that have been built has reached some sort of threshold, and a few are starting to get involved in weekly club racing.  I did an article on my website a couple of weeks ago about how a BETH sailing canoe sails about equal with club level Laser Radials in weekly racing.

This was one of my targets with my designs.  They are meant to be boats that won’t be outclassed in club racing.  I’m really keen to find out how the yardstick (handicap) changes as George and crew get used to the realities of course racing making the boat sail faster.

George Isted and Sneaky Shark of the UK on launching day

George Isted in the UK has started entering his Goat Island Skiff in weekly racing at his local sailing club.  He is a very experienced yacht racer.

George Isted builder and owner of Goat Island Skiff "Sneaky Shark"

A few months ago he entered “Sneaky Shark” into the British RAID event.  They had a win in the first race on the boat’s first outing.  Until I get some club racing photos with more conventional boats I’ll use these.

Sneaky shark - goat island skiff - rafted up at English RaId

The fleet at the club is mixed – the boats mentioned are a wide range, Enterprises, Laser Radials, Lasers, Laser 2000, RSes and more.  George is reporting on the Goat Island Skiff group on facebook.  Feel free to join up – lots of general info on boat setup and handling, sailing spots etc.

So lets cut to the chase.

18 June – Race 1 (2 crew)

Light wind – note heel, crew forward, centreboard and mainsail depth

First proper race for Sneaky Shark this evening having taking her down to the sailing club over the weekend. Not sure yet what they are going to do on the handicaps but I have suggested “somewhere between a Laser radial and an Enterprise”. Forecast is for light winds, 6-8kts max but probably less. Will report back…

Michael Storer – “Would love a yardstick number if you race often enough to get a consistent result, George”.  How big will your crew be?”

Will be sailing two-up this evening although we won’t need the weight, I may end up single-handed some evenings. It’s a series of 10 races over the next 10 weeks.

Dave LaFontaine – Light winds should play to your/our strength of huge sail area. Remember to heel just a bit in very light winds to reduce wetted area. Good luck and report back… SNEAKY FOR THE WIN!

Goat Island Skiff in English RAID row and sail event.

Michael Storer – “Cram forward in light winds with heel – strongly reduces wetted surface.”

Hi folks, to report back….
I suggested that the club give us a rating similar to a laser radial (1117) as a starting point and that would put me either at the back end of the “fast” fleet or at the front end of the “slow” fleet, as they gave me the choice I opted for the fast fleet. In retrospect this was probably a mistake as club rules are such that all boats in a fleet have to finish within 45 mins of the first finisher, normally not a problem but in light winds…. Not ideal. My very able crew for the race was Dan who was excellent, he concentrated on sail trim, playing with the downhaul and outhaul settings while trimming on the mainsheet. All I had to do hold the stick at the back and concentrate on the shifty wind and finding the buoys of the course.

The course was L shaped and consisted of a beat, dead-run and a couple of reaches so a good test of all points of sail, in the light winds we had boat speed that was on par or a little faster than the Solo and Feva but a little slower than the standard Laser. When there was a touch more wind (6-8 kts) we would catch the laser and pull away from the Solo/Feva but a couple of positional and wind shift mistakes put us behind them at the finish. In the end (as suggested above) we were DNF as we ran out of time but I am not really too worried about that as we had a great time on the water and it was my first race with the boat and the club.

Heeling the boat over did seem to make a difference in very light airs as it reduced drag but it’s hard to know at what wind speed this stops being worth it. Next time I think we will go in the “slow” fleet as if nothing else that should give us more time to finish, For info, the fastest boat in the “fast” fleet is a tricked up RS-100. There were only 5 boats out last night but I gather there is normally 10 or more. Looking forward to next week already.

Michael Storer – “Super to have the update!!! My feeling with the heel is that while you are struggling to get boatspeed in the light stuff then heel is definitely a good choice, but as soon as reliable boatspeed is there then flat.  In the really light stuff where speed is difficult it can pay to have the centreboard up by about a foot or a leeetle bit more because the sails are not developing much side force. But as soon as getting close to reliable movement or any chop then full down.  Whenever you are sheeting wide to get headway it can help a bit.  How much depth were you carrying in the bottom of the main?”

We eased the outhaul a couple of times, we probably ended up with about 8″ of draft/depth in the sail, maybe more. Daniel Gibbons (crew) what do you think?

Daniel Gibbons – “I would have thought it was slightly less than that. What did seem to happen was that it twnsioned itself back up. Not sure if this is because the clip holding the sail at the inboard end was able to rotate and hence we could put some more downhaul on which ultimately made it worse by tensioning the outhaul.”

21 June – Practice sail (2 crew)

Light wind 6 to 8 kn – notes playing downhaul, *bleeter, ease sail tension along yard, steer using heel more, beer.

Just been for a practice in Sneaky Shark with Daniel Gibbons before the next race, perfect summer evening, warm with a gentle 6-8k kts breeze. Well worth doing as we played with the sail controls and in the lightish airs found that we really needed to play with the downhaul much more than previously, it has a huge effect!

As we have the “Bleater” arrangement (see GIS woodenboat forums) we are now going to move the downhaul aft on the boom so it has more of a kicker/vang effect.

We also released some of the tension in the yard, I was pulling the top corners out too much but this may need to be re-tensioned in stronger winds. Dan also showed me how we can steer the boat by heeling it, helps with tacking as the rudder is used less so less loss of speed. All in all an excellent practice sail with Dan followed by a glorious pint of British brown beer (Doom Bar). Will update after the race next Tuesday.

Forgot to say…. Lots and I really do mean LOTS of people saying what a lovely looking boat it is and asking about it.

26 June – Race 2 (2 crew) – 1st place (yardstick 1145)

Light wind 8+ knots

Second race of the summer series and we have a win on the board, thanks Daniel Gibbons for being a first-rate crew. Wind was a nice 8kts or so occasionally more, Currently Racing off a handicap of 1145.

Andrew Softley – “Nice! What was your starting line strategy? Did you sit on a luff, or try to time? High side?”

Thanks, the line is fixed whatever the weather so today it was a down-wind start, that made starting easier as we reached around just above the line although our start position was not great as we were sandwiched between a laser 2000 and an RS Vision.

So a win means the yardstick of 1145 might be too high.  Here is the list of boats around that level of performance.  Goat is carrying a lot of weight two up in light winds but holding in with some reasonable company.  Some think the balance lug would make the Goat outclassed by modern rig boats.  I really look forward to getting more data over the next weeks.

Boats with similar yardstick to the initial one for the Goat Island Skiff

Michael Storer – “Congratulations! How did you go upwind and cross breeze,

If it is squarish you can get out of phase and reduce blanketing by sailing by the Lee. It’s fast too. Have a Practice aiming at a pretend mark.. Also means you can chase gusts coming down the course to windward or leeward with less gybing. Also can be an advantage at marks. Goat is very light so big advantage on free legs bearing away in gusts and coming up in lulls. I would be comfortable altering course 10 degrees either side of course. In very weak wind lull conditions I wouldn’t be shy of going 20 degrees either side. That also puts you out of phase with other boats’ blanketing.”

(Explanation for others is if reaching you bear away in gusts you follow them so stay inside them longer and the stronger wind is more behind you. And in lulls you point up more increasing apparent wind and also as moving in opposite direction to wind so spend less time in the lulls.)

The boat seems very competitive downwind and reaching but upwind we lose out to the bermudan rigged boats (as you would expect) but I’m getting better are not pinching as that kills speed. As Mik suggests we have been sailing by the lee downwind, reversing the flow across the sail, it takes a bit of practice but opens up options that the bermudan rigged boats don’t have.

So yesterday we were racing against an RS Vision but it was sailing without it’s Spinaker so had it’s rating adjusted so it was the same as us on Sneaky. It could be they we (and they) are out on the handicap but we won by about 10 seconds after a short 35min race. The Laser 2000 was in another class but doing the same course, after 35 mins we were probably 2mins behind at a guess. Daniel Gibbons- what do you think?

Daniel Gibbons – “I think that the fast handicap had a better competitive fleet so working put the average lap on all boats would work out where we really lie and provide a good idea of how our handicap is. I think we were on corrected time average lap in mid place for fast handicap but only just a short time. Do not have exact results but this is from memory it was about 30 sec to 1min between us and first”

9 July – Race 3 (2 crew) – Place 3/4 (yardstick 1145)

Moderate wind 8 t0 12 increasing to 16 knots

George does a dive off the Goat Island Skiff - Man overboard

Race 3 in Sneaky Shark, started in 8-12 kts finished in 14-16kts with stronger gusts, very able crew was Dan Gibbons .

Sailed with no reefs as we were only struggling in the stronger gusts, Dan does a great job of hiking hard, I need to work on my stomach muscles. A good start was had over the line and we were soon pulling away from the Solo and Feva while struggling to keep pace with the lasers, the RS100 was doing a horizon-job.

At the first jibe mark a mixture of poor timing and stronger winds resulted in me somehow falling out of the boat, I’m told it was rather amusing to watch but I’m still not quite sure what happened. Dan kept the boat upright (just) and I pulled myself back in over the side and got the boat sailing again while Dan bailed, we lost a bit of time and the Solo pass…

Keen to catch up we worked hard to get the boat going in what felt like very puffy/gusty conditions and we were hiking in and out a lot to keep the boat going and managed by the last lap to get a reasonable lead on the Solo again when the inevitable capsize happened. When both hiking hard in a gust the wind shifted and dropped, the sail backed and the boat was over on-top of us in an instant. The boat was righted quickly but then capsized immediately on the other side, the second righting was more controlled, I rolled up inside the hull while Dan climbed over the top from the daggerboard. The boat really comes up with a lot of water in it and my bailer is a little on the small side, we lost a lot of time getting the boat emptied and going again and easily lost 5 minutes in the race. Final position was 3rd out of 4 boats, 6mins behind 1st on corrected time.

It was a great sail and, as always, we came away having learned more about the boat. It was the first capsize and it was good to know how easy she comes up, we just need a bigger bailing bucket! There were times yesterday when the boat was flying, breeze would kick in and she would accelerate, it was a great feeling. There was a GoPro attached to the base of the mast looking backwards for the race so I’m looking forward to seeing that, if my departure from the boat is not too embarrassing I will be posted 🙂

And here is the video – 12 mins

Introduced by George

Hahaha, nice one, thanks Dan. Particular highlights for me are 0342 I leave the boat for a quick dip, must have been getting hot and needed to cool down. 0640 Great Hiking. 0845 feeling hot again time to cool down followed by LOTS of bailing.

I’m putting together a tutorial on an alternative method of gybing boats with unstayed rigs that makes it easy to keep the boat level and gives much more time for the crew to do what they gotta.  It also works well with sailing by the lee.  Give me a few days!

16 July – Race 3 (2 crew) – 2nd (yardstick 1145)

Light wind

Another fun race but light winds this time (again). Daniel Gibbons had his Gopro attached to the yard looking down on us and the resulting film sounds great. Will be posted once edited. I was crew (on sail trim) while dan held the stick for a change. We came 2nd in our class and felt as though the boat was going really well this evening.

What was interesting was that we had everything set really loose, adjusting the downhaul regularly with just enough to keep the wrinkles out of the sail, we were also sailing a little more free on the wind and kept he boat going all the time. However as the wind would increase we were pointing as high as the Laser 2000 (that we were ahead of for most of the race) and almost as high as the standard laser. The sail made by Sanders is (I believe) a lot to do with that, it’s a real nice shape and Sanders have a lot of experience with the lug-rig as they make a lot of Scow sails. We were beaten by a Lymington Scow last night by 3 minutes on corrected time, I think on handicap we give it 10 minutes in every hour.

Dan (who has sailed and seems to own a selection of dinghies) was very complimentary about how sensitive and responsive the GIS is to helm but I will let him add his own words (if he can take a break from drawing big boats at work).

We were 2nd on handicap, still racing on 1145, first over the line (by some way) in the slow fleet. On the water we were in front of a Laser 2000 from the fast fleet for most of the race but they overtook and pulled away eventually. I suspect they may adjust our handicap if we keep sailing like this but we really need a few more races in stronger (8-15kts) of wind to get a better idea of relative performance.

Apart from all the sailing feedback and the video to come once Dan gets some time to edit it, George had a nice tip for boats with spaced inwales.

Top tip 2. Fenders are not just for protecting the varnish when alongside a pontoon. They can also make a perfect height and comfortable seat when there is not quite enough wind to sit up on the hull side.

Using a fender as a dry comfortable seat in a fast dinghy with spaced gunwales - Goat Island Skiff Plan

More to come


I will add more results as the weeks go by and we will see if the initial handicapping was fair to the Goat and fair to everything else!

Drop back next week and see how it is going!

*”Bleeter” is a name for a certain organisation of the relationship of the boom to the mast that has distinct advantages with reducing sail twist.  Article on setting up lugs for performance with vangs, vanghauls and bleaters


25 July – Race 6 (1 crew) – 2nd (yardstick 1048)

Light to Moderate wind

Delayed report back, sorry about that.

This was Race 6 in Sneaky Shark, I was going to be singlehanded tonight but ended up taking another club member along that normally sails a Topaz, I think she found the Goat a bit more “tippy” than the Topaz and we both had fun.

We had a good start in a nice breeze of 8-10 knots, the tide was slack at this point so headed right down the centre of the harbour on a broad reach to the turning mark keeping pace with the only Laser taking part tonight, we closely followed him for the next downwind, upwind and downwind legs,it was only on the last and longer upwind leg that there was a bit of real distance building between the two boats.

On the second lap the tide was starting to flow and we made a crucial mistake of going to the less favourable side of the harbour that resulted in less wind and moored boats that stopped us getting out of the tide and we lost out loads. The second lap was a repeat of the first but with less wind, I wanted to adjust the sail depth with the outhaul but the valley cleat is not that convenient when having to hike so I think I need to move is forward so the crew can reach it more easily.

We finished 2nd out of only three in our class but I was pleased with the performance in the first lap, the wind became very shifty as it dropped off on the second lap and was quite challenging to keep us moving at a decent speed. Never mind there is always next week and I may take my eldest son out for a sail tomorrow so more practice then That’s all folks.

14 August – Race 7 (1 crew) – 2nd (yardstick 1048)

Light wind

From George

Just enjoyed what was probably my last Tuesday night race of the season and it was a great way to finish, I ended up sailing alone and enjoyed being solo for a change although we started in 12 kts and the extra weight would have been handy in the gusts.

My handicap has been adjusted, the GIS is just too fast for the clubs slow fleet so I’m now sailing off 1048 which is faster than a Laser and I think may be a little too far in the wrong direction.

Anyhow, I had a great sail and spent much of the first lap trading places with a Laser 2000 (sailing 1090) but in the dying breeze of the second lap I managed to keep the boat going while the 2000 got stuck in a hole on the last beat. Sadly it’s getting too dark too early in the evening and the sun was just setting as I hauled the boat out, there is still Sunday racing so I’ll have to try and do a few of them (and have a quiet word about my handicap).


So now it is over, what’s your sense of where you win and lose against the other boats George?

It does sound too like there’s been a steady improvement in the past weeks.

When you have time, what are the two or three most important points about racing the goat that you have picked up?


Good question, without a simple answer I suspect as it’s conditions and crew (weight and ability) dependent. However my rough feeling is that she is really fast reaching and running due to the light weight and sail area. Yesterday evening I was reaching alongside the Laser 2000 (with an asymmetric kite) and as some breeze filled in the Goat just powered away from her, accelerating quickly, the 2000 could probably achieve similar speed but takes longer to get there and in puffy conditions would lose out to the Goat. Where we lose out is to windward, I can get her to point as high (or close to) as a Bermudan rig on the laser and Laser 2000 but a lot of speed is lost, a few (5?) degrees off and she is much happier. 

You are quite correct, there has been steady improvement in my/our sailing of the boat over the last couple of months, part of that is specific to the Goat but a lot of it has been me getting used to dinghies having sailed larger boats all my life. Depending on space being available in the dinghy compound I hope to continue sailing her in the autumn and winter but with young children (and too many other boats) it will be as and when time allows. I still have not added tell-tails to the sail just back from the luff, they should work just fine on Starboard tack and one should work on Port. I also need to take some weight out of my boom, especially at the aft end as it really pulls the sail down in light airs. 

One of the most satisfying things about sailing the boat has been all the people who have come up and asked what it is with many appreciative comments about her looks and speed on the water. The most common comment being along the lines of her being much faster than most folk expect, my normal response is that their boats mainsail is missing a corner.

One of the most important points for racing the Goat, especially single-handed is the ability to easily adjust the downhaul and outhaul, the former is easy on Sneaky with a cam-cleat at the base of the mast. The outhaul needs more thought, I can adjust it in light winds but in stronger winds it’s not possible as I can’t balance the boat and get to the valley-cleat on the boom at the same time. Because the downhaul and boom are on one side of the mast I find I want to adjust it all the time depending on what tack I’m on, the tension changes a little as you tack upwind and a lot as you gybe downwind.

Hope this is of interest to the Goating community, I may be rambling….

Final Yardstick – Addendum from George

As an update to this, I questioned the revised handicap and this was a mistake in the race box, the new revised handicap is 1117, I expect this is about correct. Hopfully I’ll have time to get a few Sunday races in between now and Christmas.



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