The Mirror Dinghy
The Mirror dinghy resulted from a competition run by the Daily Mirror Newspaper in 1961 to design a low cost 2 person dinghy which would promote the sport of sailing to as broad a cross section of the UK population as possible.
The winning design was both novel, using stitch and glue methods more commonplace in canoes, but also enabled the boat be built at home very cheaply from a manufactured kit of parts, with all the parts supplied ready to assemble. It was the original of the species now know as an "Ikea" in low cost furniture.
Like a lot of brilliant Ideas, the Mirror dinghy literally "just growed". In fact, the first seed was planted by a small boy who complained to his father that when the family dinghy was being used he never had the chance to sail because others always muscled in. Normally, that would have been the end of the matter but, in this case, the lad's father was BBC TV s do-it-yourself expert Barry Bucknell, who characteristically set about making a dinghy to increase the family fleet and train up another helm at the same time.
Always ready to discover an easier way of doing things, Barry adapted for his dinghy a system of construction used by Ken Littledyke to make KL canoes by joining adjacent panels with resin and fibre glass ribbon. When it was completed, it was seen by one of the Daily Mirror writers, Paul Boyle, who knew Bucknell and being an ex-Navy man himself, chatted to him about the unusual design. At that tine, the newspaper's Publicity department was always ready to look at new ideas for promoting the newspaper and, after a lot of discussions, it was thought that boats bearing the name "Daily Mirror" might usefully keep the name before the public. However, newspapers are ever sensitive of their vulnerability towards complaints by readers and so the publicity executives needed to be absolutely positive that any boat bearing the name of the paper must be 100 per cent safe and foolproof.
It was an easy step, therefore, to consult an expert within the Group, Bernard Hayman of Yachting World, who, in turn, suggested that Jack Holt (an established international sailor) should cast his experienced eye over the project. Jack inspected the second prototype made by Barry and decided to retain the construction method and the general lines of the boat, yet treat the hull concept as a radically new design. The third boat to be produced, therefore, looked quite different to its predecessors and yet boasted the same jaunty aspect.
Two of the most radical changes were suggested by the Daily Mirror Publicity staff who suggested the Viking red sails to match the paper's front-page title (the original prototypes had blue and white mainsails) and they also designed the insignia.
The third prototype, Mirror dinghy No. 1, "Eileen", came into being and it is this boat which the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich considered important enough to put on permanent display in 1986 as an important example of our national nautical heritage.
In 1992 "Eileen" was moved, with the rest of the National Small Boat Collection, to theNational Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth.
The whole idea was that the boat and all its parts could be transported on the roof rack of a standard family car, so all the parts had to be capable of being stored within the length of the hull, hence the gaff rig.
The Mirror was incredibly popular and sold in excess of 70,000 boats worldwide, with the bulk of these sold into the English speaking world, from Australia, India and South Africa (RSA) to Ireland.
It was almost the perfect size for junior sailors, in terms of sail area and performance, and with both a jib and spinnaker, gave exposure to all the skills required as helm or crew as one progressed up the performance levels to international competition in 2 person dinghies. This made it popular with beginners and highly competitive sailors alike, and enabled parent and child crews compete as equals.
As a wooden boat, as the skills required to build and maintain wooden boats have dwindled, so too has the attractiveness of the class. In the early 2000's, the class came of age and developed a new GRP version with a single piece "bermudan rig" mast.
While there have been many boats which have challenged its place at the heart of junior sailing in Ireland, and several which have usurped that spot for a while, its simplicity and sailing capabilities have retained a hard core of enthusiastic sailors who have enjoyed their time in the class, and whose memories and involvement keep on bringing it back into mainstream sailing activities. In the UK many who sailed Mirrors have progressed to representing the UK in Olympic competition with distinction.
LDYC includes several Mirror Class World Champions in its Membership.
The Mirror has a special place in the memories of many LDYC sailing families, and the Club remains a firm supporter of the Class.
The Irish Mirror Class website can be accessed through this link: Mirror Class Ireland