It began with a walk around the dinghy park and the adjacent area to gather and requisition any abandoned boats. These, and others donated by kind "empty nesters" who wanted the space in the garage back are being stripped down and rebuilt to address the ravages of age and neglect. As we study the elderly ladies and compare one with another it is fascinating to see previous repairs, some brilliantly carried out and almost unfindable, other less so, but all are records of collisions and incidents of long ago. We amuse ourselves trying to work out what happened and who was right.
Subtle variations in the boats also come to light – odd changes in the rocker curve, narrow bow transoms, stiff gaffs, bendy gaffs- all little tweaks by sailors (or their parents) bending the rules to gain some little advantage in the Darwinian jungle that was the Mirror fleet of the 1980s and 1990s. Who did them and did it work?
This experimentation, which was widespread (if not quite kosher) was part of what has produced great sailors from the fleet of the time. That gaff rig was a bitch to get right, but brought so much learning. Is tweaking the boat not a skill that any truly successful sailor is going to need? So much is lost when boats all come from the same mould and each is the same as the next.
There is life in the old wooden Mirrors. The 2013 Words at LDYC and the 2014 Nationals in Sligo were won in wood. Sligo will be using the restored fleet for its sail training and Women-on the-Water programmes. Some of the better boats may be given on season-long loans to promising youngsters that do not have their own. It is great to get them back into order, and the work is deeply satisfying.
This must be a way to revive Irish sailing. It is guessed that there must be 500 Mirrors waiting for their day to come again. No-one really knows the number, but its big. Mirrors old and new have one incomparable advantage over the many other designs that have come and gone in the 50 odd years since they were introduced: Children seem to love sailing them.