Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

This Glassfibre Lapstrake 12-footer Is A Classic In Her Own Way

6th January 2022
Although the 12ft Wagtail is intended for day cruising rather than racing, the crew of this boat - currently on the market with Leinster Boats - are well aware that getting their weight efficiently amidships gives a much more rewarding sailing performance
Although the 12ft Wagtail is intended for day cruising rather than racing, the crew of this boat - currently on the market with Leinster Boats - are well aware that getting their weight efficiently amidships gives a much more rewarding sailing performance

The recent announcement that Nordic Clinker or Clench Timber Construction - as practised by several classic boat-builders in Ireland - is now receiving UNESCO Heritage Recognition has caused understandable pride among those who own one of those beauties, craft such as the Mermaids, Shannon One Designs, Castlehaven Ettes, and Dublin Bay Water Wags, to name only four.

But the new recognition has also led to added interest in other boats such as the Rankins which are undergoing a steady revival in Cork Harbour, and were built by the Rankin brothers in Cobh using the edge-glued plywood plank lapstrake technique. To a casual observer, they may look to be clinker built. But they’re not, as the essence of clinker is the clenching or clinking of the athwartships steam-bent timbers, tensioned home using copper rivets.

Yet the Rankins are handsome and very effective boats, so in fairness to them it would surely be more appropriate to use the American term “lapstrake” to describe their build method. Apart from anything else, it’s a much more attractive word in itself than clinker, as clinker suggests the ash-pan under an old and smokey stove, whereas lapstrake immediately suggests the lapwing, an extremely elegant wader patrolling the shore of many a charming estuary.

One of the advantages of the Rankin is that it has a clean interior, uncluttered by those cross-ship timbers which define true clinker construction. Yet the Rankins obtain more than adequate hull strength through the fore-and-aft strakes created by the overlaps, and this s something which is repeated when a standard clinker-built hull is used as the mould to build a fibre-glass dinghy which is arguably clinker, yet isn’t plagued by those endless little corners with which any re-fitter of a classic wooden clinker dinghy will know only too well.

Such people, having spent hours cleaning and sanding and then cleaning again before painting or varnishing the multiple separate sections in their pride-and-joy’s bilges will tend to regard glass fibre creations of clinker-built boats as phoney, which incidentally is a word that ancient Irish has contributed to global English. Yet at this time of year, when long and painful hours labouring in the bilges of wooden clinker-built boats is the prospect face by many classics owners, a “phoney” glass-fibre lapstrake boat suddenly becomes a very attractive proposition indeed.

Thus it’s no surprise that this characterful 2006-built 12ft glass fibre lapstrake sailing dinghy of the Wagtail class has come to the market with Leinster Boats at the rather ripe price of €4, 750. That’s almost €400 per foot, but a quick look at the price of new boats, and a thought or two about the fact that the only woodwork in the Wagtail - some very attractive trim - is extremely accessible for ease of varnishing, and you begin to see things in a more realistic way. In fact, the boat sells herself - all you need is a private harbour or slipway beside some appropriately attractive and un-crowded sailing water. Details from

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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