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1973 Mirror Dinghy Resurrected for Lough Erne

24th September 2020
Brian Osborne's 1973 Mirror dinghy Brian Osborne's 1973 Mirror dinghy

Brian Osborne last sailed a dinghy in 1989 on the River Thames near Hampton Court so returning to a small boat this season on Lough Erne was something of a revisit for him.

Brian bought a classic 1973 Mirror dinghy recently in Donaghadee, only to find that its original home had been on Lower Lough Erne at Castle Archdale on the opposite shore to Tully Bay where he keeps the Mirror now.

Perhaps this is the start of a trend in County Fermanagh for giving old boats a second chance as Jonny Clements has done with his Ulster Boat as Afloat.ie reported on 8th September. With the encouragement of seasoned sailor Fred Ternan – who had also helped Jonny to get afloat, it took Brian little time to regain his confidence.

A light north-westerly breeze on Tully Bay offered an ideal opportunity to try out (initially without the jib), manoeuvres which Brian thought he had forgotten but as he says "Once you learn how to sail, you never lose the feeling of being at one with your boat - you have to feel the wind through the sail and act accordingly. I shall continue to sail at every opportunity".

The Mirror dinghy was born in 1963 when the Daily Mirror newspaper signed up TV DIY expert Barry Bucknell and designer Jack Holt to revolutionise small boat ownership. They came up with a craft that cost £63 11s – or £63.55 in decimal money – and could be built at home using copper wire stitching and glue. At just under 10ft she was big enough for two adults and a couple of kids to sail yet small enough to fit on top of a family car.

Double Olympic silver medallist and round-the-world yachtsman Ian Walker, 42, said he owed his career to the boat.

The Mirror is not new to Lough Erne. There was a fleet in the 1980s at Lough Erne YC on the eastern shore of Lower Lough Erne at Goblusk. Racing was enjoyed by both adults and children alike in superb family competition. Some members ventured farther afield. Michael Clarke's family Mirror, built in 1966, travelled round Ireland on the top of a VW camper van in 1976 as well as enjoying extensive cruising on Lough Erne and subsequently under new ownership, was cruised by a young family on the Upper Bann and Lough Neagh.

Asked if he would be competing in the Mirror Worlds which are planned, after a gap of 34 years, for Sligo Yacht Club at Rosses Point next year he said. "I'll be there but as a supporter. I really don't have any intention of racing, just enjoying pottering about the Lough". The event on the Club's 200th Anniversary will run from 2 – 8 August preceded on 30 July – 1 August by the Irish Nationals. It was last held there in 1987.

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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At A Glance - Mirror World Championships 2021

The World Championships runs from 16-22 August at Sligo Yacht Club, Ireland

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