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World’s coolest yachts: The Snipe dinghy

  • Elaine Bunting
  • March 7, 2022

We ask top sailors and marine industry gurus to choose the coolest and most innovative yachts of our times. Dutch racer Bouwe Bekking nominates The Snipe dinghy.

snipe 15 sailboat

“I would take a complete crazy thing: a Snipe. I think it’s an excellent boat for kids to start sailing in, and even for grown-ups. I have a Snipe dinghy myself.”

Bekking says the 15ft Snipe dinghy, designed by American William F. Crosby in 1931 for one-design racing, is an ideal family boat, especially for teaching people to sail.

“It’s safe, it’s very seaworthy and relatively fast. You can sail it very hard but still have fun with it,” he says.

“I haven’t sailed mine for three or four years because I haven’t had time and I said to the yacht club you can use it for your youth programme. I bought it when we had a little house on the water, and I wanted to have a dinghy to sail in open water.”

snipe 15 sailboat

Bekking says he thought the Snipe ideal for the next generation of his own family. “I thought about an Optimist, but the Snipe was way nicer and we could sail with two or three people, and friends.”

Snipe Stats rating:

Top speed: 12 knots LOA: 4.72m Launched: 1931 Berths: n/a Price (second-hand): £2,000 Adrenalin factor: 10%

snipe 15 sailboat

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Bouwe Bekking

Dutch sailor Bouwe Bekking has taken part in eight Whitbread / Volvo Ocean Races . He started in 1985/6 aboard Philips Innovator, then in subsequent races on Winston, Merit Cup, Amer Sports One, movistar, Telefónica Blue and Team Brunel (twice), skippering Telefónica Blue to a third place and Team Brunel to a second and third. Bekking is also regular race skipper for the 43.4m J Class Lionheart.

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Snipe or Coronado 15 for first boat?

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I am a novice and currently crewing at my Club on an inland lake. I am looking to get my first boat to learn on and eventually race. My club has a Snipe fleet and I am looking at both the Snipe and a Coronado 15. I am leaning to the Coronado 15 because it looks easier to single hand, right after capsize, better in self bailing and has more flotation than the Snipe. I have a 10 year old son who will be learning with me and thinks the trapeze on the Coronado looks like fun. It may be better for me to go with the Snipe for support of the few in the fleet but I really like what I see in the Coronado 15. I would be able to race the Coronado at my club because it is one design and has a portsmouth rating. I understand that both boats are racers and not designed for comfort but the Coronado looks a little more knee friendly and both have a high boom. One good thing about both is that they are still being made and support and parts are available. I did see where the Coronado 15 had a design change in the 90's changing the deck making it less round. It is noted that some believe the older style deck is more comfortable. The one I am looking at was built in 1976 and it is about half the price of the Snipe I am looking at. One more note is that when I grow up I will probably get a Flying Scot which is also a fleet boat my club. I hope to take my wife and daughter sailing once I get proficient and think the Scot is the best of both cruising and racing. Please let me also know if I should skip the Snipe and Coronado and go straight for the Scot. I am thinking the smaller boat will be better for a couple of years to learn on and single hand. During that time I could save up and get a really nice Flying Scot. At this point I only have around $1500 to spend. Thanks in advance for all opinions and advice.  


Gee. I'm sorry no one replied to your posts. If you chose the Coronado 15 then I'm sure you will enjoy it. Both the Snipe and the C15 would be good choices for a learning platform. I think it is a good plan to learn a bit before jumping on a Flying Scot but you should enjoy the FS as well once you get there.  

thanks for the reply, I agree. I crewed on a Flying Scot today for some races inland and got some tiller time. Put all that reading to use and did pretty good up and down. Winds 5 - 10 mph with a few gusts closer to 15 mph. It felt like more holding the helm. The Scot is a sweet ride. Good day for getting some experience.  

I had a 19' Lightning for a couple of years which is a bit similar to the Flying Scot. What a racehorse! When you get that boat (or the FS) up on a plane excitement is what happens. Of course you'll need winds more like 15 - 20 for that to happen. I'm pretty sure you can get either the Snipe or the C15 to plane in the right winds as well. The nice thing about a small dinghy sailor like a Lightning, Flying Scot, Snipe or Coronado 15' is that there is not a whole lot of maintenance to do - unless something breaks. You did end up buying the Coronado 15', no? CORONADO 15 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com They were made by Catalina which is still in business. Not sure if you can still get parts from them for this boat though. I suspect you will enjoy the C15 but I am sure you will really like the FS once you pull the trigger on that. Some folks start out learning sailing on 30' + keel boats and seem to do fine. My opinion is that it is good to start out learning on smaller sailboats like the ones you are considering. The FS would also be a good 'starter' boat - it is really your call. I worked my way up from a Sunfish through Snipe, Lightning and now Tartan 27'.  

I did not get the C15 yet. I wish there was someone out there that could sell me on it. With some more thought I decided that if I get one of the two 15' dinghies before the Flying Scot, it should be the Snipe. Mainly to add to the fleet at my club. In this case it would be keeping it in the fleet because it is already there and I know the seller. It is also 9 years newer than the C15 and would be around $600 more at $1500. I know the sails for the Snipe are in good condition but have not seen the C15s. The trailer for the Snipe is practically brand new. Any opinions on the ease level of the daggerboard on the Snipe vs. centerboard on the C15 with single handing? Both boats are still being made. The Snipe has been around since 1931 and 30,000 have been produced while the C15 has had 3800 built starting in 1969. That seems to be a good selling point for the Snipe. I will update when I finally decide.  

C15 is out. The one I was looking at sold and I was leaning away from it anyway. Now it is between the Snipe and Flying Scot. For now I am going to crew on both for a few months. Flying Scot would be better for the family as a whole and will fit all four of us comfortably when just out for a cruise.  

I have a mutineer 15' in very nice shape Bob, less than 2 hours from you. Can send pics if you're interested. It sails much like the Scot, just smaller. Several racing fleets here as well.  

please send some pictures . thanks  

Hi, I am in Huntsville Al pretty close to you . I have a C15 and think it is great. I re-learned how to sail on it after some 30 years. There is a great Yahoo group that has tons of information and leads, and is enthusiastic regarding the boat at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sailC15/ . You can sign up for free. If you are still looking, I noticed one here: 15' Catalina Coronada 1988 1000.00 OBO . Don't know anything about it, other than they spelled it wrong! Good Luck  


I owned and raced a Snipe for awhile. Not familiar with a C15. I will say the snipe is the most tactical dinghy out there. It has more sail controls than anything I've ever been on, it is a busy boat to sail. I'd go for the Flying Scott if you have a family and want to cruise a little with them. The Snipe is a fun boat and you will learn a lot on it but it is work. That's one reason I sold mine. I went to something simpler and raced PHRF. It's not as much fun as one design but the boat works better for the family.  

thanks for the feedback snider and eyeshot. I agree the Snipe will be a lot of work. One thing going for me is that I have a Snipe mentor willing to take me under his wing. I still am keeping the C15 and Mutt options open. The Scot is still #1 and I have access to borrow one as well as a Snipe at my club. For now I think I am going to focus on those two for the summer and see how it goes. Who knows maybe I will get both.  

single handed my Snipe yesterday in light winds @ 5 mph. First time out alone so I used the main only. no problem tacking. I will use the jib next time if winds are again light. It was a little tippy but I will get used to that. Very easy to launch and recover back on trailer alone. The FS seems so large in that respect. I think I made a good choice. It will be perfect to learn on and hone my skills to start to race. The sails are shot but okay for day sailing.  

Good for you HandsomeBob. What year is your Snipe from? I sailed on a wooden Snipe at a camp in the Adirondack Mtns. as a teenager. It was a fun boat to sail but was not rigged as neatly as today's racing Snipes that have every sail shape control known to mankind rigged. SNIPE sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com It is good to be able to sail with just the main sail and with both the main and jib. It is a little more work for one person to handle both sails but should be easier in light winds. I heard a one design racer at my club make a comment about the FS. The comment was critical of how narrow the gunnels of the boat are so narrow and therefore pretty uncomfortable when you have to hike out. The Lightning has gunnels that are nearly 1' wide making hiking out fairly comfortable. Good for you for moving ahead!  

It is an 88 McLaughlin. The controls will become familiar with time. I most likely won't use them all for a while but will need to know where they are and their purpose. I noticed most of the sail manufacturers have free tuning guides specific to the boat that look very helpful.  

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The Endurance of the Snipe

  • By Dave Powlison
  • August 22, 2023

Kathryn Bornarth and crewmate Ryan Wood racing on a snipe class

It’s early April on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, with an 18-knot easterly, gnarly chop and ribbons of sargassum seaweed—tough fare for racing any boat. We’re at the 2023 Don Q Snipe Regatta , heading uphill and racing against competitors with decades of experience in the class, as well as a slew of young hotshots and some first-­timers—40 teams in all. It’s baptism by fire, my first real experience racing a Snipe. And like many who jump into the boat for the first time, I’m being served heaps of humble pie. About the only time my crew, Danielle Wiletsky, and I see the top of the fleet is when we cross paths on opposite legs of the course.

The upside is that we have a ringside seat to their techniques. At one point, we watch as the eventual regatta-winning team of Ernesto Rodriguez and Kathleen Tocke round the weather mark. He hands her the tiller extension and mainsheet, slides back to clear weeds off the rudder, then takes over again. Blink and we’ll miss it.

“It’s something we’ve practiced,” Rodriguez tells me afterward.

Then it’s back to the business of riding waves, Tocke at times with her face almost at the headstay when going down waves, then rapidly sliding aft as the ride nears its end. It’s the product of years of muscle memory, and Tocke and Rodriguez are clearly in sync. Tocke, who first sailed the Snipe in 2008, says they don’t talk much on their boat. “Occasionally, he’ll tell me to hike harder,” she adds, “not because I’m not, but more as encouragement.”

Soon they’re a speck on the horizon as we plod our way upwind to the mark.

We’re not alone at the humble-pie buffet. Here at the Don Q, scores of top-notch sailors, ex-collegiate and otherwise, come with high expectations only to leave with egos battered and bruised by class veterans, many old enough to be their parents. Rodriguez has been at this for more than two decades. Plus, he regularly trains with the likes of Hall of Famer Augie Diaz, who has been in the class for 56 years and won more Snipe championships than space allows here, and Peter Commette, 36 years in the class, a former Olympian, a Laser world champion, and keeper of his share of big-time Snipe titles as well. “They taught me a lot,” Rodriguez says. “I’m still part of that group, and we always go back and forth with information, sharing a lot about tuning and ways to best sail the boat.”

The Don Q was started by class icon Gonzalo Diaz in 1966 and named after its rum sponsor. It’s been held every year since, even during the pandemic. As boats set up at the host Coconut Grove Sailing Club, with the overflow at the US Sailing Center to the north, it’s impossible not to notice the number of 30-somethings—not only as crew, but also skippers.

At a gathering at a recent Snipe event, Augie Diaz asked, “How many here are under 30?” Over half raised their hands.

Carter Cameron and crew David Perez

So, how is it that a 1931 design is still going strong? With its 380-pound hull, unstylishly high boom, and an off-wind setup requiring a whisker pole, it’s a quirky boat that doesn’t align with modern metrics for success. Cue the Snipe class promotional video and enter Gonzalo Diaz, affectionately known as “Old Man.” Born in 1930, his Snipe career began in Havana at age 15. He left Cuba in 1965, settled in Miami, joined the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, and began working his magic in the local Snipe fleet.

“He was the kind of fleet-builder who spent a lot of his private time helping people get into Snipes,” says his son, Augie. About 30 years ago, he started a rent-to-own program. “He’d get a boat and pretty much let a prospective owner say how much they wanted to rent the boat for. The rental fee went toward the boat’s purchase. If it took them five years to pay the boat off, that was fine with him. If it took 10 years, that was fine too.” Augie admits that it’s tough to tell just how many boats his father ran through this program, but he ­estimates it’s well over 30.

“It’s a great way to promote the boat,” says Alex Pline, of Annapolis, “because those renting boats have skin in the game. The longer they rent the boat, the more they have invested in it and the less likely they are to give that all up.”

There are rumors about a Miami-area warehouse full of an ­unsubstantiated number of Snipes—usually in the double digits—and it’s clear who the supplier is.

Pline’s fleet adopted a version of the Old Man’s program in 2021. His wife, Lisa, says: “I love stealing good ideas. We’re on our third boat and our fourth person, who just got busy with other stuff. But we were able to turn that boat over pretty quickly.”

Rodriguez, also from Cuba, was a Laser sailor who met Old Man shortly after arriving in the States. “He gave me a boat to use for free and helped me out in a bunch of ways, including getting me in ­regattas when I couldn’t afford it.”

Greg Saldana, another Old Man recruit, had never sailed a Snipe but showed enough interest to catch Diaz’s attention. “We met at the US Sailing Center when there were just trailers and a bunch of boats. Here comes this little guy in a van. He gets out, and he’s carrying a briefcase, pen and a piece of paper, ready for me to sign. I said, ‘Wait a minute. Before I sign, can we first go sailing?’ He really didn’t want to because it was really hot out, but we went. We didn’t even get out of the channel when he said, ‘You’re going to do fine. Let’s go back.’ And I signed.”

Rogelio Padron and Vladimir Sola racing a snipe class sailboat

The list goes on, and although Old Man passed away in early March 2023, Augie carries on his father’s legacy. “He had a love for the class that was infectious. I don’t know how many people I’ve brought into the class,” he says, “but I’ll always be behind the number my father brought in. I keep trying to catch up to him. I don’t keep count. I’m just going to keep doing what’s good for the class.”

There are rumors about a Miami-area warehouse full of an ­unsubstantiated number of Snipes—usually in the double digits—and it’s clear who the supplier is. As my crew observed, “It seems almost every boat here was either owned by Augie or is being ­borrowed from him for this event.”

That includes us. We quickly get a taste of another component of the Snipe’s continued success as Pline comes over while we are setting up the boat. He helps us get the rig base settings correct, and Andrew Pimental, the US Snipe builder who is right next to us in the parking area, jumps in as well.

“Everyone’s always helping each other,” says Charlie Bess, who crewed with Enrique Quintero to take second in the Don Q. “It doesn’t matter if it’s someone’s first time in the class or someone who’s been around for decades. You can ask them anything.”

The assistance doesn’t end in the boat park. Just after the start of the first race, our hiking stick universal breaks, and as we are approaching the club dock, two people rush to see what had happened. It’s Saldana and his crew, Grace Fang. “We got out to the end of the channel and decided we didn’t want to deal with those conditions,” Fang tells us. They quickly offer up the tiller and hiking stick from their boat, and we make it out for the second race. With a no-throw-out series, it was a tough way to start a regatta, but the hospitality put it all into perspective.

Later that evening, I was about to deal with our universal repair when I find our original tiller and hiking stick back in our boat, repaired and ready for the next day, no doubt the work of Saldana and Fang. We discover later that Saldana was Old Man’s regular crew and close friend for many years. Saldana and Fang are not here just for the racing either.

“We couldn’t attend the memorial for Old Man,” Fang says, “but we thought just being here for this event would be a good way to honor him. I think there are others here for the same reason.”

On the water, top Snipe sailor Jato Ocariz serves as the fleet coach, coming alongside boats between races to offer advice. On the second day, with the wind now around 15 but still a strong chop, he has us sail upwind so he can check our setup. “Put two more turns on your shrouds and move your jib leads back,” he says. And just like that, we are able to point better and log our best finish, just about midfleet.

One of the class’s most successful endeavors is recruiting younger sailors. Bess is a self-confessed poster child for the effort. “When I was 15, Augie sent me an email, along with around 10 other juniors in our program. He got us a boat, provided coaching and helped us out. That’s how I got into the class,” Bess says. Now she’s the Miami Snipe fleet captain and on the class’s “next gen” committee, which focuses on attracting 30-somethings. “The idea behind it is that a lot of people do junior sailing, then college sailing, graduate and discover they have no place to go. We try to make the point that we are that next step.”

Snipe class race in Miami

What is it about the Snipe that appeals to that demographic? For starters, there’s a practical component. Commette says: “Over the last 20 years, people have won Snipe world championships in boats that were 10 to 15 years old. I just sold a 1998 boat I wasn’t racing anymore. It’s one of the best boats I’ve ever sailed, and it could win a world championship easy. That’s the great thing about the Snipe. You can get an old boat and be competitive. You can get a used Jibe Tech or Persson for $5K, put some time into it, a couple of hundred dollars to update lines and things, and win a Worlds with it. That’s what makes it so fantastic for young kids.”

The boat is also a technical step up from junior and college sailing boats, but not so much that it’s intimidating. The spreaders can be adjusted to accommodate a range of crew weights, the mast can be moved fore and aft at deck level with a lever or block-and-tackle system, and there are the usual jib and main controls. Class veterans Carol Cronin and crew Kim Couranz are at the lighter end of the weight spectrum, which, according to Diaz, is optimally around 315 to 320 pounds, making it well within reach for mixed-gender teams and smaller teams. “There are enough controls that you can customize the boat to how heavy you are and how tall you are,” Cronin says. “Like the Star, the bendy mast keeps the boat exciting to sail. It takes a little more technique, but it also means you can tune the mast to fit a wider variety of weights.” Despite a breezy first two days, Cronin and Couranz finish ninth overall.

Then there’s the class motto: “Serious sailing, serious fun.” That appeals to the younger crowd. “I’ve always thought it sounds a little cheesy,” Bess says, but it’s entirely accurate. Taylor Schuermann, who crews for Diaz, says: “There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, now more than ever, from that group. We have a WhatsApp group, and on Monday and Tuesday people are already asking, ‘Who’s going out this weekend?’ People are chomping at the bit to practice, sail together, and really put in that effort. Then when you show up to a regatta, no matter how long you’ve been in the class, it feels like a family reunion.”

And like a reunion, there are always those moments when you remember who is absent. Fittingly, the regatta’s Saturday night Cuban dinner includes a celebration of Old Man’s life, with photos, videos and a lot of storytelling.

“It’s all about peer groups,” Lisa Pline says, “and keeping it fun and competitive.”

Carter Cameron got into the lease-to-own program in Annapolis, says Evan Hoffman, the current Snipe class secretary. “All of a sudden, he started inviting all of his friends and became sort of a lightning rod for the fleet. Now he’s in San Diego, working for Quantum, and he’s doing the same kind of thing there.”

There is a downside, however, to the youth recruiting scheme, Pline says. “Every time we bring a new kid into the class, I think, ‘Oh, great, another kid who’s going to kick my ass.’”

The class also hosts under-30 regattas. “We found that if you can get a younger person interested in a Snipe, they’ll get other people their own age interested as well,” Pline says. “The U30 events really help with that. The idea is that it’s a regatta for younger people—it’s the older generation, if you will, reaching out to younger sailors, loaning boats for the event, doing whatever we can to make it successful.”

Over the years, the Snipe has withstood a lot of competition from startup classes that have the mentality of keeping it simple and easy.

Over the years, the Snipe has withstood a lot of competition from startup classes that have the mentality of keeping it simple, easy, and all the things that would make it a Laser-like doublehanded boat. “But the problem is,” Commette says, “that’s a dumbed-down type of sailing. While the Laser has excelled for what it is, it doesn’t teach you how to do so many other things necessary to become a really good all-around sailor. With the Snipe, you learn so much more, which is why so many America’s Cup champions, so many Olympians, so many other world champions have had significant Snipe experience.”

“One of the things that’s always appealed to me,” Cronin says, “is that, if you look at Old Man and Augie, you realize, ‘I can keep doing this for a long time, if I stay fit and stay interested.’”

I can relate. As a late adopter to the Snipe myself—let’s just say a few years past my retirement—I now know firsthand from the Don Q that I’ve got a long way to go to get to the front of the Snipe fleet. Thankfully, I’m guided by Old Man’s legacy and the efforts of many others in the class. Keep at it, ask the right questions, and someday I might be within shouting distance of Rodriguez. I’m sure many of the new kids in the class hope for the same.

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1980 15.5' McLaughlin snipe

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Seller's Description

Boat is titled and registered. Sails and rigging good. Has all equipment; however, could use new tiller extension and hiking strap (although not needed for trimaran). Added Hobie 14 amas allow boat to be sailed by one person safely and comfortably (however, no structural changes to the Snipe). Trailer good and registered. Recently refiberglassed and painted. Very solid hull.

Equipment: Has reef in main for windier days. Also have Minkota 55 electric motor and battery for total of $2500. Can also sell Snipe and trailer separately for $1800.

Rig and Sails

Auxilary power, accomodations, calculations.

The theoretical maximum speed that a displacement hull can move efficiently through the water is determined by it's waterline length and displacement. It may be unable to reach this speed if the boat is underpowered or heavily loaded, though it may exceed this speed given enough power. Read more.

Classic hull speed formula:

Hull Speed = 1.34 x √LWL

Max Speed/Length ratio = 8.26 ÷ Displacement/Length ratio .311 Hull Speed = Max Speed/Length ratio x √LWL

Sail Area / Displacement Ratio

A measure of the power of the sails relative to the weight of the boat. The higher the number, the higher the performance, but the harder the boat will be to handle. This ratio is a "non-dimensional" value that facilitates comparisons between boats of different types and sizes. Read more.

SA/D = SA ÷ (D ÷ 64) 2/3

  • SA : Sail area in square feet, derived by adding the mainsail area to 100% of the foretriangle area (the lateral area above the deck between the mast and the forestay).
  • D : Displacement in pounds.

Ballast / Displacement Ratio

A measure of the stability of a boat's hull that suggests how well a monohull will stand up to its sails. The ballast displacement ratio indicates how much of the weight of a boat is placed for maximum stability against capsizing and is an indicator of stiffness and resistance to capsize.

Ballast / Displacement * 100

Displacement / Length Ratio

A measure of the weight of the boat relative to it's length at the waterline. The higher a boat’s D/L ratio, the more easily it will carry a load and the more comfortable its motion will be. The lower a boat's ratio is, the less power it takes to drive the boat to its nominal hull speed or beyond. Read more.

D/L = (D ÷ 2240) ÷ (0.01 x LWL)³

  • D: Displacement of the boat in pounds.
  • LWL: Waterline length in feet

Comfort Ratio

This ratio assess how quickly and abruptly a boat’s hull reacts to waves in a significant seaway, these being the elements of a boat’s motion most likely to cause seasickness. Read more.

Comfort ratio = D ÷ (.65 x (.7 LWL + .3 LOA) x Beam 1.33 )

  • D: Displacement of the boat in pounds
  • LOA: Length overall in feet
  • Beam: Width of boat at the widest point in feet

Capsize Screening Formula

This formula attempts to indicate whether a given boat might be too wide and light to readily right itself after being overturned in extreme conditions. Read more.

CSV = Beam ÷ ³√(D / 64)

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Snipe Rigging 101

By Carol Cronin A recent question from the fleet forming in Costa Rica made me realize: we don't have any stories that explain how to get started rigging a Snipe. So I offered to write one, and because I keep my promises... well, here we are.Most of SnipeToday's stories speak to the folks who already know the basics and want to learn the tweaking secrets of those whose transom they are eyeing around the race course. This article is not for those people. The point is to begin at the beginning, with a bare deck, and try to cover the most important aspects of rigging a Snipe. ...

Snipe Rigging 101 Image

By Carol Cronin

A recent question from the fleet forming in Costa Rica made me realize: we don’t have any stories that explain how to get started rigging a Snipe. So I offered to write one, and because I keep my promises… well, here we are. Most of SnipeToday’s stories speak to the folks who already know the basics and want to learn the tweaking secrets of those whose transom they are eyeing around the race course. This article is not for those people. The point is to begin at the beginning, with a bare deck, and try to cover the most important aspects of rigging a Snipe.

Deck layout

First of all, words and photos will never be as helpful as an already rigged boat. Placement of hardware can make or break a sailor’s enjoyment; there are so many variables that will be completely obvious once you go sailing that are quite easy to miss when drilling holes and mounting hardware. So rule number one is, there’s a reason Snipes are rigged this way; copy an existing boat when possible.

We’ll start at the bow and work aft, leaving the skipper and crew control lines for last.

Bow chainplate

This is the attachment point for (in order, moving aft): forestay, jib luff wire/tack, and jib cloth (otherwise known as the jib cunningham). The jib tack location is specified by class rules.

Attachment point to pull the mast forward at the deck (see “mast controls”)


Shroud Chainplates (port and starboard); location is specified by class rules.

Though many boats have multiple points of attachment (depending on wind strength), only one is required for beginners. This is also where a lifting bridle would hook up for launching with a crane; for beach launching, that’s not needed.


The main halyard should have a loop and “stop” on the starboard side of the mast web; it gets pulled up and locked in place for sailing.

The mast step should provide a solid base for the mast, as well as attachment points for several lead blocks that direct lines up and out to the side decks. The height of the step is specified in the class rules so that masts can be swapped from one boat to another.

The simplest option for the step hardware is aluminum channel; the mast butt sits on top of the channel (over a bolt that locks it in fore and aft), and holes can be drilled to hang shackled control line blocks.

Jibsheets should be easily cleated/uncleated as the jib is quite powerful (and crews are usually smaller than skippers). They are led through a block on the inboard face of the side decks, and then through a turning block (preferably a ratchet) so they can be held/adjusted from the opposite side of the boat. A good starting location for jib leads is 90″ back from the jib tack. The location/angle of the cleat/turning block arrangement is very important, as it will determine whether the crew can cleat/uncleat the sail from a hiking position.

The jib halyard is eased off about 12-14″ to sail downwind and then played almost as much as a spinnaker guy, so most boats have a fine tune mounted on the aft face of the centerboard trunk. The purchase runs forward (ideally, inside the centerboard trunk to reduce clutter on the floor), around a block mounted on the mast step, and up through the mast partners. The easiest set up is to have a wire attached to the purchase that ends in a hook just above the deck; that attaches to a loop in the halyard, which puts everything needed for hoisting/dousing above deck.

Note: the jib halyard attaches to both the jib luff wire (which runs through the luff of the sail) and to the head of the sail itself. This is somewhat counter-intuitive but very important, since the jib luff wire/halyard combination takes over as the headstay while sailing.

The mainsheet block should be mounted on top of the centerboard trunk, aft of the slot. Cleats are optional; usually they are mounted on the side decks. The split mainsheet controls boom placement relative to centerline. Traveler adjustments can grow quite complicated, so for beginners, don’t bother rigging a traveler but do set up the split mainsheet. That will require blocks as far outboard as they can go on the aft deck, lined up with the end of the boom, and an dead end attachment point on centerline.


Control lines

Snipes have two groups of cleated control lines, one forward of the skipper and the other forward of the crew. Each control leads to both port and starboard side decks, so they can be adjusted while hiking out on either tack. The more experienced the crew, the more control lines move to the front of the boat. Personal preference also plays into which lines lead where, but regardless of the details getting the cleat locations right is crucial (so that lines can be adjusted while hiking with minumum distraction).

Each control line leads up through a hole from beneath the side deck, passes through a small cam cleat, and then disappears through a hole so it stays out of sight. That last part is optional, but it will make the deck much neater and keep lines from trailing overboard.

Once all the lines are in place and running smoothly they only need to be checked for chafe, but getting them set up correctly will take some time and experimentation.

Here are the controls in approximate order of importance (which reflects some personal preference):

Crucial to control in medium and strong winds. Needs a lot of purchase, so set up a cascade system that runs from a sturdy bail on the boom to the mast web. This is the hardest control to get right and will require some tweaking to achieve the ideal combination of purchase and throw. Location (crew or skipper) varies by personal preference.


Hiking strap adjustments

Mount a cleat on the inboard face of the side deck that make it possible to adjust the height of the crew hiking straps’ forward ends. Since this is a major factor in crew comfort, it is a very important addition—especially if there are a lot of different people sailing each boat. Skippers will appreciate being able to easily adjust their own straps too; the adjustment should be on the aft end of the strap and can be one line (so port and starboard straps are adjusted at the same time).

This ties/shackles into the bottom of the jib. The biggest rigging challenge is passing it through the watertight bow compartment without creating a major leak; it might be easiest to rig this above deck. Location: crew controls

Mast controls

The Snipe mast is adjustable at the deck as a way to depower and tweak sail shape. While this is very important at the top end of the fleet, the only thing that’s important for beginners is to have the mast locked far enough forward so that it will not invert downwind and damage the mast. When learning to sail the Snipe, lock the mast at “Neutral” (described in the tuning guides), or even a little farther forward.

Mast forward (a line that pulls the mast forward at the deck) needs more purchase than you might think and should pull from a point about halfway from mast to bow chainplate. (Farther aft and there’s not enough angle for good purchase; farther forward and it interferes with the jib foot.) Tie the tail around the mast so it can’t drop down, either just above the web or through one of the web’s holes. Lower is better. Location varies with personal preference; Jibetechs have it on the top of the centerboard trunk (aft of the slot, forward of the mainsheet block).

Mast aft (a line that pulls the mast aft at the deck) keeps the mast locked in a fore and aft location. More advanced sailors also use it to pull the mast aft downwind for better sail shape. Dead end the tail aft of the mast step opening, run it through a block attached the mast web (usually below the vang), and pass it back through a block aft of the mast step and then out to the side decks. This is usually a skipper control.

Jib lead fine tune

The jib leads should be adjustable fore and aft (gross tune, on a track) and up and down (fine tune, with a block attached to an adjustable line). The fine tune should lead to the crew’s side deck cleats so it’s adjustable from the weather rail. Location: crew controls.

Main cunningham

Most systems dead end at the gooseneck and hang a block on the cunningham cringle on the sail. 2:1 underneath. IMHO beginners could get away without this control. Location varies with personal preference.

Other hardware:

Make sure mast does not float more than a little side to side in the partners; shim if necessary.

Attachment points for hiking straps . Because these are usually eyestraps into the floor, they need to be very waterproof and also very secure. Builders add backing plates where the straps will be attached. Location (fore/aft, as well as inboard/outboard) is VERY important to crew hiking comfort, and she who hikes hardest goes the fastest.

Bailer An Elvstrom bailer set into a centerline well just forward of the stern bulkhead will allow water to drain out while sailing. Close it for launching and retrieval (and try to keep it free of sand).

Location is specified in the class rules (to make rudders interchangeable). These need to be through-bolted (and bedded so they don’t leak). Install a rudder lock, or tie the rudder into the top gudgeon.


This is the first thing to wear out (especially when stored under load or in the sun) but does several important jobs: 1. Whisker pole retrieval 2. Holding up hiking straps so they are easy to kick under 3. Tightening headstay (to keep it out of the way while sailing, especially important for jibes) 3. Optional: Tensioning line tails under the side decks

Whisker pole

Of all the Snipe rigging challenges, this is probably the hardest to get right because there are so many variables. And rigging it so it works easily is crucial—for every level of sailor.


There are several helpful pictures on the APS page: http://www.apsltd.com/one-design-sailboat-parts/snipe/snipe-pole-launcher.html

Poles are rigged on the port side of the boom. This diagram is helpful, though it incorrectly shows the pole on the starboard side of the mast: http://www.apsltd.com/sidewinder-whisker-pole-launch-system.html

There are two important (and interactive) pieces of rigging: the launch line and the shockcord retrieval.

The launch line should be tapered, with the skinny end attached to the jib clew (tie it in above the sheets). It disappears inside the forward end of the pole, ties or splices into the fatter line, and exits through a block at the aft end before leading forward again through a block mounted on the port side of the mast (about 3 inches above the gooseneck). (Hanging this block is what the APS Snipe GRP Mast Fitting for Whiskerpole Block is for, but you could also hang it from an eyestrap. Getting the height and fore/aft location right is an incredbily important variable.)

The launch line then turns aft through a block mounted on the deck (about even with the mast neutral setting) to a cam cleat.

The shockcord retrieval pulls the pole back for jibes and douses. The right amount of pull makes all the difference in reducing boathandling variables. Shockcord should be minimum 3/16″ and maximum 1/2″ in diameter. Thinner shockcord provides better range and less resistance but may need extra purchase inside the boom. Thicker shockcord makes it possible to go 2:1 on purchase but also gives less throw.

The shockcord dead ends at the aft end of the pole (usually with a knot through a plastic end cap), exits through the side of the pole (close to the aft end) and into the port aft end of the boom, runs forward around a block hanging off the inside of the gooseneck, and either dead ends at the aft end of the boom (2:1) or runs through another block and forward again (3:1).

Another key piece is a collar that supports/guides the forward end of the pole. There are as many ways to rig this as there are Snipes, but it’s important to have just the right amount of play in this part of the system. Too much and the pole will not launch/retract parallel to the boom; too little and the collar won’t align well for minimum friction/aggravation.

To test the pole: Once the mast is stepped, place the boom (without sails) on the gooseneck and hang it by attaching the main halyard to the aft end. The boom should be approximately level. MAKE SURE THERE IS A SECURE STOPPER KNOT IN THE FORWARD END OF THE POLE LAUNCHER LINE and then launch the pole. You will need someone to spot the forward end once it’s launched all the way to keep it level, but make sure this person stays out of the way as the pole comes out. The pole should extend as far as possible and retrieve smoothly. (Class rules specify that the aft end of the pole should not be able to go forward of the mast.)

Usual problems:

Pole doesn’t launch all the way

Is launcher line run correctly? Is it hanging up somewhere (tapered line may bottom out inside the pole)? Does shockcord have enough throw?

Tip: A small adjustment in location of the hanging block (on the port side of the mast) can make a HUGE difference to smooth pole operation.

Pole doesn’t retract as it should (smoothly and parallel to the boom)

Is shockcord tight enough?

Is collar staying aligned with pole, but with enough give to adjust as needed?

Last but not least… Is there a knot in the pole line tail?

Pole line lost inside pole

Place pole in the water to help retrieve line

Remove forward end cap

Remember to ALWAYS tie off the forward and aft ends!

Other Resources Sailmaker tuning guides SnipeToday Articles from the Experts apsltd.com

Line lengths: Mainsheet is 23′ of 5/16″ low stretch line and 20′ of 1/8″ vectran for the split section (10 feet each leg). Jib sheet -33′. Use a single line and attach the middle to the clew. The lower the sheet attachment’s profile, the less that sheet will catch on the leeward shroud coming out of a tack. Pole- 20 feet of 1/4″ line and 104″ of 1/8″ Vectran.


Carol Cronin

snipe 15 sailboat

Great! Thanks for putting this together. I am working through as a beginner with my 1984 McLaughlin snipe.

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snipe 15 sailboat

George Hook

Good-day, Thanks for the very helpful article and photos. I have just purchased a Phoenix Snipe, and the photos and discussion have been helpful for rigging. Is there any information about launching a Phoenix Snipe using a crane? The transom on my boat has two large drains, which makes dolly or trailer launching a bit problematic. Thanks

snipe 15 sailboat

Matthew Johns

Hey, 2 years too late, but my McGlaughlin has transom holes, too. I always trailer launch it and never have a problem. what little water that gets in will go right out the bailer the jib is up. I wouldn't worry about it. If you ever capsize you will be really happy the transom holes are there. Trust me!

oops...*before the jib is up.

snipe 15 sailboat

Ernest J Michaud

I sail Jet 14's and hope to replace my mainsheet. Does anyone make and sell these premade? used to go to APS ltd but they closed. I know they can be made but that is my last resort option for this spring. Hope I will get answer in my email. Thanks.

snipe 15 sailboat

Contact Andrew at Jibetech; [email protected]

snipe 15 sailboat

John DeFazio

I am looking for another 'fore stay', as mine broke. Can you off er a suggestion? Thank you. John D.

snipe 15 sailboat

Pietro Fantoni

Hello John, where do you live? US, Canada, UK?

I live in Georgia. I have already ordered, received, and installed the new jib stay.

Ok, now my mind is blown ? So I just turned 40 and bought a snipe for my mid-life crisis. I haven't sailed in 20 years and my last memory of Sniping we capsized it, somehow buried the mast straight down into the muck, literally flipped the boat 180 degrees, and the boat looked like a "t" Then I somehow managed to knock the centerboard off and then it looked like a "T". When we finally got it right-side-up we celebrated too early because the wind caught the sail and it rained muck on us. LETS DO IT AGAIN!!! Woo-hoo! Might have made more sense to buy a Sunfish. ⛵️ But I can proudly say I have never been knocked out by the boom!

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