What's a Flying Fifteen?

A beginner's introduction to the boat

The Flying Fifteen (or F15) is a two-person sailing dinghy. The F15 is a keelboat, designed for racing. The keel is quite big and heavy, so capsizes are very rare.

Upwind, the F15 uses the Main Sail (at the back), and the Jib or Foresail (up front). Downwind, the spinnaker is hoisted, making it a three-sail boat.

f15profileThe F15 is breathtaking when the wind goes to a force 5 and beyond. Off the wind, on a three-sail reach, the F15 will easily plane across the water, where considerable skill (and nerve) is required to remain competitive.

The Helm sits at the back of the boat with the crew in front. The Helm and the Crew balance the boat with their weight, by hiking out (sitting on the edge) with their toes under straps that run the length of the boat, preventing them from falling into the water.

The Helm's responsibility is primarily steering the boat and controlling boat speed. They do this by adjusting the shape and position of the Main Sail. The Crew's responsibility is controlling the jib (foresail), and advising the helm of changes in wind conditions, indicating positions of other boats on the race course, and giving tactical advice.

The spinnaker is hoisted on reaching and running legs. Depending on the boat, the spinnaker can be launched from a chute located at the front of the boat, or from special bags within the cockpit. Once launched the pole is attached, which helps to maintain the shape of the sail.

The Crew controls the shape of the spinnaker by adjusting the height of the pole, and the angle of attack of the sail.

Surfing on a Flying Fifteen N°1 #WorldChampionship #Flyingfifteen #Morgat #Crozon

Posted by Centre Nautique Crozon Morgat on Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Any F15 sailor will tell you that the most exciting time to sail a Flying Fifteen is in a force 4-5 wind, reaching across the waves with the spinnaker up.

Both Helm and Crew sit as far back in the boat as possible,  a quick pump on the mainsheet, and the boat just takes off down the back of a wave. The spray coming off the bow splashing straight into your face, helm and crew holding onto everything for dear life, praying that nothing breaks, and screaming with delight, "It's good to be alive!"

  • Learn more: Read the Flying Fifteen at-a-glance information on Afloat.ie
  • Get involved: There is always demand for people to help with crewing during the season. If you'd like to try sailing in a Fifteen, contact your nearest club, or simply email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   to arrange an introductory session.
The boat What's a Flying Fifteen?