Laser Performance Bug: Best Dinghy

This rotomolded dinghy doesn't just sail well; you can also row it or mount a motor.

The Bug carries on the evolution of the rotomolded dinghy. With the race sail, it moves right along, even with a full-sized adult.

The Bug carries on the evolution of the rotomolded dinghy. With the race sail, it moves right along, even with a full-sized adult.Walter Cooper

In the pint-sized sailing and racing dinghy department, everything and anything has been tried over the years, sometimes with mixed results. It's hard to beat the Optimist Dinghy in terms of simplicity. But when sailboat builders started playing with rotomolded plastic years ago, the doors were cast wide open. With rotomolding polyethylene you can try all sorts of things if you're clever, and with the Bug, designer Jo Richards and the folks at LaserPerformance have proven there's still plenty of room for creativity at 8 feet. Talk about one versatile dinghy.

The Bug starts as a boat for beginners with a short rig, and allows those beginners to climb the performance ladder with a larger performance rig. It's stable, thanks to its beam, and two skegs help its upwind ability and allow the boat to be towed tamely behind the family cruiser or a sailing school tender.

But it does more than sail well. It's equipped to be rowed (oars are optional and stored inside the hull), and there's an optional motor mount for a small outboard. There's even an optional integrated hard-plastic wheel, built into the bow, which will make for easy maneuvering around docks and marinas.

Even though our judges were well over the designed weight and size for the 8'5" Bug (the optimum crew weight is between 66 and 154 pounds), they were able to appreciate its sailing qualities. "Upwind the balance was good," said Stewart, "and the sail has a sweet spot for sheeting when the mast bends and matches the luff curve. It maneuvered well in light air and was stable."

When sailing downwind, they simply eased the cunningham and heeled the boat to weather. The flat aft section sections and straight run allowed it to scoot along. "I think about how much little kids are going to want to sail the boat," says Stewart. "I also think the kids are going to like the fact that it has the cool sail and the cool features and was simple to sail."

The beginner's rig is a 41-square-foot Dacron sail that furls around a two-piece aluminum mast. The performance sail, which is a 57-square-foot laminated Mylar sail, is carried on an aluminum mast with a pre-bent topmast. On the performance rig, the boom is linked to the mast so when the sail is eased the mast rotates, keeping the topmast section in plane with the boom. The sail can also be roller reefed for heavy-air sailing.

The judges all agreed the Bug is ideal for sailing clubs, as it gives beginners or more advanced sailors an enjoyable ride. There really isn't any other dinghy designed to do all that Richards has stuffed into this sweet little boat.

Pros: Simple, fast, and fun to sail with a plethora of features that make the boat great for beginners and experienced junior sailors.

Cons: It's too small for adults to sail, and we want to.

Designer's mission accomplished?
LaserPerformance wanted a boat that would appeal to yacht club's junior sailing programs. Jo Richards has hit the sweet spot with this clever and versatile little dinghy.

Laser Performance Bug Specs

LOA: 8'5"
Beam: 4'3"
Draft: 2'9"
DSPL: 77 lbs.
SA: 57 sq. ft.
Designer: Jo Richards
Price: $2,650
www.laserperformance.com

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